March started off with a type of gig that I have not done in a while. It was for the Hurley Medical Center Glitz Ball and it was what we like to call 'fancy-shmancy'. So I had to bust out my tuxedo, (which I bought for a jazz gig about 10 years ago!). It was good to play with Deep Blue again. Scott Brady, (who plays the bansuri in Sumkali) is the sax man and band leader, and he did a great job of putting the show together. We were in the main lobby of a Holiday Inn executive hotel. Our mission was to provide casual entertainment for the patrons of the ball as they got ready to move into the dining area. Not too exciting as far as performing for others, but we were playing with a new singer and bassist, so it was just enough of an adventure to keep things exciting.
We played one big long set and then had to make the announcement for everyone to move into the dining area. The problem was that there were so many people and it was so loud, and they had really been 'tuning us out' the whole time so when the announcement was made, just a handful of people in front of the stage moved. The singer started to have fun with it, she changed the lyrics of the songs she was singing to be all about being hungry and getting food. Still, no one would pay attention. So after her attempts failed, I hopped off the drum set and grabbed the mic. In my best announcer voice I made the announcement and people finally started to move. It reminded me of my club-playing days with my old rock band Scrubby when we had to get everyone out of the club at closing time. ahh memories.
The next morning I went to the Interfaith Center in Ann Arbor to play a couple of pieces with Craig Brann. It was the 'music offering' for their morning service. We played the same two pieces that we played the month earlier at the Unity church. One was a nice instrumental written by Craig. He was on acoustic guitar and I was on tabla. The sound was great, and it came off really nice. Was was even more special about it was that right before we played there was a 10 minute guided meditation, which I took full advantage of. It was like my meditation dreams come true....meditate into music. It is often way to difficult to attain that 'moment before the moment' when you are about to play music. When I teach the bands at GLTW we try to attain about 5 seconds of silence before the first note. Having 10 minutes was dreamy. That moment made my whole day.
Speaking of meditation, the following Friday was the monthly kirtan at the Friends Meeting House in Ann Arbor. It was packed. I think it was our biggest turnout yet. When you do kirtan with so many people the response washes over you like a wave in the ocean. It is such a warm feeling. I can see why it has become so popular. If you have never checked it out, it would be worth it. It is the yoga of sound. Every note you sing sends vibrations throughout your whole body. Some notes resonate your head, while others resonate your chest. The chants sung in kirtan are 'sound formulas' that attain a full spectrum of resonation throughout your whole body. When it is all over you just sit there in silence and feel the affects of all the wonderful resonance. It is active meditation that allows you to express yourself for your own sake, (or, if you want, you can really get into the spiritual aspects of it as well, which also run deep). Whatever the motivation, the result is the same...calm, quiet, clear, still, and open.
Performing the music in kirtan is really not much different than any other time I perform. It takes focus, quiet hands, and dedication to the music. When I perform with Sumkali, (like we did at Crazy Wisdom a week after kirtan), the difference comes in the presentation. It is still a shared experience, but the audience is not required to respond with sining, so it is our duty to keep the music interesting, entertaining, and fruitful. I am so happy to say that this show at Crazy Wisdom was by far one of the best we have ever played. It was definitely some release from all the excitement surrounding our recording session last month, but it was also the crowd, the playing, and the spirit everyone brought to the gig. It was also great to see Meeta Banerjee come out and support us. She had to step down from the group in January to focus on her Phd work. Thanks for coming out Meeta!
Another great addition to the mix was Rushyal Shyamraj, who sang a couple of great pieces and played harmonium. It was a great addition to an already great night. Make sure you don't miss the next Sumkali gig in April!
That is all for March. Thanks for reading and I will write again soon!