Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Kirtan with Guests, Indian/Western Wedding, Day of Peace at EMU

Hello again,

  This past weekend was such a monster weekend of music I had to devote an entire blog entry to it.  I counted it up...12 hours of music, not including rehearsal, set-up, tear down, and all the other stuff associated with playing music for an audience.  I was also dealing with the symptoms of a cold, so all the great experiences cam
e filtered through a tired achy haze.  No complaints though. I actually think that being sick caused me to slow down and take things as they came, rather than stressing about everything all at once.
  So the first show was Friday evening for our monthly Kirtan event at the Friends Center in Ann Arbor.  This was a special event due to the fact that we had some very talented visiting artists joining the group. It was the husband and wife team of Einat Gilboa from Israel and Gerhard Fankhauser from Austria.  They both travel the world doing music, and through the work of Dennis Chernin and Glen Burdick, we were lucky enough to have them join us for a great weekend of music.
The kirtan went very well.  We did our regular chants with a couple of theirs thrown in, which were beautiful.  Just having their voices and Gerhard's stellar guitar and lute playing added into our regular chants was enough to turn our regular experience into an extraordinary one.  They were a pleasure to work with and very nice to talk to as well.  What it must be like to just travel from place to place with nothing but some clothes and your music.  They embodied the tradition of the troubadours and truveres of the old days.
   Normally, I just close my eyes during our Kirtan and let the music take me away without a care in the world.  This night was different. I was constantly checking the time.  I had a gig to get to as soon as the kirtan was over.  We usually end at 9:30, and I needed to be at Goodnight Gracie's downtown to play with the Nick Strange group by ten.  Once again, I had my student Vinnie help me out by setting up my drums for me, so all I had to do was pack my tabla and get downtown.  As soon as the last chant was over I started packing. I made it into the club with 5 minutes to spare.  It was such a change to go from playing this nice meditative music on a quiet instrument to rocking it out on a drum set.  I really had to 'wake up' to get the music out at first, but once the first couple of tunes were over I was fully in drum set mode.
It was a great night at Gracie's. There were a lot of people all night.  Vinnie stuck around to check out the music. On our first set break he told us that he was having trouble staying in his seat because he felt like dancing.  We told him not to hold back, even though no one seemed to be in the dancing mood.  So when we started the 2nd set, Vinnie popped out in front of the stage on the first tune and started dancing with wild abandon.  At first people stared, laughed, and smiled, but it wasn't long before there were about 10 people shaking their stuff.  I guess that sometimes all we need is for someone to show us that it is alright to lose yourself a little and let yourself be moved by something regardless of what the crowd is doing.  I can tell you that having a dance floor full of people will always make the music sound better.  The energy given off by the dancers is felt directly by the musicians, (and vice versa).  It made for a great night of music.
The next day was an unexpected surprise show.  I got a call earlier in the week from one of my former teachers, Dr. Rajan Sachdeva.  For anyone in the southeast Michigan area who has been interested in Indian Classical music, Rajan Sachdeva is a household name.  He has been teaching Indian Classical music for over 25 years and established the Institute for Indian Classical Music in West Bloomfield, MI.  I took lessons with him in Ann Arbor through an organization called Saadhani.  He is also Meeta Banerjee's sitar teacher. Anyway, he called to ask if I could play with him at a wedding in downtown Detroit at the Detroit Athletic Club.  It is a swanky private club nestled between Ford Field and Comerica Park.  Everything about it was high class.  The wedding was on the second floor of the club, (which is at least 5 floors).  We were set up in the room where the ceremony would be held.  It was fully decked out like a traditional Indian wedding.  There was a difference though, this wedding was between an Indian man and a western white woman.  We were to play background music for the ceremony, which was a very interesting mix between Indian and Western traditions.  They circled a fire 7 times, and then stood in front of it and exchanged vows.  All the groomsmen were white, but they were dressed in full Rajastani garb.
The whole thing lasted about a half hour, which is about 4 times shorter than a regular Indian wedding.  All of the differences seemed to work very well together and it ended up as a very beautiful ceremony.  I was happy to be a part of it, and also happy to be playing for the first time with Rajanji.  I hope to play with him again soon.
The next day I had to rise early to make my way to the Eastern Michigan University Convocation Center in Ypsilanti, MI.  The Kirtan group was slated to be part of the One Peace event.We were set to kick off the day with some chants.  It was a great opportunity to play in a huge arena for a lot of people and the group had prepared well.  Fortunately for us Gerhard and Einat were still in town, so they were able to join us again.  Just walking into the place got me excited.
Once we set up the instruments and it was time to get the sound pumping through the house system everyone in the group was excited to hear how our simple chants reverberated throughout the arena.

We were there early enough to be able to play for a half hour before people started arriving. This allowed us to tweak the sound and get comfortable playing on such a big stage.
By the time people started to arrive, we were ready to do our chants.  Things were running a little behind, so we had to cut things short a bit, but the experience was well worth the effort. As we chanted, the words were put up on big screens on either side of the stage. As I looked out on the audience it seemed that most everyone was participating.  There were not quite as many people as we had expected, and the sound of the response was difficult to hear on stage, but with our additional backup singers we were able to hold it together nicely.  It was a great effort by everyone in the group and I am very proud of how far they have come.
So that's how the weekend went.  I have not had one like that in a while. I am grateful to have made it through successfully and I am as energized as ever to play good music.  thanks for reading, and please check back soon!



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