It has been a relatively slow last couple of weeks for me, which has translated into some nice downtime. I have been spending a lot of time looking ahead and organizing some summer events, including another visit by my Guruji (teacher), Pdt. Samar Saha. This time he is coming with his wife Madhumita, who is a great vocalist. I am very excited!
On the 19th of March I played live on WCBN once again, only this time I did not bring my drumset. The main reason for that was that they were remodeling the building and the entire radio station was condensed down into one room. The group was made up of Rob Crozier on the bass, Piotr Michalowski on various woodwinds, and Jason Burbo on electric guitar. I felt like this was one of the most talented group of musicians that I have done this live show with. Before we began, Piotr was warming up his bass clarinet. It reminded me of a former teacher of mine from CalArts named Vinnie Golia. I asked Piotr if he had ever heard of him and he said, "wow, yes, he is actually the one who inspired me to pick up...(all the various woodwinds)... I play". Vinnie Golia is a very well known artist turned musician who is a big influence in the world of improvised music. I was excited to play with someone who was connected to my old school. He was a terrific performer and I think the session went really well.
It was a challenge to do improvised music for 2 hours just on tabla. I guess I still feel a bit more freedom of expression on the drum set. I think it stems mainly from the fact that I played drum set exclusively for 10 years before touching the tabla. Even though at this point in my life, I have probably spent more actual practice time on the tabla, my drumset still carries the raw, reactionary, instinctive mindset of my own personal musical concept. Part of it also comes from the fact that my tabla training has been classical. I find it difficult to play the tabla and listen to my playing without the filter of all the classical compositions dictating how I hear and feel the music. Although it seems like a difficult task to try and 'unlearn' what I have learned in persuit of pure musical expression, it is a journey full of pleasant surprises and liberating experiences. Samar Saha was the first tabla teacher that gave me the freedom to think about tabla in this instinctual way, which is why I am always so excited and dedicated to the time I get to spend with him.
On Saturday the 29th I found myself in a familiar setting. It was the Indian Classical Music and Dance group grand concert "Swaraanjali". I have performed in many ICMD concerts in the past, but have not been to one in almost 2 years. I performed a duet with one of my students, and brand new member of ICMD, Arun Ganesan. We performed the same piece I played at my graduation recital at CalArts with my teacher Randy Gloss, so this felt like one of those 'full circle' type of events. The concert was great, with lots of performers, mostly singers, doing pieces from North and South India.