Welcome back my friends,
I am on the road at the moment with my teachers Ustad Zakir Hussain and Pandit Shivkumar Sharma. As some of you know from my past Diary entries, we have been doing this spring tour with Shivkumar Sharma every two years since 2000. So off we go on yet another adventure.
This tour is such a highlight amongst the tour managing I do for my Guru Zakir because of the purity and intimacy of the music that these two maestros share.
Indian Classical music is a blend of Raga (melody) and Tala (rhythm). The roll of the instrumentalist usually is to present and develop the melodic body of the Raga while the roll of the drummer would rest in supporting that melodic life by keeping track of the time cycle and developing the rhythmic content of the music. However, in the hands of Shivkumar Sharma, who was a high level tabla player in the beginning of his musical career, the usual roles are transformed. His instrument is itself very rhythmic by nature, similar to how a piano is all at once melodic, yet very rhythmic. As well, Shivkumar Sharma himself is perhaps the most rhythmically developed instrumentalists the world has known. Because of this, Zakir's roll is allowed to shift and he is freed up to paint a more melodic picture. The voicing of the tabla expands and becomes more melodic which allows for a new style of accompaniment. This is a territory that in our present day, only Zakir Hussain is in a position to explore on stage without disturbing the integrity of the Raga.
For those of you who have not really listened to their recordings, I invite you to collect a few CDs and spend some time listening… it will expand your mind and your heart.
One of my favorite aspects of touring with Shivkumar Sharma is our private time. Our meals together are usually accompanied by many old stories of the maestros and the mysteries of India. We also happen to both have a love of the topic of meditation. So many hours are spent discussing the Nada Yoga tradition and a life with a spiritual focus.
Truly, I would say that Shivkumar Sharma is not just a musical inspiration to me, but a deep spiritual teacher and a shining light to the union of meditation and music. After our first concert in Quebec City Canada, we flew to Toronto where so many students of Indian music and especially tabla are living.
The maestros - flying from Quebec City to Toronto
Our luggage is nothing compared to the 32 check in cases of the legendary Master of Percussion tours, but it does add up when there is just three of us jumping from flight to flight...
Sadly, Zakir's new tabla case arrived from India with one wheel breaking free and by the time we reached Toronto, was actually missing. So Home Depot in NYC saved the day and I was able to fix it. Now I need to replace some clasps on Shivkumar Sharma's case. Always something to fix!
Each hotel has its interesting hallway mirrors… this is in NYC Double Tree...
Shivkumar Sharma during sound check - music and meditation in action.
Behind the sound board again… I have been doing sound for Zakir off and on since 1995 which is a real pleasure for the Shivkumar Sharma concerts and a real challenge on the Masters of Percussion tours which sometimes has up to 30 mics.
The famous latte and oatmeal raisin cookie! Since 1990, I have been bringing Zakir his morning (or evening) latte sweetened with an exacting science.
In NYC I got a little time before sound check to meet up with my old musical partner, Krishna Das. The last time we toured together was 2007 and wow, it was so wonderful to reconnect and catch up a little. We talked about our past adventures and day dreamed about someday doing some special gigs together again. I hope that day comes to pass.
The years we spent on the road all around the world were life changing and powerful for not only us, but for the thousands of people who came to join us. I am who I am today because of many of those experiences. I'll share with you some of those adventures in Diary entries to come. In the mean time, I can simply say that our meeting brought me an "ease of heart".
The dynamic duo - Krishna Das & Ty
Krishna Das, Ty and Shivkumar Sharma
Then we were off to Cambridge Massachusetts (my birth State) for what turned out to be a truly amazing concert.
Beautiful Sanders Theater - amazing acoustics and great vibrations! I think every concert we have done in this theater has been special.
Smiles from the maestro during sound check
The concert that night was an absolutely magical evening. March 31st 2013 at Sanders theater in Cambridge was an evening to remember. I have been together with Shivkumar Sharma and Zakir Hussain for many years and well over a hundred concerts. I of course, have always been blown away by every concert I have attended, but this particular concert took us all to new ecstatic dimensions. Even Shivkumar Sharma admitted to the audience that something completely new was happening in that concert. The entire treatment of the development of the Raga and Tala was transformed to something fresh and mind blowing. Even what Zakir played as a theka (basic rhythmic structure) was something none of us had ever heard before. Still very much classical, but pushing the boundaries of what has been done before.
Even after 30 years of playing concerts together, these two artists are on fire and pushing the envelop of creativity. I love it !!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The entire atmosphere glowed with creativity and ecstatic musical joy
Now we are off to Florida for several concerts starting in Miami. So keep a look out for the second half of this blog in another couple of weeks.
Many blessings to you and yours,
We have now completed the 2013 Shivkumar Sharma & Zakir Hussain tour and what a wonderful tour it was. After the last entry from the Boston concert we flew down to Miami and drove between concerts in Cutlers Bay, Tampa, Lake Worth, Tallahassee and Jacksonville.
Our travels between these concerts were between 3 and 6 hour drives which were actually great chances to talk, share stories and listen to amazing old music. Zakir is a fantastic DJ, as you might expect, and put together all sorts of music to listen to. Everything from Medhi Hassan & Ghulam Ali to tabla solos to old film songs (many of which Shivkumarji was playing on).
As we drove from Miami to Tampa we traveled through the Ever Glades and saw a number of huge Alligators laying on the side of the road sunning them selves. Quite an interesting combination of elements, listening to old classic Indian music with the greatest of India's maestros while driving through the swamplands eating trail mix, drinking Starbucks and watching huge, wild man-eaters on the side of the road.
Live concert in Jacksonville FL
Pandit Shivkumar Sharma
During these tours I always go into the theaters a couple of hours before everyone else to set the stage, lights and do a basic sound check to get everything close to concert conditions. Then an hour before the show, Shivkumar & Zakir come in and do a fine tuning - it is a system that works very well on these busy tours since it allows the artists to go to the hotel and rest for a couple of extra hours.
It is also pretty much the only time I get to briefly become a musician again. I get to play Guruji's tabla and also play Shivji's santoor while we work on the sound. It is a special blessing to be trusted to care of and play on their instruments. Once they come into the hall, I put my tour manager / sound man hat back on.
After Tampa, we traveled to Lake Worth (Palm Beach) and then Houston, Tallahassee, Jacksonville, Atlanta, Fort Wayne and finished the tour in Peoria Illinois. It was our first time to both Fort Wayne and Peoria and both events were well produced and a good crew of people working in the theaters.
A funny thing about our final hotel was the name. On my tour book, the name of the hotel was Paradice Hotel, but as we drove up, we saw that it was a casino and the name was actually, Par-A-Dice. We had a good laughed.
My brother Mark came out to meet us for the last gig and hung out for the night. Every time we do concerts in Chicago, he and my younger brother Scott show up to help out and enjoy the music.
Our last morning together of the tour.
Being with these two great maestros have become so much like family that my dreams are full of them whether we are on tour together or not. Of course the music is ever present in my life as a musician, but the vibrations from, who they are as people sinks into a place within me that molds my spirit and illuminates my heart.
I am very happy to have the chance to share these experiences with you through my writing. I feel that the more ways in which we find and feel connection to each other, our selves and all things in this world, the deeper our experience of being alive is. Quite simply, it is a Musical Universe in which we live and we can learn to open our senses to the musical, vibrating nature of everything surrounding us more and more.
Much love and inspiration to you and yours,
More to come,