Saturday, January 09, 2010

2 Nick Strange, Ann Arbor Kirtan, Rocketstyle and Sumkali at Crazy Wisdom

  I am starting this entry on Christmas eve and I am sitting on my couch. It is white outside and cold, I'm sure. The overcast sky allowed the morning to turn into afternoon without warning and I am just grateful to have the time to reflect on the past year.  Professionally speaking, this has been a year of organization for me.  I started my business Sangeet U.S.A. which is geared toward promoting music an musicians of Inida, I totally overhauled my website, (with a ton of help from Atmaram Chetainya), went online with my calendar, got some great pictures (thanks to Corey Robinson), went full steam ahead with my Indian music group Sumkali, (including a website, Electronic Press Kit on Sonicbids, and lots of grassroots promotion), and I am happy to say that have one of the newest profiles on Facebook!
  Highlight performances of the year include my presentation at the Michigan Music Conference in Grand Rapids on Indian classical music, Sumkali at the Top of the Park, playing live on 107.1 for Radio Free Bacon, Kozora at Riverfolk Folk Festival, C.D. release parties for Cairn to Cairn and the Dave Sharp Secret Seven, and all the Crazy Wisdom shows that have been such a creative outlet.  Thanks to everyone who was involved in all of these shows!  I love the community of musicians I have been surrounded with in Ann Arbor.
  So with November being such a light month of gigs, all of which were tabla, it felt great to get back to my roots and play some really nice drum set gigs in December.  I had two gigs with the Nick Strange Group, and they could not have been more different from each other. The first one was at a nice little venue called P.J.'s Live, (I played there for the Dave Sharp C.D. release in Nov.)  They have begun to have live music from 8-10p.m., (they used to have it all night!), and the new format has not really caught on with the regulars, so basically we were playing to the tables and chairs.  Actually, that is not altogether true, there were 2 full tables right in front of the stage. They were filled with family and friends of a girl who opened for us.  I am sorry to say I forgot her name, but she sang a few songs with Dan accompaning her on guitar.  She does not perform very much, but she had lots of support from her family on this night.  They were gratious enough to hang out for our set and they even seemed to enjoy it.
   I have never minded much when there is no one at a gig.  It has always been fine for me to just go deep into the music and forget about what is around.  In that last few years, I have been doing this whether there are people there or not.  The only moments that stick out are the ones right after the music ends.  When a song gets rockin' and then comes in for a swooping landing, all the musicians land on their feet and then BOOM, silence.     This moment of silence is the sweetest part of a Kirtan chant, the silence brings you inward and you are able to meditate, but a rock show begs for a rousing re-assurance from the participants after you lay it all out there. It is about releasing outward, rather than inward.
  The second gig I played with the group was in St. Clair Shores, MI. at a place called Fishbones Rhythm Kitchen Cafe, which is a name I have always really liked, but never thought it fit the establishment.  There are t.v.'s everywhere you look, a big bar, no real stage, and a really strange, seemingly built-in mentality that you do not respond to the live music happening right next to you. It is a very peculier phenomenon that has happened every time we have played there.  No one dances, no one cheers, but they do come up to us on the set breaks and say that they are loving the music.  I have never figured it out.   We played there the Saturday night right before all the Michigan college graduations, so the place was PACKED.  There must have been 400 people all in a great mood.  Sure enough, we played some great sets with lots of cover tunes, mixed with some high-energy originals - no reaction.   We actually had a better reception at the gig earlier in the month with just a hand full of people, so I guess you just never know.

  The second Friday of the month I was at Crazy Wisdom Tearoom with my Indian group Sumkali for the last monthly show of the year.  It was also the last show that Meeta Banerjee would be joining us as a full band member.  She is stepping down as our Sitarist while she turns her focus to her doctoral work at MSU, (good luck Meeta!).  So we did what we have done every time we go to Crazy Wisdom, we sit and play and have a great time.  Playing with Sumkali is such a relaxing and fulfilling experience.  I love to sit back and just take in the wonderful sounds.  I feel blessed to be a part of such a wonderful musical experience.

  The next day was the Ann Arbor Kirtan holiday gathering.  This is the third year and it was, by far, the biggest yet.  The place was filled to capacity and when the chanting started and the first response came I literally got the shivers.  It was like calling out to the ocean and having a huge wave crash down in response.  I could get used to that kind of energy!  I still did just about the entire kirtan with my eyes closed. I have been doing that for a few months now and I am growing more and more fond of it.  I think it is all about letting go of the things you can not control and holding closer the things you can.  When you take out what you see, you are left with what you feel and what you hear, and isn't that what music is all about?

   The third Friday in December I was at Crazy Wisdom Tearoom in Ann Arbor playing with Jesse Morgan, Paul, Akeelee, and Rob Crozier.  It was a re-creation of the Rocketstyle recording session we did in the beginning of the year.  We basically improvised what I like to call 'Space-funk'  for two hours. It was a lot of fun. So much so that it almost felt a little too self-indulgent, like eating nothing but cake for dinner.  It was the kind of show I wished that all my friends could have been at.  Nothing but freedom, fun, and freestyle. Need I say more?

  So that is all the December shows. It was a fun month and now I am looking forward to whatever 2010 has in store.  Thanks for reading and I will write again soon!

John
 

  

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