Welcome back my friends,
I am now in India and I can already tell that I had better start writing my journey down, or else I'll have a novel to share at the end of this trip. Those of you have been to India will know many of the experiences I am having here and then again, some of my journey will be unusual because of my particular connections to the amazing Indian musicians here.
My journey began with the nice and cozy 20 hour journey from Colorado to snow laden Newark airport and just barely made it out of there - surrounded by people who had been stuck for a couple of days - I think a small miracle to bypass all that. For me, actually, the plane rides are refreshing because when I'm on the earth, I tend to run around and am all but too busy. Once I get on a plane and the battery of my computer wears out, then "what to do", I can just chill and sleep and watch movies and...
So upon arriving in India, I was met by my good buddies Mujeeb and Benny who are sound engineers who have come on the Zakir Hussian's Masters of Percussion tours. I have worked side by side with Mujeeb Dadarkar since 2000 and almost every year since when we do the Zakir Hussain tours. We have lived through life and death together with Zakir. So, those two guys were a sight for sore eyes and we immediately went out in search of a nice cold beer!!! (not hard to find).
It was about 3am by the time I settled into the hotel Zakir had arranged which is the West End Hotel Mumbai across the street from the Mumbai Hospital. An old 1930s hotel which is surprisingly spacious and comfortable. It was actually Ustad Ali Akbar Khans hotel of choice when he use to come to Mumbai for visits.
The next day I went to the famous "Simla House" which is the home of Zakir Hussian's family. Alla Rakha and his wife bought that place back in the early 1960s. So many beautiful memories for close students and famous musicians stem from this beautiful sea side home. It was a real treat for me to see the place where Alla Rahka and family set down roots and needless to say, where my Guruji grew up.
From Simla House, we all caravanned over to the big private party and wedding reception for Zakir's daughter Anisa and her husband Taylor (who also happens to be a native Colorado mountain man - now a well known assistant director in Hollywood). Zakir and his wife Antonia put together an amazing and very beautiful party which was attended by so many wonderful musicians including; Shivkumar Sharma, Hariprasad Chaurasia, Mandolin Shrinivas, Selva Ganesh, Shankar Mahadeva, Sitara Devi (kathak dance legend), Nayan & Drubha Ghosh, Sivamani, Bhavani Shankar, Navin Sharma, Yogesh Samsai, Karsh Kale and a host of other wonderful musicians and famous Bollywood stars. It was like having all the Masters of Percussion tours x 100 converge in one spot. It was actually quite surreal since I was totally upside down time wise, and quite sleep deprived, with the astounding poverty lining the streets pushed up against a paradise of flowers, delicious food and India's stars - but the icing on the cake was having one of Rajastans greatest wedding bands playing the whole night. Wow, they were amazing!
The following day I spent with Zakir's family & wedding party friends at Simla House to celebrate New Years. We had a yummy dinner prepared by their lovely cook and care taker and spent the evening enjoying each others company. Of course it would not be a complete evening without Zakir asking me to gather and tune up all his tabla. (probably 10 high drums and 4 low drums) Then I finally took off to get to my hotel around 2am.
Now, those of you who have run around the cities of India know this, but I have to say, that experience of riding in a taxi (just the sheer phenomenon of traffic) is as close to being in a hugh bumper car, carnival ride, as could possibly exist on the planet. New York crazy traffic does not hold a candle to the chaotically organized frenzy that is Mumbai traffic. I'll try to put a video in here so you can get a feel. But after asking the very first taxi driver, why we didn't even slow down for red lights in the least, he said that the traffic lights are only for thick rush hour traffic control, other wise they are just pretty looking... and after being in my second taxi, which got run into (side swiped) by another taxi, and then our driver simply looked into his side mirror (a little annoyed) and then sped off to the hotel... he said everyone has to have car insurance, but no one really ever claims on it unless someone really gets hurt. Wow, now try applying that mentality in the USA.
More soon ~ I'm off to Ahmedabad for the big Saptak music festival. I'll meet Zakir and Shivkumar Sharma there soon.
Much joy to you,
Back in Mumbai after quite the time in Ahmedabad.
Ahmedabad is a very special city within Gujarat India, boasting the legendary SAPTAK music festival. I was taken good care of by the SAPTAK directors Parvezji and Habib Khan who I had known from tours in the US - we all know him not only as Sultan Khan's brother, but as "The Man Who Makes Killer Chicken Curry".
Parvezji and Ty at SAPTAK
I was met at the airport by a young man named Saurabh Shah who ended up showing me around the city and getting me to and from the festival. One of the things we did together was spend an afternoon at the Mahatma Gandhi Ashram. This was Gandhi's main home and center of operations. When we stepped onto the beautifully kept grounds, the vibration of peace and calm that radiated from all the years of meditation, music and humanitarian work were immediately apparent.
Mahatma Gandhi Ashram in Ahmedabad India
Gandhi's morning prayers
Sauabh and Ty having coffee in Ahmedabad
I was very impressed by how much care was invested in making this ashram a place where everyone was welcome. They have a beautiful display which documents Gandhi's life and works which includes many of his original writings. In his main quarters they even have his personal spinning wheel, his glasses and walking stick. It is over whelming to begin to allow into ones heart the work, strength and compassion of such a man. He was and will continue to be a great light - a living example, that the truth, once found deep within the Soul, can be a sounding board for all of ones life and relations.
Another area of Ahmedabad which is beautiful in a very different way is an area known to some as "Hollywood". It happens to be the poorest area in the city yet is also the place from which most of India's Ganesh statues are made. As we traveled through this area, everywhere we went had lines of freshly sculpted Ganesh murtis ranging from tiny hand held sizes, to 7 foot tall beautifully painted statues. I made a short film to share with you this harsh yet magical place.
On one of the days I was taken around shopping by my dear friend Birwa Qureshi who is married to Zakir's brother Fazal Qureshi. It was a "Fab India" day. (Fab India is a high quality Indian clothing store across India). Then we met up with Fazal and toured a cool museum which has the largest collection of antique items like pots, locks, nut crackers etc... in the world. It was great spending time with them and their two lovely children.
The festival itself was wonderful. Some days the concerts begin at 10am and other than an afternoon dinner break, the concerts go on back to back until close to 1am. I got a chance to see many great artists ranging from Hariprasad Chaurasia, Ajoy Chakraborty, Shujat Khan, Kumar Bose, Yogesh Samsi as well as Alam Khan (Ali Akbar Khan's son) who I thought was one of the finest performances I listened to. There were many amazing musicians who I had not heard before as well, but the peak event of the festival every year is of course when Zakir Hussain makes his appearance and this year he accompanied the legendary Shivkumar Sharma. The attendance at the festival basically tripled for their performance and we had to be escorted by security through the thick crowd of people into the back stage area. It was the first time I had seen Zakir perform in India and the stories of the crowds going crazy were accurate. It was a mad house... I got to sit on the stage next to Shivkumar Sharma and across from Zakir for the performance which was a wonderful seat since I could both see the artists up close as well as watch the great musicians in the audience listening intently to the music. It was funny, because at one point Shivkumar Sharma leaned back as said with a smile that he didn't know where in the world we were since he was use to seeing me sitting with him on the stage everywhere in the world except India. Also, there was another unexpected treat at this event, because Ustad Sultan Khan (my sarangi teacher) showed up. It had been over 4 years since I last saw him during the 2006 Masters of Percussion tour.
Following the performance we all went to the famous old musicians hotel "Poonam Palace" which had art work over all the walls of Zakir Hussain and is run by one of the SAPTAK directors Parvezji. This was quite the after party for many reasons, but one was that Habib Khan (Chicken Curry King) cooked his traditional "whole goat" curry. So placed in front of us was an entire goat covered in a think spicy gravy. That was an interesting meal indeed.
Following the meal there was a musician who played a great nagara solo. I will soon put a little video clip of that below so you can get an idea of what the Rajastan nagara drum sounds like.
Now, back in Mumbai, I'll be helping with some of Zakir's local concerts which should be amazing since all the top players and students of the area will certainly be present. I'll be back with you shortly with the next installment.
Hope your doing great,
Cheers and Chai !!!!
Hello there :)
Here is the latest from India...
Above is the photo of the cute little shop that Haridas, the great tabla maker of Mumbai makes all his tabla including many of the tabla Zakir, myself and my students have. They are busy at work all day long unless Zakir calls him to his home to specifically work on refining his tabla.
He is very sweet and a very sharp man who is indeed an expert in his profession. He was kind enough to let me film many of his techniques and discuss many of the more refined aspects of tabla making.
Haridas, U-zhaan and Ty in the tabla shop, Mumbai India.
On another day, while at Zakir's home, the son of the great tabla maker Sadanand came over to work on Zakir's bayans (bass tabla) which is his specialty, and I got to learn more fine tips from him. These guys are simple and under spoken men who, for their entire life have crafted and refined the art of tabla making. It is interesting that even though it is a detailed technical craft, still, there is the element of "genus" and "gift" involved in the final aspect of refining a tabla so it has the ultimate sweetness and depth of tone that every tabla player wants. That skill they say is only present through the grace of ones birth, and only very few humans have such an opportunity.
Sadanand's son and Ty at Zakir's home in Mumbai
That same evening Zakir, Faizan (Zakir's nephew) and I went off to a sold out concert with Trilok Gurtu and Selva Ganesh at the NCPA hall in south Mumbai. Zakir drove in the wild and crazy Mumbai traffic and kept quizzing me on how he was doing... Really, I would say that anyone willing to drive anywhere in India deserves a medal for bravery, but comfortably weaving through Mumbai rush hour is like stringing a needle with a rope, I am blown away every time that there is not just a hugh pile of rubble and twisted metal on every road across Mumbai - Zakir of course seamlessly wove his way to the concert without mishap.
Zakir Driving in rush hour traffic in Mumbai
The concert itself was amazing, I had never met Trilok before in person, we both have heard of each other for many years through Zakir and Kai Eckhardt etc... but had never hing out before. So it was like an old meeting that actually never had happened. He is a great guy!
The concert started with a killer solo by Trilok and then transitioned into a solo by kanjira maestro and dear friend of mine, Selva Ganesh. He is at he top of south India's drumming tradition and totally rocks every audience with his one handed drumming. You have to check him out if you don't already know about him.
Then Zakir brought down the house with his mind blowing solo which included the amazing sarangi playing of Ustad Sabir Khan. This was followed by duets and trios from Selva and Trilok. It was actually one of the finest fusion concerts I have seen in a long time and in the audience was one of India's all time great singers who I was honored to meet, Kishori Amonkar.
Zakir with Trilok during sound check.
Selva Ganesh during the concert - amazing solo...
The next day I was invited by my brother Taufiq Qureshi to the studio to check out the final tracking and mixing of his new album. It is going to be a great recording and I'll let you know how to get it once it is out. But he asked me to do some speaking vocals on a track and also it turns out that I am keeping Tal for a drum duet on one of the tracks that came from a Masters of Percussion concert in the US. So I am honored to be present on his next release.
In the studio with Taufiq Qureshi
Now, I have never talked about Taufiq before in my diary in detail, but I must say that Taufiq is a mind blowing musician. He has invented an entirely new drumming style which integrates aspects of tabla and conga and West African Djembe playing.
I have included a clip from a concert Taufiq gave the next night at the Karnatik Sangit Concert Hall in central Mumbai - he was presenting tabla solo material on the "Tabal Dejembe" which is one of his creative inventions.
It was on the 13th of January when I had the honor of going to my dear friend and guru Shivkumar Sharma's home for dinner. It is actually his birthday and one main point of visiting India over this period was specifically aimed at being with him on his birthday. His home is very lovely and peaceful, just like him and his wife Manoramaji. Shivkji is one of my main, deep influences when it comes to music as a spiritual path. He is one of India's great musical saints and carries his spiritual awareness into his music and visa versa. It is he, Zakir and Sultan Khan who have molded every cell in my body over the years creating a deep and life changing momentum that will continue for the eons to come.
His devoted student Takahiro-san accompanied me for our visit who is a in fact a very talented santoor player himself. We'll have some opportunities to play some concerts together in the future. He is, like his teacher, a very sweet and open souled musician.
At the home of Shivkumar Sharma
with his wonderful wife Manorama and student Takahiro-san
Tomorrow I take off for Jodpur, Rajestan which is where my sarangi Guru Ustad Sultan Khan lives with his family. It should be a wonderful reunion since I have been with him since 1992 and yet have never been to his home in India. I am filled with anticipation.
Much love to you all,
"WOW", I think the word WOW is all that can come out of my mouth after that week in Jodpur. I flew in on Air India and was picked up by Imran Khan who is a nephew of Sultan Khan. We went straight away off to Sultan Khan's home.
Jodpur is not that large of a city and has a much calmer village feel to it than massive Mumbai. I personally like the fresh air and more relaxed pace myself, but then again there are trade offs... like limited access to the flow of arts and business etc... but the basic core vibration of Jodpur was relaxing and uplifting.
Upon entering their beautiful home, I met my sarangi teacher Ustad Sultan Khan - it was a beautiful reunion. Then, almost immediately, I was escorted to the dinning table. The focus of food is a common phenomenon in India.
Now, for those of you who do not know, a famous royal dish in Jodpur is ~ cooked goat brains (served piping hot, still in the skull ~ Yummy???) And the meal would not be complete with our a creamy yellow dal made from goat lungs with a side dish made from goat liver. Goat are big in Jodpur...
So the whole family lives together in this, almost palace like home made from stone, boasting high ceilings and cement floors and beautiful earthy colors.
This was my room
The family basically consists of Three lovely daughters, two sons (Sabir Khan & Dilshad Khan) a couple of brothers of Sultan Khan who also have their children and then some sisters of Sultan Khan who then have their relations etc... And then other relatives and children have a number of other houses next door and near by. I think in many ways they are the core population of the town of Jodpur.
Sultan Khan has a bedroom at the entrance down stairs, all the women share another large bedroom downstairs, all the boys share one big bedroom upstairs and then there was "little old me" in the big prince suite overlooking the town from the second floor. I felt like a bit of a space hog all by myself up there, but they insisted that I have the room to myself.
I spent 4 or 5 days living there with them and really met so many great souls and had a wonderful time. The entire family is on "Sultan Khan Time". Which means wake up at 11am or so, and then ramp into the day with chapati and chai for breakfast, then a late lunch and things get rolling by early evening and hit full swing by about 10pm. Then it moves towards dinner time (the goats start getting nervous) and by around midnight the music starts. I think most every night we played music until at least 3am. It was wonderful playing music with everyone since literally every person in that family plays either sitar, sarangi or tabla. It is simply in the blood.
The movie below is what I woke up to one fine morning. The two young brothers had decided it was time for me to wake up, so they selected a subtle and beloved song to gently wake me from my dreams: PS - they didn't kep the $ - it was all for show :)
My time with Sultan Khan was invaluable. It was very important for me to spend some quality time with him since it has been over 4 years since we last met. Sadly he has not been in good health and has not been able to travel out of the country. It was in 1992 when Zakirji first brought him to Boulder and I began studying sarangi with him. His late night habits were in full swing back then, and on the tours that followed, each night on the road, when I finished my duties, Sultan Khan would call and ask me to come to his room where he would teach me sarangi and talk about God and music from around 1am until 3 or 4am. Almost every year from 1992 until 2006 we spent time like this together, either on the road or in the studio and I even have had the honor of accompanying him on the stage a couple of times. God is great!
He is truly a musicians musician and one of the greatest sarangi players the world has known. If you don't know his music, try to find some of his recordings. One such recording is on Zakir's record label Moment Records, check it out.
Ustad Sultan Khan and Ty
The main event surrounding my visit to Khansab (Sultan Khan) was a live concert at the famous Jodpur Fort. It is an amazing land mark in Jodpur perched upon one of two large hills. Upon the other hill is the legandary Jodpur Palace which is the largest private residence in the world.
Check out this back yard
This also happens to be the royal court in which Ustad Ali Akbar Khan was appointed court musician back in the 40s and 50s. Truely the end of an era and if you visit there today, you can see the Ali Akbar Khan concert hall in which private classical concerts are still held.
Now a days a small portion of the Palace is used as a high end hotel and of course when the one and only Zakir Hussain is in town, he is their special guest.
The concert was in the main open arena of the beautifu old Fort and featured Sultan Khan, Zakir Hussain and Sultan Khans son Sabir Khan. They were given awards by the King of Jodpur before emmersing into the music. Zakir played a wonderful tabla solo featuring Sabir Khan's sarangi playing and then some Rajastani folks songs sung by Sultan Khan. What a night!
It took a couple of days to get back to Mumbai, but the adventures just continued to flow and the next couple of nights in Jodpur were no exception - I will miss my musical family there...
Now off to Kolapur for another solo with Zakir and Sabir. Kolapur is a hotbed for musicians and tabla players seeing as it is near to Pune. Should be a good one. More soon,
Best to you,
I am slowly putting up some of the videos as I get them done. They are fun to do since i get to work with not only the images, but music too. They make a good team.
So the movie below is a composite of many different occasions where I happen to film what was going on in traffic. Of course the most wild and crazy things happen when you don't have your camera rolling, but this gives you some idea of the craze and glory that is "Traffic in India".
Best to watch this movie "full screen"
Sitting between my two teachers Zakir Hussain & Sultan Khan is a very wonderful experience. Back some years, it was always on stage during the tours, but this time it was a beautiful reunion at Sultan Khan's home.
One of the highlights for me was all the tabla solos I got to witness. I went with Zakir to Jodpur, Mumbai, Kolapur, Pune, Kolkata and Delhi for his solos which were all mind boggling. It is true that in India, he turns up the heat of his solos and what was already beyond belief, becomes even more amazing. For many of these solos he was accompanied by the son of Ustad Sultan Khan, Sabir Khan who is a truly fantastic musician.
Zakir Hussian with Sabir Khan
Another amazing trait of Sabir Khan is his driving. He is somehow able to navigate through all types of traffic at amazing speeds - missing the cars, trucks, bikes and cows by mere centimeters. I also think we set a new worlds record driving from Kolapur to Mumbai. U-Zhaan, my Japanese tabla brother was in the car with us as a witness. We not only cut off two or three hours from the typical driving time, but hit speeds of over 200 kph which is beyond belief when you realize these are Indian highways...
Check out this movie which ramps up to the finale at 200 kph
Another amazing meeting was with the great tabla maestro Yogesh Samsi. He basically grew up in Ustad Alla Rakha's lap learning tabla. After Zakir Hussain, he is revered as Alla Rakha's finest disciple. He is also a wonderful person and our connection was a very special one. We spent lots of time together looking at music but also just sharing stories and experiences.
Yogesh Samsi & Ty in Mumbai
And the day before the Barsi (Memorial concert of Ustad Alla Rakha) I went to the other side of Mumbai to meet my dear friend Kala Ramnath (world's premier North Indian violinist). It was funny, because going to her house for dinner, I left early, maybe 3:45pm and traveled by taxi to her house maybe 20 kilometers away. I arrived at 7:30pm totally stunned that it took almost 4 hours to travel across part of the same city. Crazy!!! And I finally got to meet her lovely family and indeed it is true, her mother does make the best dosas in the Universe!
Kala Ramnath & Family in Mumbai
So more coming soon - the adventure continues and I have decided to extend my trip another week and a half so I can go with Zakir to Delhi and Kolkata. Should be quite the time.
The adventure continued with many many concerts including a number of morning concerts which is a real treat because outside of India, we rarely have opportunities to hear morning Ragas. It is a very special time of the day for music. Melodies and feelings which only are available during those times of the day.
My first concert in India was on Jan. 30th at the music festival held by Druba Ghosh, sarangi maestro. It was a full circle experience for me since the musician I played with was David Trasoff who was the first musician to instruct me in the art of accompaniment and was also the person responsible for introducing me to my Guruji, Zakir Hussain. So in this way it was appropriate to play my first concert in India with him. I was of course quite nervious since some of India's finest were in the audience including Yogesh Samsi and Prafulla Athalye (senior disciples of Ustad Alla Rakha).
Playing classical music in India (in any capacity) is an event I never thought would actually happen since I started in this art form so late in life (27 years old) and didn't see the path and blessings before me until recently. So in many ways, during this trip to India, I entered an arena beyond my expectations...
Dhruba Ghosh, David Trasoff, Takahiro & Ty at concert in Mumbai
My dear friends Fazal and Birwa Qureshi decided to take me out on a site seeing evening the next night. After a wonderful meal and drive through the central Mumbai sites, they took me down to catch a traditional horse & carriage ride around the late night Mumbai streets.
Fazal & Birwa Qureshi & children on carriage ride in Mumbai
One of my main interests in staying in India extra time was to attend the memorial concert festival of Ustad Alla Rakha known as Barsi. This was the 10th annual Barsi and was, as always, quite amazing. Beginning in the morning with a traditional peshkar performance with the main students of the Punjab Gharana (school).
Zakir Hussain with senior students at Alla Rakha Barsi 2011
There were many amazing performers during the day including one of my favorite ensambles, Selva Ganesh and his quintet of new and amazing Carnatic music. Really a unique and inspired horizon for South Indian music today.
Zakir as always is the Sun at the center of the galaxy. He is the force which draws together many of the musicians of India as well as leads the field of tabla with expression and inspiration. I was lucky enough to be back stage with him as he rehearsed a surprise performance for the audience with an amazing Ghazal singer - they were fantastic together!
I was also blessed with the opportunity to to be present at the yearly ceremonies honoring Ustad Alla Rakha and his wife and extended musical family. A very moving and beautiful ceremony which continued for a couple of days. I am very blessed to have been able to attend these events. I feel that my understanding of the tradition I have been involved with for the past 20 year has been revealed to me in very important ways during this trip and I thank my Guruji Zakir Hussain for all these blessings.
Now, one of Alla Rakha's private students, Navin Sharma who happens to be India's current maestro of the Dholak, has become a dear friend of mine. He is mainly known for his unmatched Dholak solos, but in reality is one of India's finest tabla players. We have spent much time together on the road touring with Zakir's Maters of Percussion around the world and he has become a Gurubhai teacher of sort for me - which means a student of the same teachers, but more advanced and sharing some of the wisdom he has gained.
I traveled to his home for a period of time and met his lovely family. We had a great time together and as always, I learned a great deal about tabla and the deep tradition it hails from.
So now, on to the final leg of the India trip. So see you soon,
Inspiration and joy to you,
Hello & Namaste !!!
Above is the photo of my dear friend Yogesh Samsi (tabla maestro) and his lovely family. We spent some fun time together and I now feel like I have another home in Mumbai. The main home is of course Simla House, which is as you remember the home of Zakir Hussain and his late father, Ustad Alla Rakha. There were always a flow of people coming and going from the house including students, interviewers, friends and family.
Fazal Qureshi (Zakir's nephew) & Ty
Ghazal Aulia (Zakir's niece) & Ty
Nirmala Bachani (Zakir's amazing assistant in India)
Shokutapa (the family caretaker) & Ty. She came to the family 40 years ago and learned cooking, cleaning and house keeping from Zakir's mother over the years. She is truly amazing - I have ultimate respect for her.
Soon after the Barsi, it was time to fly to Delhi to see my dear old friend Shubhendra Rao and his family. I have played with Shubhendra since 1995 in various setting and he has become one of India's top sitarists in the last number of years. And after all this time, I had never met his wife Saskia de Haas (the top Indian cellist in the world) and their adorable 6 year old son, Ishaan.
Shubhendra & Saskia & Ishaan Rao in New Delhi
After a couple of days with Shubhendra and a wonderful concert with Shivkumar and Zakir Hussain, Zakir and I flew to Kolkata for a performance with the illustrious katak dancer Birju Maharaj. That was truly an amazing event which started with a solo by Zakir and moved into a 3 hour dance & tabla duet.
Birju Maharaj w/ Zakir in Kolkata 2011
Upon my final 12 hours in Mumbai, I packed, said my goodbyes and on my way to the airport had to meet my friends Mujeeb and Benny at the center of the Universe, THE GHETTO BAR.
The Ghetto bar in Mumbai !!!
I had to begin the India trip the same way it began, with the two sound men of the century. A couple of beers later (with the taxi waiting outside) I jumped back in and off to the lovely Mumbai International Airport.
So at last, I boarded the plane to begin my 30 hour trip home. As I settled back and the plane took off, I began to reflect on the wild adventure I had just been on. It was only 7 weeks but felt like several years of experience. I owe my deepest thanks to my Guruji Zakir Hussain who orchestrated and took me along as his assistant all over India. He is the reason I began playing tabla, he is the reason I gained inspiration to become a professional musician, and he has allowed me to work with him all around the world for all these years blessing me with experiences such as these. All praise to the Guru and to the spirit of that which inspired the soul.
Guruji & Ty
So back to the States and into the next chapter of, the crazy life of Ty :)
Much love and talk soon,