The final lineup was made up of Indian classical musicians from all around the world, and so Shen had the great idea to call this concert the United Nations of Indian Classical Music. Very appropriate, and I hope that this concept will continue in the years to come.
KASHIKA MUSIC ASHRAM
United Nations of Indian Classical Music
Kashika Music Hall
Near R.B. Katra Post Office
Bengali Tola Lane
Monday, 21st December, 2009 at 7pm
Yuki Taniguchi (Japan - disciple of Pt. Ritwik Sannyal) - SANSKRIT MANTRA
Shawn Mativetsky (Canada - disciple of Pt. Sharda Sahai) - TABLA SOLO
with Aneesh Mishra (India - disciple of Pt. Kanhaiyalal Mishra) - SARANGI
Yasuhiro Minamizawa (Japan - disciple of Smt. Shrabani Biswas) - SITAR
with Shen Flindell (Australia - disciple of Pt. Ashutosh Bhattacharya) - TABLA
Australia, Canada, Japan, and India ... not a bad start for the United Nations of Indian Classical Music! A few days before the performance, we all met at Kashika Music House to give press interviews. Here we are (minus Aneesh), jamming for the cameras.
When the day of the performance came around, I really had no idea how many people would show up. The Kashika Music Hall is a small, intimate performance space. The musicians perform acoustically, with no amplification, and we are extremely close to the audience. The capacity of the space is maybe 40 people; the feeling is like a house concert. At around 6:50, the hall was quite empty, but by 7:00, it was completely full, and by 7:15 all the doors were opened and people were filling the street outside!
First to perform was Yuki, singing Sanskrit mantras. Her background is in yoga and dhrupad, and she has found a great way to combine the two, in the form of naad yoga. Her voice was very calm and composed, and set the mood for the other performances to come. The mantras allowed us to focus on the musical performance taking place, and leave behind the various sounds of the nearby lane.
Next, I performed tabla solo. Opening with a Ganesh vandana, I followed with vilambit and madhya teentaal. Aneesh played beautifully; there is really nothing quite like the sound of sarangi. The audience was very kind and appreciative, and I was surrounded by the now-familiar faces of Debabrata-ji, Shen, Yuki, Hiro, Rob, Jay, Nick (another person that I have known online for a long time, but had never met before), Ghirau (Amarnathjee's sitar-playing son, who I had the pleasure of practicing with) and guru-bhais Jeff and Anjan, and that really motivated me. After a few minutes of playing, Pt. Pooran Maharaj arrived. When Shen and I had visited him a few days prior (see previous blog post), we invited him to our performance and he promised to come; well, he did! Let's just say that I felt some additional pressure at this point (!!!), but he was so encouraging and kind to me during the performance, that I really felt great and highly motivated while I was playing. What an experience!
(A small note about the Benares tabla lineage: Pt. Pooran Maharaj, aside from being the son of the late Pt. Kishan Maharaj, is a disciple of Pt. Kanthe Maharaj, making him guru-bhai with Gurujee (Pt. Sharda Sahai). Shen's guru, Ashu Babu was also a disciple of Pt. Kanthe Maharaj.)
Last on the program was Hiro's sitar performance, accompanied by Shen. Finally, I would get to see Shen perform. I really enjoyed Hiro's alap - it was very sensitive and subtle, with lots of nuance in the meends. When Hiro introduced the alap, Shen played an uthaan that I would describe as being 'deep'. His time-feel is right on, and his baya playing is very smooth and melodic; a very sweet sound overall. It was obvious that Hiro and Shen enjoy playing together, as they would often play off each other, and I really enjoyed watching Hiro's tihai challenges. :)
The United Nations of Indian Classical Music, right after the performance.
A great experience, and a perfect ending to my trip to Benares. Many thanks to Shen for organizing this concert. He opened the concert by saying to everyone that he had put together this concert just for me. Wow! I hope that we can find other occasions to musically come together again.
You can read Shen's blog post on the same subject, at his blog, Tabla in Hand.