Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Festival of Light, Neutral Zone, Kirtan

Hello Friends,

The past week has been very inspirational. On Sunday I was at Washtenaw Community College for the Festival of Light. It was a festival all about different kinds of alternative healing and health. There were massage therapists, tarot card readers, palm readers, meditation specialists, health food professionals, etc. Dr. Dennis Chernin had a booth for his homeopathy practice and was slated to end the day with a demonstration of meditative music. We had about half of the Kirtan group there, but the vibe in the space was very different than the regular kirtan sessions. It was in a big lobby, so the sound echoed like crazy, which would be great, except for all the noise created by the festival goers buzzing around the booths. Earlier in the day I played a few pieces with Ken Kozora. He was doing his original stuff composed mainly on sequencers. I played some tabla along with it. It was very different than what I was used to doing with tabla, but he music fit the festival vibe perfectly. All in all, it was a good day of playing.
A few days later Meeta Banerjee and I were at the Neutral Zone in downtown Ann Arbor. The Neutral Zone is a meeting place for middle school and high school aged students. It is a really nice place with computers, pool tables, ping pong, foosball, a recording studio, and performance space. It had been a long time since Meeta and I have played together, and I must admit, I was feeling pretty nervous. As we began however, the nerves just melted away and it felt like the music was carrying us through the night, rather than the other way around. I was happy to see some of my Go Like The Wind students show up and sit right in the front. It was inspirational to have them listen to my music outside of the school setting. I was so pumped up afterwords, I felt like playing again. Meeta and I have some great things lined up this summer and I am looking forward to it now more than ever.
The wednesday performance left me eager to play again, and so I was happy to have Kirtan on Friday. It is definitely not the same as playing with Meeta, but it is an opportunity to play tabla for 2 hours straight which feels for my hands. The next night my Dad came down from Marquette to go to the Ravi Shankar concert in Detroit. It was a great concert. It was inspiring to see a man in his high 80's comanding the stage. He also had his daughter Anoushka with him. She has become a truly great artist herself. It was great to see such a great artist with my father and all after such a great week of playing tabla. Inspired is the best word to describe it all.

Thanks for reading, and I will talk to you soon.

John

Friday, April 06, 2007

Nick Strange, Gratitude at GLTW, Judy Piazza, Live on WCBN

Hello again. I am writing this almost 2 weeks since my last gig. The past week has been very slow on the musical front. With no gigs or rehearsals and Go Like The Wind on spring break, I took the time to do a little recording, a little practicing, and a lot of relaxing and reflecting. My last musical weekend was pretty diverse. First, I played my last scheduled gig on Thursday March 29th with the Nick Strange group at Goodnite Gracie in Ann Arbor. I had a fun time filling in for their drummer and playing shows at one of Ann Arbor's great little live music venues. Thanks to Dan Orcut, (the group leader), for the opportunitiy. I really appreciate his professionalism.

The next morning I was back at Go Like the Wind, but this time I was with the Gratitude Steel Band. It was so great to share the experience of the steel band with the kids I have been teaching. The students were so energetic. We played for an hour and I don't think they sat down the whole time. Normally, at a Gratitude school gig, the band directs the students through each dance or activity, (limbo, macarena, conga line, etc) , but the GLTW students were so amped up that they never stopped dancing. So Gratitude just kept playing and morphing from song to song. It felt like a real party! I know we will be back again.
Saturday was free, but then on Sunday morning I went to this new non-denominational church near my house and played another show with Judy Piazza. She led a service on the spirituality of sound. The service was unique. She talked about hearing silence and how we can hear many levels of silence. It brought me back to my childhood in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I would be out in the woods in the summertime and sitting on a log and listening to the silence. Of coarse it is never truly silent out in nature, but somehow it feels like you can hear the silence through the gentle sounds of nature. I think about that experience all the time. Right now I can hear birds, cars, lawn mowers, and the distant hum of the freeway, and it reminds me of how far I am from the U.P.......Wow.....I guess I got a little off track there....anyway, where was I? Oh yea, the service. So after she talked about the sound, we played some of the Kirtan style chants and got the congregation to participate. It was a nice Sunday morning.

Later that day, I played live on WCBN with a bass player I met through the Nick Strange group named Rob Crozier and a trumpet player whose name I have forgotten.
The show was called 'Jazz and not Jazz' and the format was just to go in and start playing. We had not rehearsed, or even talked about what we were going to play. I brought in my drumset and tabla and an open mind. When it was time to play the DJ just turned on the mics and we began. It was a great experience that I hope to be able to do again sometime soon.

That is all for now. the next couple of weeks look to be nice and busy, so please check back soon!

Thanks for reading!

John

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