On this trip, I was really happy to finally meet Shen Flindell, a very talented tabla player from Australia. We have known each other via the Internet for several years, and I have bought tabla from him on numerous occasions (and I recommend him to anyone who wants to purchase authentic, pro-quality Benares tabla, shipped internationally), but we have never been in Benares at the same time, and so have never met. After a few days in Benares, we met at BHU at one of the concerts I mentioned in my previous post. I invited Shen to come meet Gurujee and visit his house in Kabir Chaura. This day turned into quite the adventure, leading to a visit of the late Pt. Kishan Maharaj's house as well!
With the giant statue of Ganesh playing pakhawaj at Pt. Kishan Maharaj's house.
Led by Gurujee's son-in-law, sarangi player Pt. Kanhaiyalal Mishra, we all purchased malas (flower garlands) and sweets and headed off to Pt. Kishan Maharaj's house, which is just down the street from Gurujee's. Kabir Chaura is full of Indian classical artists everywhere you turn; numerous famous vocalists, instrumentalists, and dancers live in the area. Our "tour group" was made up of Shen, his Australian tabla student Rob, Dr. Frances Shepherd, Anjan Saha, and myself.
A view of the music room.
In the foreground is one of Pt. Ram Sahai's (the founder of the Benares gharana) tabla.
We started by visiting the music room. This is a huge space that is often used to host concerts. The walls are covered with paintings and memorabilia representing parts of the history of the Benares gharana; it was like visiting a Benares tabla museum. There was another room dedicated to Pt. Kishan Maharaj, with numerous photos, memorabilia, awards, and press clippings.
An amazing colour portrait of Pt. Ram Sahai and the horse saddle that Pt. Bhairov Sahai once rode.
We ended the visit with a small offering to Pt. Kanthe Maharaj and Pt. Kishan Maharaj. We were graciously hosted by Pt. Pooran Maharaj as well as Pt. Kishan Maharaj's daughter and her husband.
Pt. Kanthe Maharaj
I also very much wanted to visit Ashu Babu's (Shen's guru's) home. I was fortunate to go there a few times to meet Shen. The first time, Shen was giving his daily tabla class to his Australian students, Rob and Jay. I enjoyed watching Shen teach. He is very enthusiastic and passionate about tabla, and his students definitely feel that from him. I really appreciated his teaching style - very firm, not letting any mistake pass and encouraging slow, deliberate practice; and also with a sense of humour and much love for his students.
The yellow building up at the top is Ashu Babu's house.
Shen teaching his students Rob and Jay.
The next time, I met Ashu Babu's son, Dr. Debabrata Bhattacharya. He, Shen, and I sat and played together for a few minutes, which was great fun. The music room is full of historic photos and had an amazing view of the Ganges. What a great place to learn and practice tabla! (Thanks to Shen and Rob for this photo.)
Rob and Shen on the rooftop of Ashu Babu's house.
Taking in the great view from the rooftop of Ashu Babu's house.
For some additional reading and photos, click here to read Shen's blog post, entitled Benares Gharana historical excursion.
More to come in my next post - The United Nations of Indian Classical Music!