Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Nick Strange, Bengali Conference, and a simple Gratitude show.

Hello again,

I feel like I have traveled half way around the world without leaving Michigan. This past weekend was the 2007 North American Bengali Conference at Cobo Hall in Detroit. The weekend started off normal as can be. On Thursday I was at Good Nite Gracie in Ann Arbor, filling in for the Nick Strange group. It was a nice show, not too many people in the crowd, but the music was sounding very nice. The next morning I woke up early and drove to the heart of Detroit only to find myself back in Calcutta again. Big tall white guy wandering around amongst thousands of Bengali's. The smell of the food, the beautiful clothes, and everyone speaking in Bengali, so I didn't understand a thing that was going on. I did understand the music however. There was some great music at this event. The main reason I went of Friday was to see Pandit Umjit Ali Khan and his two sons play. They were in Ann Arbor a couple of years ago and the show was phenomenal. It was a real treat to see them again.
So I was at the conference for two main reasons, both of them having to do with Meeta Banerjee being the chair of the youth commitee for the conference. She booked us to present a workshop on Sunday and booked me to be the judge in a talent competition on Saturday. The talent show went well, although it was not easy to judge a sitarist, then to a poet, and then a dancer and so on. The judges only had to pick the top 3 and then the audience would pick the winner, so the pressure was off a little bit. It was all in good fun, and everyone seemed happy with the winner. It was a little boy that played the sitar. He was actually a student of Rajan Sachdeva, one of my former teachers. Right after the show I rushed to one of the main stages to see Bikram Gosh's rhythmscape. Bikram Gosh is one of the best tabla players around and he has this group that consists of tabla, mrigdungam, gatam (clay pot), drumset, a vocalist, guitar player, and keyboardist. They had a real "wow" factor and their playing was virtuosic. I was inspired to see the drumset on stage, and was very interested in how it was used. I have been cultivating a show that will include tabla and drumset, so this was good information for me.
The next day was our workshop. It was called "Sa Re Ga Ma, and Te Re Ki Te - An Introduction to Indian Classical Music". This was the first time that Meeta and I have done a workshop for all Indians, and I must say, I was a bit nervous. It all melted away when we started playing and taking the questions. I was surprised at how many questions were about the relationship between Indian classical and Western music. I wished that we had more time, but it was a good experience nonetheless. Right after it was over, I was off to get ready to come back to America and play a show with Gratitude up in West Bloomfield.
I have played at this place before. It is called Tam o' Shanter golf club. Pretty exclusive and fancy, and the other times I have played it was with the Rusell family and it was for all the members. When I showed up this time there were a ton of little kids running around and blankets lying out on the coarse. I learned that it was their annual 4th of July picnic and that we were just some simple background music. I was with Anthony Tollson and Lamar Woodall. They both played pans and we had no electricity. We set up out near the 18th green and played for just an hour and a half. A simple show. Some of the kids really got into it and were dancing around us. It was a nice way to spend the evening.

That is all for now, thanks for reading, and I will write again soon.

John

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