Friday, July 27, 2007

Gratitude Ice Cream Social, Hiawatha Music Festival

Hello again,

Right now I feel like a new man. My wife Jody and I just got back from a wonderful trek up to my hometown of Marquette, MI. where we camped out at the Hiawatha Music Festival. It was great to see old friends, play some music, take a swim in Lake Superior, and just hang out in the beautiful weather. I was hosting a couple of workshops for the festival. One was on jam circle ediquitte, and the other was a percussion workshop. There were a lot of other people involved in the workshops, so I wasn't as involved as last year, which was fine with me. I made up for it by setting up a carpet in front of our tent and giving free tabla lessons to whoever wanted to sit. It was a great time. I am looking forward to going back in September for the big Indian/Experemental concert at Kaufman Auditorium.
In the meantime I will be playing lots of music with the Gratitude Steel band in August. Actually, before leaving for Marquette, I played with Gratitude at an Ice Cream Social somewhere in Oakland County. The Russell family was not on this one. They had other gigs elsewhere in the state, so I was with Guy Barker, Kelley, Anthony Tollson, and Lamar Woodall. We also had some Hawaiian dancers there to spice up the show a bit. Usually, when the family is on the gig, we play the music behind the dancers, but this time there were new dancers, and the band had not rehearsed with them, so they used their own music. This made for a very easy show for us. We played a couple of tunes and then the dancers came up and danced. We traded off for a couple of hours and then the show was over. It was a simple community gathering and was a lot of fun for everyone involved. I love being involved in anything that brings people in the same neigborhood together for music and fellowship. It seems a little too easy these days to be lost either on-line, on the phone, in the T.V. or in a car. It is good to get out and meet the people you live with every now and again. It reminds us all about how much we have in common.

Thanks for reading, and please come back soon!

John

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Nick Strange, Meditation at Crazy Wisdom, and Deep Blue in the Sun

Hello again,

Well, it was another interesting weekend of music. On Thursday I was at Goodnite Gracie again with the Nick Strange Group. A few more people this time, and we had a fill in singer. I can't remember her name right now, but Dan knows her from a show she does called the Cowgirl Cabaret. Sounds interesting. She did a great job, considering most of the material is Dan Orcut original. (Did I mention that there is no 'Nick' in Nick Strange).
The next night I was at Crazy Wisdom Tearoom in Ann Arbor for another night of meditation music with Dr. Chernin and friends. It was very relaxed and nice. I was happy to see Scott Brady, (sax player from Deep Blue), out for an evening of chanting. He said he enjoyed himself very much. We were talking a bit right after the music was over and a former student of mine came up to me and said hello. After a few minutes, the student asked me for a ride home. I said it would be a while because I needed to pack up, but then Scott jumped in and offered to give him a ride. What a nice guy! So they took off and about 20 minutes later I got a call from Scott. He ran out of gas! So I hurried home and got my lawn mower gas and drove to meet him. He still had my student in the car, so I guess he ended up waiting after all.
The next day I drove up to Flint, MI. to play outside at the Genesee Valley Mall with Deep Blue. Not sure how they landed this gig, but it was nice to be playing. When I showed up I saw Scott and thanked him again for offering to give my student a ride home, even though it turned out to be an adventure. He said that it didn't end with the gas. After they took off, there was a bit of confusion as to where my student lived. Scott ended up turning the wrong way down a one way street and got a ticket! What was interesting to Scott however, was that when it was all said and done, he didn't feel the least bit upset. He drove home calm as a cow. He attributed it to the two plus hours of meditation. It was nice to hear that things worked out. Anyway, the gig was just two hours long and we had Scott on sax, Paul Allen on Guitar, and Chris ??? on the upright bass. The music was sounding great. The only drawback to the gig was that we had to be in the direct sunlight, and it was a 90 degree day. It was taxing, but we made it through and only had to stop 5 times to retune, (just kidding).
Exactly one week later I was in Flint again. This time it was indoors at the Greater Flint Arts Council, which is a nice little art gallery in downtown Flint. We were there to play music for a wedding reception. I was pleasantly surprised at how good the band was sounding. It was the same group of musicians, only this time we were about 20 degrees cooler. The wedding party was great, and the response was very good. I think I will be playing with Deep Blue much more in the future.

That is all for now. Sorry there are no pictures this time. I guess I have been getting lazy with the camera. I'll get back on it soon. Thanks for reading, and I will talk to you again soon.

John

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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