I was very happy to return to Australia this year with Steve Oda since it was with Steve that I began doing my yearly tours back in 2005. Every year I try to bring one of my collaborations to Australia and Japan and the US and this year was a reunion back in Australia with sarode maestro Steve.
It was an interesting start to the tour because when I arrived, I cleared customs in the Gold Coast which is renowned for being strict on Quarantine. And even though I have been to Australia over a dozen times (through Sydney) without an issue, this time they confiscated my drums and said I could not bring them into the country. WHAT!??!!?? So I had no option but to leave them at the Immigration office and get on my next flight to go up to Sydney to meet Steve. I really didn't know what I would do for about 24 hours until I finally got through to an officer in Canberra who knew what the tabla drums are and said that if I can pay the fee of $300 and fax over the appropriate forms, then she will give me the permit to bring them in and promise to leave with them. So I jumped on that deal and the next morning (which was the day of the first concert) I drove up to the Gold Coast and picked up my drums. Wow - what a scare…
Our first concert was in Byron Bay at Red Tent Yoga which was produced by Kat at KU Productions. It was lovely to see many of my dear friends from years past.
Our next concerts were in Brisbane (hosted by our friend Shen Flindell - one of the top Australian tabla players) which was a lovely private house concert, followed by a concert in Newcastle produced by my student and friend from the 2005 concerts, Dayasagar. She played tambura for us back in 2005, 2006 and for these concerts as well.
We basically had 4 concerts in a row ending on a Monday night at the beautiful Mangrove Ashram where we also got to see our friend Mukti who manages aspects of the Ashram and was also our tambura player back in the past tours.
Australia is an amazing country and part of my joy in touring in countries more and more is arranging to spend some time between concerts seeing the territory between the big cities. So I like to drive the many hours from Sydney to Byron Bay. Then to Melbourne and occasionally to Adelaide and back. Lots of time on the left hand side of the road and many truck stops with fried fish & chips.
The massive double length trucks are on a mission to deliver goods and all day and especially late at night they are barreling down the roads. A little un-nerving for drivers in normal size cars, and sad for the wild life (kangaroo, wallabies, wombats etc…) Even some of the small cars are fitted for high speed contact with wild life,,, check out the front grill on this small car (below) it is almost like a cartoon.
There is a tree in the spring time in Australia called Jacaranda which is visually stunning. It is found all over and almost seems like it comes right out of a 'Dr Seuss' book.
So we made it over to Melbourne where we stayed with my dearest Ozzy friend Chris Hooper who not only sponsors our visas, but houses us in her beautiful and peaceful home in the mountains outside Melbourne.
While in Melbourne I sat in for a concert with my friend Jarek Czechowicz and enjoyed playing with his group of wonderful musicians (Justin Phillip Ray, Matt Coldrick, Michael McInerney, Ami Hasson and a couple of other beautiful singers) We had a lovely time together. And the next night played a concert in Melbourne with Steve which was as always, a wonderful experience.
The next morning we "tried" to jump on a plane to fly over to Tasmania, but as we were approaching the counter, a massive computer failure occurred (for the entire airlines) and we stood there for over 3 hours until they manually processed the boarding and we got over to Hobart just in time for sound check.
This event was a very special fund raising event for the Hindu Temple of Tasmania and was very well produced. We were blessed to have an opening performance by the famous rock musician Brian Ritchie (bass player for the Violent Femmes) who is now a talented shakuhachi player. He was accompanied by a talented young mridamgam player named Santhanam Gopal Krshan.
After playing a full raga, we were joined by Brian and Santhanam and concluded with a light classical folk song which was very enjoyable. It is always a treat to improvise with high level musicians because in the moment, we get to know each other on an uncommonly deep level. It takes many years of digging into a practice to begin to expose who we really are through music, but it is so rewarding when we experience it.
Our host for the event as well my contact to the presenter was Ashok Narayana. I send so many thanks to him and his wife for taking care of us so well. Blessings on him and his family.
The following day, Brian performed with us at the famous MONA Museum. He happens to be the curator of not only the music program at the museum, but of the big world music festival in Tasmania. He is quite the key figure in the up lifting of Tasmania to International status within the arts world.
And that night we went back to his amazing home where he and his wife Varuni (amazing woman) cooked us a mind boggling yummy meal fit for Kings and Queens!
Then, with a full tummy and a full heart, we jumped on an (on time) plane and went back to Melbourne.
After another fun road trip, we arrived in Canberra where my Canberra family, Anandajyoti & Alan welcomed us. They are warm and open hearted people. Anandajyoti is a famous yoga teacher there and Alan is a very talented painter. I'll feature his work soon, when his website gets published. And we were joined by Dayasagar who drove down from Sydney area. A nice reunion!
At our concert, which was held at Manly Yoga Ashram, we were joined for one number by shakuhachi maestro Riley Lee. Who I was preparing to perform a duet concert with the next night in Sydney. Then Steve and I performed our final concert of the tour. Performing this deeply spiritual music with Steve has been such an important part of my musical development as well as a true blessing. Our support and friendship for one another has become more and more noticeable in our music and year by year creates a growing aura of kindness, power and respect.
I held one intimate Nada Yoga workshop while in Manly. A nice group came together for that.
And the last concert of the tour was with Japanese shakuhachi maestro Riley Lee. I have known Riley since 1998 when we played together at the first International Shakuhachi Festival in Boulder Colorado USA. And from that time, we have kept in touch but not played together. So this was a real treat for me since I not only love the tradition of shakuhachi, but highly respect Riley as a musician and person. He is a legend within the realm of shakuhachi.
The event was held at the Camelot Lounge in Sydney which is a super cool venue. They have a comfortable and artistic environment and good sound and great pizza and they film (live) the events and put them on the wall during the show. Multi-media and fun!
Playing with Riley is a great experience. For this concert, we did not have any plan nor did we have any songs prepared. So we really were 'on the spot' and in the moment. Since we are both story tellers as well, it was fun to bounce back and forth between music and stories and sharing.
I feel an easy and inspired connection to Riley which I hope can be developed in year to come. When collaborating, so much of what really works and doesn't work comes down to chemistry and connection. I hope to be able to present this duet to you in the future and if not live, then certainly a CD project will arise before too long.
Check out Riley and his music: http://www.rileylee.net
At the end of my tour I spent a few days relaxing in beautiful Flinders Island. And while I was there, I decided to host retreats there each year. It has very powerful, deep granite mountains which go right down to the crystal clear ocean beaches. It is where they set the standard for clean air and water for the world and it is a sparsely populated paradise. I have begun the process of developing this retreat on this link and will include Native American sweat lodge, vision quest, mediation and sinking into nature. I can't wait! Flinders Island Retreat
Now I am off to US followed by a return visit to Japan where I will present a Musical Universe workshop and concert in Hiroshima and then another weekend workshop and concert in Kobe.
Come back soon for those details…
Have happy and healthy holidays and see you in the new year.
Much love and peace to you and yours,