Welcome back my friends,
This summer we had another wonderful exploration into the world of tabla. We welcomed some new beginners and some new intermediate players also joined us. And as usual, many of the old timers showed up yet again. That is really what it takes to progress in the art of tabla - patience - perseverance - the enjoyment of the voice of the tabla & the love of developing a practice which uncovers, ultimately yourself.
I noticed this year more that ever before, that the returning students had moved to a new level and things came to light much more quickly than in the past. Sometimes it is hard to see from inside your own experience, but from the outside, the progress is noticeable. And it is very exciting.
This year we invited sarode maestro Steve Oda to fly out to Boulder and give an accompaniment class to the students. As a part of that class, each student gets to accompany Steve and gets some experience as well as some feedback. Playing with people is such an important part of learning music. It is one aspect of the fruition of the hours of practice we spend working on our expression and technique. And what a joy to accompany an artist like Steve Oda - we were all very honored and happy to have the opportunity.
On the Saturday evening of every retreat, we host a concert for local music lovers and the students attending the workshop. And this year again we were very lucky to have Steve Oda stay for that intimate evening concert. The hall seats about 100 but we had almost 130 in there, many of whom sat up close on the floor.
Camillo and his wife Cynthia - musicians and gifts from God. They hold together the events each time we host a concert and so many other events including producing our events in Tucson.
They are a blessing to me and to us all.
ZAKIR HUSSAIN MASTER CLASSES
So from my retreat in Boulder, I jumped on a plane and made it out to Zakir's master class retreat in CA. Which, as you can imagine, is a yearly highlight for me. It is when I get to see all my weak points quite vividly, and how much I would like to keep studying all aspects of the tabla and music in general. Plus it is a chance to see my tabla family from around the world who also have been coming for some years.
This year Zakir asked a few of the students to come up on the stage and do duets and trios with him. Wow, what an amazing opportunity and what an amazing Guru we have. He is so encouraging and yet never settles for anything but all our very best. This year he brought my dear friend and Gurubhai Micheal Lewis up onto the stage for a birthday present. Michael did great and I was so happy to see him trading phrases and looks with the master.
The time we spend with Zakir is in-valuable and life changing. It is a true case of Shakti - the sheer weight of his presence
effects us all and makes us look at ourselves in a way which we other wise would not. To begin to see our potential as musicians and as creative thinkers. Zakir Hussain is without a question, the incarnation of rhythm and musical power, we are blessed to live at a time in history when we can experience such a genius in person.
Now off to Japan for some interesting projects…
CONCERTS & WORKSHOPS IN JAPAN
When I got to Japan, my first event was in Hayama, a little surf town right on the beach and looking right at Mt Fuji. My student and friend Mikoto Seto set up a lovely event in an old traditional house near the beach. She taught yoga to a full house while I played tabla and guitar. Following the yoga class I did a mini concert with her brother Katsunori Kabaya who is a fantastic cellist. We decided to do the entire concert as a free improv. It is something neither one of us gets to do very often, so with open ears, we just dove in. He is a very talented cellist who has refined intonation and solid rhythm. I hope we work on some projects more in the future.
After a yummy dinner cooked by Mikoto san, my friend Aki Ueda arrived for the evening main musical event. He is an accomplished sitar player now living in this area of Japan. This was our first concert ever playing together and we both very much enjoyed the experience. The old house filled up with people and the evening was perfect for music. Mt Fuji, red and beautiful in the setting sun. No sound system, so just the natural sounds of the instruments in the room full of eager listeners. Quite the poetic musical situation.
Following this event, I traveled down to Osaka where Mikoto san arranged to have my music support a famous Osaka yoga teacher named Takashi Juzu. His class was nearly 100 people and we held the class under a large bridge next to the river in down town Osaka. I played guitar upon Mikoto sans' request and people seem to enjoy the simple relaxing quality of what i do. Actually, my particular style of guitar is purely a lullaby. I developed the sound when my son was a baby and I use to lul him to sleep with a story accompanied by the relaxing, open tuning guitar sound. So in many way, I suppose it is doing its job even still, it is relaxing people and in todays world I would say that is a service worth offering.
Mikoto san and her husband Taka san. They are indeed a core part of my family in Japan
And from Osaka we drove down to Wakayama Prefecture for a special party celebrating the end of a chapter in the career of Hiromi san & Sekine san who are close friends and amazing chiefs. For the last year they owned and ran a restaurant called Wanowa and we had quite the party. Many new friends came to join us from the local community as well as from as far away as Okinawa and Tokyo.
Part of the afternoons' events was a live concert featuring a couple from Okinawa named Morimoto san who played the most lovely folks songs from that region (Okinawa shamisen & guitar & voice). I got to accompany them on tabla which was a first for us all. Actually the combination is surprisingly inspired and fits together very naturally. And following that I did a duet with a didgeridoo player named Yohei san which got everyone in the audience energized. We all had lots of fun playing music together and actually are now booked to perform together again next Oct in a famous temple in that area. Should be great!
So now I will prepare for the Sept Oct tour in Japan with a wide array of artists and also the Nov tour in the US with my trio YO - That is going to rock! Hope to see you at one of those events and until then, much love to you and many blessings in your life and in your heart.