Welcome back to my blog diary.
We just finished the Intermediate level, Winter Tabla Retreat here in Boulder Colorado. Again, most of the participants were returning for the fifth or sixth and even the tenth or eleventh time. As many of you may know, the tabla is considered the most difficult of all percussion instruments to learn and over all is perhaps one of the most complex instruments on the planet. So I take my hat off to these tabla warriors who keep coming back and working on developing this amazing art form.
As it turns out, just before this retreat, I had come down with a case of pneumonia and was in the throws of cold and hot fevers and of course relentless coughing the entire time. So this time, even though we did cover some important material and looked at peoples practice with a more critical eye, I really did need some TLC. So I found that the sweet caring of the students really came out and I was constantly surrounded with cough syrup, juices, teas, lung medicine and tissues.
I feel very blessed that the dozens of students who have come to these retreats take time out of their very busy lives to spend a weekend or two per year with me. The lives we lead can be made complex and often over whelming or we can attempt to keep things streamlined and clear by doing less and allowing our attention to sink deeper into simple things. It is the same with the tabla practice. For most of us, in order to feel the joy of such an intense practice, it is best to focus on fewer things, bringing out the sweet tones as well as becoming comfortable and confident with a manageable portfolio of material. After all, it is the beauty, inspiration and joy that originally drive us to want to learn, so keeping a focus on these simple things help keep us out of drama and stress.
On the Saturday night of the retreat, I had the honor of playing with sarode maestro Ken Zuckerman. He is one of the very top long term disciples of the late Ustad Ali Akbar Khan and runs the Ali Akbar Khan College of music in Basel Switzerland. The event was produced Ken is an Early Music lute expert and an amazing Classical Indian Music virtuoso. We had a great time together visiting before the concert and of course playing together on stage. Of course, I did everything I possibly could to keep from coughing, or from falling over in the middle of the concert from hallucinational fevers. But I managed to let the music shift my reality to where I could put my sickness aside.
Ken Zuckerman & Ty at Naropa University in Boulder Colorado
During the retreat, I had each student play through the basic set of material that they normally practice. This helps us weed out material that either they are not ready for or is not useful to strengthening their basics. From there, we decided to create a basic package of material that is common to all the students which can grow over time or simply stay as is and deepen.
Camillo Scherer (Tucson AZ)
Ryan Nadlonek (Boulder Colorado)
Jim Meiklejohn (California)
Dennis Uhls (Wyoming)
Mark Conner (Colorado)
Shreyas Iyer (Phoenix)
Simon Ha (Michigan)
Mallika Anand (Minnesota)
Jon Crane (Seattle)
Courtney Kerr (New Mexico)
Joe Fajen (California)
The following weekend we had the beginners tabla retreat in the same location, Unity Church of Boulder. I remember hosting all levels, (total beginners and intermediate players) in the same retreat in the years past which makes it quite hard to give each person the type of attention and detail they need. Especially difficult with a complex, and very personalized instrument such as the tabla. So it feels so good now that I have separated out the beginners from the intermediate levels. They made amazing progress, starting out not even knowing how to play Na, and by the end of our two days together, being able to play Dha ti Dha ge Dhin Na ge Na and even basic Qwalli rhythms. Quite impressive!!!
Beginner Tabla Retreat ~ Winter '12
Hard at work...
Luckily, I had greatly recovered from my pneumonia by this retreat and had a lot more energy. I love sharing this art form and what it holds within it. It doesn't matter so much if it is beginners or more advanced players, I feel a special blessing to be able to spend the hours and share in the discovery of music. All of our retreats and a great deal of my knowledge comes from my Guruji Zakir Hussain. So we all bow down to receive his blessing and acknowledge the pure state of music which he represents.
So my next entry will feature the North American tour with Zakir Hussain and the Masters of Percussion which begins March 15th and ends April 15th. I look forward to sharing that adventure with you soon.
Much love to you and yours,