Friday, January 27, 2006

Rocking in the Third World!

Hello Everyone,

Yes, this is India. Sometimes the hot water works, and sometimes it doesn’t. There’s rolling power brownouts and cattle in the streets (watch your step, please!)

I had time for one short tourist trip of three days. I saw the Taj Mahal, the temple at the birthplace of Krishna (sorry, no cameras were allowed in the temple), and made a short foray into Rajasthan. Here’s the Taj, and my driver and I enjoying a Rajasthani meal, and a young boy dancing.

We mostly have been focusing on the music, of course. We are recording at a studio located in the offices of a media company in Delhi. We are fortunate to be able to use their facility and the engineers that Vishal has arranged for us to work with are very good. Here are a few pix of the music crew.

Top left, L to R: Vishal (Tablas, Composing, Arranging), Pritham (Sarod), Yogi (Blah blah blah), Rafiz (Excellent tabla, actually there teaching one of Vishal's students, not working with us), Jaffir (Sarangi, singing), and Ujwaal (Singing, composing, arranging - Vishal's younger brother, only 19 years old). Second picture: Ujwaal laying in some vocals, Third Picture: Me, Pritham, and Ujwaal during a power brownout in the studio (we are all holding up our cell phones because we are using the displays as flashlights while the power is out - hey, this is the third world, after all!).

The music we are working on now will come in a future CD (late 2006, early 2007) and we will be doing some shows of this material at that time, at least in India, and also in the west if suitable arrangements can be made.

We have done some shopping, but we decided to pass on the McAloo Tikki for 40 Rupees (about 90 cents) - yes, your favorite burger chain is here, too!

Hopefully, the Gods are smiling on us and blessing our music, and each and everyone of you, too!

That’s all for now – namahskar!


Tuesday, January 03, 2006

New Years in New Delhi

Hello Everyone,

A few days have passed and we are settling into our daily routines here. I usually get up and have a coffee across the street, then do emails or practice in the morning. Then we take a lunch break, after which I may nap and then have my afternoon coffee. In the afternoons we go anywhere we need, such as to a store, and in the evening I meet with my host Vishal and his brother to work out the arrangements and instrumentations of the musical pieces we will be recording after a few more days.

All in all it's peaceful, and allows for good focus on the music.

I did buy a camera at a Sony store nearby, so here are a few pictures.

This is the view from the roof over my room looking southeast, which is in the direction back towards the airport. We are in southeastern New Delhi, in an area called Munirka. Just below and in front of the office building is the cafe where I have my coffee. You can see a Pepsi symbol there to help locate it, and the whole outdoor terrace to the left of the Pepsi sign is part of the restaurant, called Udupi's. Excellent food and service there.

Here I am with Vishal Nagar and his mother Urmila Nagar. They are my hosts along with Vishal's father. Urmilaji is a famous master of the art of Karthak, a style of dance. She has been commended with the President's Award for a lifetime of Outstanding Achievement in the Arts by the President of India. Vishal is a tabla virtuoso, and travels back and forth between India and the USA, touring and teaching in both countries. Vishal invited me to India after I invited him to record a song on the Yoginis Songbird CD.

This is Chaz, a young tabla student from Portland, Oregon, who is doing a two-month long tabla intensive. Think of it as a solo meditation camp with playing of the tablas as the meditation. He practices tablas 6-8 hours a day, and meets with Vishal once a day for a lesson. He stays in a room next to mine here on the top floor of the flat. We take breaks together sometimes at the cafe, and may meet at other times, to go shopping with Vishal or for the evening meal with the family. He's a very bright and motivated musician, and alumnus of the University of Oregon. His arrival in India was a bit of a shock for him, as there was some confusion with his cab driver from the airport and he got lost in the neighborhood late at night after arriving. But Munirka is a good upper middle class neighborhood and some neighbors helped him figure out where he was. Still, being lost in India on your first night after 28 hours of traveling must have been an ordeal, because of the sheer uncertainty if nothing else.

And here is a group photo from the News Years Day dinner at the house. The back row is Chaz, Vishal, Urmilaji, Vishal's brother Ujwal, and Vishal's father Mr. V D Nagar, whom I simply call Uncleji. All the ladies in the picture are students of Urmila's, and the young lady in front of me is a very good singer as well. That is her child at lower right, named Tiha (the name derives from "Tihai", the name for a tabla figure of three repeated phrases). Tiha already speaks some tabla language, and it is not unusual for musicians in India to be trained from a very young age. Sometimes it is planned that one will be a musician even before birth.

Here we are enjoying the singing with Vishal accompanying on tabla. Everyone present except Vishal's father is a musician. Vishal's father, because of the musicianship in the family, is a very discerning listener. The dancers are also themselves musicians and know the ragas, the songs, and the rhythm cycles of the tabla too. I feel fortunate to be in the company of such good musicians. Chaz played for us, and Vishal and I improvised for a while. I just picked a raga scale and made up some improvisations on the harmonium, but they were still appreciative. Perhaps later we will play some of the compositions we are working on for them, and I can hook up my keyboard and play some jazz for them before I leave.

So now I have to get back to the music. Cheers until next time. Feel free to email me at