Wow, what a month it was. Immediately following the Zakir tour, I joined Krishna Das in Denver for a reunion concert along with 1000 kirtan loving Coloradans. It had been 8 years since we last played together and it was love at first beat, as usual.
It is a very interesting connection since the music itself is not particularly demanding or technically challenging, then it become more clear that it is about connection and relationship. Our many years of touring around the world began in 1999 and was pretty much non-stop until 2007. It was so intense, I would say we lived on the road about 80% of those years - that is a lot of planes and a blurred number of random hotel rooms. But what a ride we had, and so many lovely people along the way.
Packed house in Denver
One quick story to share about the reason I decided to begin working with Krishna Das I’ll share a truncated version here.
In the beginning of my tabla journey, I of course fell deeply in love with the tradition and the practice of the art form. I was taken on by the legend Ustad Zakir Hussain as a private student and very quickly began producing his events and learning the skills to be his personal assistant (which have continued and deepened over these years). During those first core years with Zakir, I began having intense dreams about many things including special lessons from the maestros on the tabla and long vivid enlightening dreams. One night, perhaps in 1995 (long before I knew anything about Krishna Das), I had a dream that struck me so deeply that I had to start asking questions. In the dream I was walking along a dirt path up in the mountains on a lovely day and came across a cottage nestled in the Aspen trees. Around the cottage was a short, white picket fence (only 2 feet high or so), and standing in the yard was the great maestro Aladdin Khansahib (father of Ali Akbar Khan and teacher to Ravi Shankar). He called me and asked me to come into the house. So I stepped over the fence and walked with him into the house. Inside was a circle of great musicians sitting in chairs and talking about music. (Zakir Hussain, Alla Rakha, Mian Kader Baksh, Ravi Shankar, Ali Akbar Khan, Shivkumar Sharma, Sultan Khan, Ram Narayan, Bundu Khan and about 12 other senior musicians who I did not recognize. (by the way, most of the named musicians were no longer alive at this point). So Zakir looked at me and signaled me to come over and sit behind him on the floor. So for some time, I listened to the sharing of stories and musical thoughts when suddenly an old man bust from the kitchen who was bald and wearing a red & black checkered blanket. He was saying things that I did not understand but clearly, all the musicians in the room listened to him with respect and I thought to myself, wow, I wonder who this guy is! I felt that this man must be a great musician. All of a sudden, the man yelled out the word “CHAI” and disappeared into the kitchen again. That is when Zakir said to me, ‘Go on and help him out.” So I got up and went into the kitchen which was very tiny and there was no place to stand around, so I jumped up and sat on the counter and watched him. He was like a storm, spinning around, spices flying in the air, milk boiling, steam filling the room with a deep delicious aroma. And I realized that not only was this man in full meditation with his eyes rolled back into his head, but he was more than a normal human being, something was supernatural about him. And just when I thought to myself what a wonderful blessing it was to be alone in the kitchen with this supernatural CHAI whirlwind,,, he swooped around right in my face, nose to nose, his eyes now fixed to mine and said, PRACTICE - ALL OF LIFE IS PRACTICE!!!!!!! And then just as fast, he spun around and continued making chai. Then I woke up.
Well, after that dream / vision, I was on fire to find out who this man was and actually had private meetings with all the musicians I could find who were alive and in that dream. I asked Zakir, Alla Rakha, Ravi Shankar, Ali Akbar Khan, Sultan Khan & Shivkumar Sharma who might this person be, but no one could be sure who it was from the musician / holy saints that they knew of. So for some years I simply let it be a very interesting dream.
Well, in 1999, when I was first introduced to Krishna Das. I believe it was following our first gig in Boulder that he was giving me a ride in his car and as we drove, I noticed a photo that he had put on the dash of the car. Oh my God, it was a photo of the man from my dream!!! I said, “Stop the car” and we pulled over to the side of the road and I told him my dream. And then, to make things even more intense, Krishna Das, as I told him my dream, became as still as a mountain with eyes as wide as the moon and then said, “I also had a dream long ago” He said that in his dream he was walking through a mountain forest on a dirt path on a sunny day and came across a cottage in an Aspen grove surrounded by a small white picket fence (about 2 feet high) and standing in the yard was Aladdin Khansahib who was waving him to come into the house - - - - -
Well, that was it, so to speak, and from that time onward we toured the world and shared the Practice of kirtan with hundreds of thousands of people.
The mysteries & blessings of this world often go unnoticed and yet are always flowing in and out of our lives - however, this particular dream / vision came in like a storm of ecstasy and directed my life into horizons I could never have imagined.
And just this week, Krishna Das called to ask if I might join him in India for several large kirtan events with the thousands of people there who live with kirtan as a way of life. What a blessing and what a journey we are on.
I’ll put up another Diary entry when I am back from India.
Much love & joy to you and your loved ones,