Moving my blog over to

Dear friends,

With the recent update of my website, I now have the ability to integrate the blog directly into the website, so that is what I am doing; it just makes sense. I will no longer be posting updates here. Thank you to all of you for your interest in my musical adventures. Please click along to my website for the continuation of this blog in the future! If you would like to update your RSS subscription, this is the new RSS URL:

I hope to see you over at!


Monday, 22 June 2009


This past June 12 and 13, I had the pleasure of participating in the Crossroads project at the Gesu in Montreal. It was a dance performance, combining Kathak and Odissi with live music (though at times, the dancers used pre-recorded music).

Sudeshna Maulik, kathak dancer, began her training in Kolkatta under Pt. Chitresh Das, and then went on to study at Bharatiya Kala Kendra, and at the National Kathak Institute with Pt. Birju Maharaj. Based in Windsor, Ontario, Odissi
dancer Enakshi Sinha studied with Guru Kelucharan Mahapatra and Smt. Sharmila Biswas.

The programme began with Stree Shakti, an evocation of the eternal female creative force, through Kathak and Odissi dance. Enakshi Sinha (Odissi) and Sudeshna Maulik (Kathak) performed their own choreography, with pre-recorded music that they developed in India.

Performing with Jake Charkey, cello. Photo by Ulysse Lemerise-Bouchard.

This was followed by Hands and Feet, which was the traditional Kathak item, which Sudeshna danced solo. Jake Charkey played nagma on cello, and I played tabla. We opened with the very famous Ganesh vandana (bol paran), followed by thaat, amad, and then numerous compositions (tukras, parans, gat nikas, etc.) in vilambit, madhya, and drut. The item ended with a brief sawal-jawab between Sudeshna and myself. You might notice from the photo that I have two dahinas. I played on a low-C in the vilambit and madhya sections for a pakhawaj-like sound, and used a standard C for the drut section.

Myself and Jake Charkey accompanying Sudeshna Maulik's kathak performance. Photo by Ulysse Lemerise-Bouchard.

The next item was Glimpses, an Odissi solo that Enakshi Sinha choreographed and performed, with pre-recorded music. This was then followed by Footprints of Rhythm, an Odissi-Kathak duet, with pre-recorded music and drumset, which I played live. The idea was to combine traditional music of both Odissi and Kathak with another, non-traditional element. So, tabla, pakhawaj, and drumset. Though I am not a big fan of playing along to a pre-recorded track, it was fun to play drumset from a tabla perspective, and to be able to interact with both dancers in their respective idioms.
Jake then performed a short solo; a rendition of a song by Tagore. This created a bridge to the last piece, Tagore Revisited, which is a collection of three choreographies, again combining Kathak and Odissi dance, with pre-recorded music.

Of course, I would prefer to have more live music and less pre-recorded music, but in the dance world, this is very common. Sometimes, choreographies are attached to pre-set structures, and it is often cost-prohibitive to hire enough musicians to accurately reproduce the recorded music. In this case, we would have needed to add a sitarist and vocalist, and perhaps a keyboard player as well.
From left to right: Jake Charkey (cello), Enakshi Sinha (Odissi dance), Sudeshna Maulik (Kathak dance), and myself. Photo by Ulysse Lemerise-Bouchard.

The performances were very well attended, and we all got some great comments from the audience. We are hoping to book future performances of Crossroads in the rest of Canada and perhaps even internationally. Sudeshna and Enakshi are both immensely talented, and it was a true pleasure to accompany them. I am very much looking forward to our future collaborations.

Friday, 19 June 2009

Passing of the great maestro, Ustad Ali Akbar Khan

This morning, I learned of the sad news that the great sarod maestro, Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, has passed away. He was one of the all-time greats of Indian classical music, and was instrumental in bringing Indian classical music to the West. Here are a couple of excerpts from the press:

From DNA India:

Sarod maestro Ustad Ali Akbar Khan died in San Francisco in the US today after a prolonged kidney ailment, according to a family friend here. Eighty-eight-year-old Khan died at his music centre at 10 am IST, Rabin Pal, the secretary of sitarist Pandit Ravi Shankar, said. He is survived by wife Mary, three sons and a daughter.

Pal, a family friend of the maestro, said he was informed of Khan's death by the ustad's family in San Francisco. Khan's secretary in Kolkata, Ashish Roy, said the maestro was on dialysis and had been ailing for over four years. His condition had deteriorated in the last four months.

A recipient of the Padma Bhushan and the Padma Vibhushan, Khan had been a colossus in the world of Indian classical music for the last five decades. He became court musician for the maharaja of Jodhpur and continued for seven years, till his patron's death. The state of Jodhpur bestowed on him his title of "ustad".

At the request of violin virtuoso Yehudi Menuhin, Khan visited the United States in 1955 and performed at New York's Museum of Modern Art.

He founded the Ali Akbar College of Music in Kolkata in 1956. In 1965, he began teaching in USA, later opening a branch of his college there, and in Switzerland. In 1997, Khan performed at a programme in the United Nations to celebrate the 50th year of India's independence.

He also composed music for films, creating the musical score for Chetan Anand's Aandhiyan(1953), Merchant-Ivory productions' The Householder, Tapan Sinha's Khudita Pashan, Satyajit Ray's Devi and Bernardo Bertolucci's Little Buddha.

Khan married thrice. His son, Ustad Aashis Khan, is a sarod artiste of repute. The maestro once said: "For us, as a family, music is like food. When you need it, you don't have to explain why, because it is the basis of life."

"Kolkata (PTI): Hailed by violinist Yehudi Menuhin as 'the greatest musician in the world', Sarod maestro Ali Akbar Khan, who died on Friday, had many a first to his credit in taking Indian classical music to the West.

88-year-old Khan, who had settled down in San Francisco in the US, was admired by both Eastern as well as Western musicians for his brilliant compositions and his mastery of the 25-string instrument.

The illustrious son of Ustad Alauddin Khan, he was once described by Menuhin as 'the greatest musician in the world'. He was the first to cut a long play record of Indian classical music in the US and to give a sarod recital on American TV.

Khan was also the first Indian musician to receive the MacArthur Foundation Fellowship in 1991 and was nominated for Grammy Awards five time between 1970 to 1998.

Born on April 14, 1922 in Shibpur village of Comilla district, now in Bangladesh, Khan took up music at the age of three, learning vocal music from his father and percussion from his uncle, Fakir Aftabuddin.

His father also trained him in several other instruments, but Khan decided to concentrate on the sarod and on vocals.

A recipient of Padma Vibhushan and Padma Bhushan, Khan gave his first public performance in Allahabad at the age 13 and made his first gramophone recording in Lucknow when he was in his early twenties."

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Tabla at the Festival international de jazz de Montréal

For the past several years, because of touring or tabla workshops, I have tended to be out of town during the Montreal Jazz Festival. This year, I am here, so I am paying particular attention to the lineup. I thought it would be nice to do a rundown of all the tabla-related performances this summer. Unfortunately, I won't be performing tabla in the festival this year.

July 1, 2009 at 6pm
Gesu, 1200 rue de Bleury
From the JazzFest program - "French trumpeter Erik Truffaz opens his three-night stand in the style of his triptych Rendez-vous, lining up high-calibre collaborations. In Benares, the first of three "cities" visited in this wholly original series, we're ushered into an Indian salon where Indrani and Apurba Mukherjee await us, alongside Truffaz and Malcolm Braff. Vocals, piano, trumpet and tablas conjure the clamour of an India bathed in dusky light, car horns and dust, in a rhythmic whirlwind of a fusion of the Middle-East and the western world."

July 2, 2009 at 6pm
Gesu, 1200 rue de Bleury
From the JazzFest program -"On the second stop of his musical pilgrimage, Erik Truffaz welcomes electronica artist Murcof, one of the most freespirited of his generation, to fold his airy rhythms around the trumpeter's soaring, dynamic runs. They engendered a longdistance exchange via the Internet, weaving a sonic tapestry true to Truffaz' boundless sense of invention and musical curiousity. It's a radical, impressionistic proposition; and here they are together, playing music enhanced by the percussion of Talvin Singh, unquestioned master of the tablas and the Asian underground sound."

Personally, I don't see the connection between Talvin and Mexico, but hey, why not?

July 4, 2009 at 9:30pm
Théâtre Maisonneuve, Place des Arts
From the JazzFest program -"Miles goes Indian… or vice-versa? The Festival presents another concert homage to the legend, this time with a major musical project spiced with a delicious touch of exoticism. Inspired by the double album of the same name, Miles from India is a musical fusion of Indian and American cultures. Two groups, one composed of elite Indian musicians, the other of American jazzmen who’ve previously collaborated with Miles, unite onstage for a Subcontinental, spiritual celebration of the master’s music."

Nicholas Payton • Trumpet
Robert Irving III • Keyboards
Bill Evans • Tenor Saxophone
R. Mahanthappa • Saxophones
Darry Jones • Bass
John Beasley • Keyboards
Badal Roy • Tabla
U. Shrinivas • Mandolin
Lenny White • Drums
Ndugu Chancler • Percussions
Vince Wilburn • Drums
Anantha Krishnan • Mridangan
Hidayat Khan • Sitar
V.K. Raman • Flute/Vocal
Selvaganesh • Khanjira

July 9, 2009 at 10:30pm
Gesu, 1200 rue de Bleury
From the JazzFest program -"Rudresh Mahanthappa’s Indo-Pak Coalition is turning heads internationally in both the jazz and world music scenes. Rudresh, an innovative alto saxophonist, along with guitar virtuoso Rez Abbasi and tabla star Dan Weiss, blazes new trails into the future of jazz, synthesizing jazz with the astutely improvised musical forms of South Asia. Their debut album Apti, on innova Recordings, has received rave reviews in The New Yorker, Rolling Stone and Downbeat."

Dan Weiss is famous for his incredible Tintal Drumset Solo. It'll be nice to hear him on tabla.

Overall, quite a lot of tabla this year. If you attend any of the concerts, please post a review!