Zakir Hussain (tabla)
Fazal Qureshi (tabla)
Rakesh Chaurasia (bansuri)
T.H.V. Umashankar (ghatam) T.H.V.
Sabir Khan (sarangi)
Navin Sharma (dholak)
Abbos Kosimov (doyra)
Ningombam Joy Singh (Manipur Dancing)
Mujeeb Dadarkar (sound engineer)
Ty Burhoe (stage, lighting & tour manager)
Welcome back my friends,
This years tour with Zakir Hussain and the Masters of Percussion was another amazing, action packed month. We managed to fit 18 concerts into a 30 day period which is quite a lot given the fact that every concert was in not only a different State, but sometimes in a different Country. We criss crossed the US from coast to coast and made it down to Mexico City as well as up to Canada.
I can say that this year was my favorite of the many Master of Percussion tours that we have done. I have been with Zakir as his assistant since 1996 which was the first Master of Percussion tour and featured our beloved Ustad Alla Rakha (Zakir's father). Since that time, every second year, we have done this tour and shifted and re-newed the performers each tour.
Of course, we always have the finest maestros presenting their instruments, but after all these years, I am also looking at the team as a whole and how the show flows as a story line. I feel that Zakir had a clear and strong vision for what journey this tour would take the audience on and indeed it did.
Ty, Joy, Navin, Uma, Zakir, Rakesh, Fazal, Mujeeb & Abbos (just missing Sabir Khan)
Tour T-shirts with all our dates...
The first three concerts on the East Coast did not include sarangi maestro Sabir Khan (son of the late / great Ustad Sultan Khan). This was of course, because the usual "random" selection of his last name, which insures that his visa gets held up in US customs. And just to make it interesting, Joy Singh, our dancer from Manipuri (who is the one person who does not speak English) got lost in the Houston airport after a flight cancelation and for two days, no one could find him... but the Gods and Goddesses had pity upon us and got him on a plane just in time to arrive for the first performance... and of course, no tour would be complete without someone's handmade, one of a kind instrument getting broken by the luggage throwers at the airports. So in true form, we opened Uma's ghatam (clay pot) case the night before our first performance to find it smashed into hundreds of tiny pieces.
So, while we dealt with Sabir Khan's visa and the lost dancing drummer from Manipuri, we also began the search for another one of a kind, hand made ghatam in the greater Virginia area. That is clearly a joke!! But what we did find, is a student of Uma's father (Viku Vinayakram) who lived in Washington DC area and between him driving 5 hours north, and us driving 5 hours south (on the day of the show), we could actually meet and pick up the new instrument and get back in time for the end of sound check... so that is exactly what happened, and it worked !!!
Other than Sabir Khan's absence, the first three shows were wonderful and a huge success.
Discussing the concert plans over food...
On the road - Fazal, Ty, Rakesh & Uma - Lots of luggage loading and un-loading!!!
It was such a joy to be back with my Indian family again. I have lived with them both on the road and in India for many years now and Zakir is like our father / teacher / respected friend, while we are all like little kids running around trying to hold it all together.
Mujeeb, Ty & Navin - Great to be together again!!!
Joy Singh before the show - feeling out his dance area...
Abbos in Boston - I was behind an ornate wood carved wall...
It was in Los Angeles' Disney Center that Sabir Khan finally made it into the US and onto the stage. It was a special and moving reunion for all of us, but in particular for me since the last time I saw him was in his father's home in Judpur India before his passing. As many of you may know, I was also a close student of Sultan Khan, so Sabir Khan is like my younger brother and we are very close. His presence and the deep deep vibration of his instrument added a weight to the concerts which sent me back to the days when his father was with us for each and every tour.
Tabla Duet with Sabir Khan on sarangi
Every hall was beautiful - some from the 1800's and others modern works of art
Disney Hall in LA
Nothing but standing ovations for this group!!!
Being with Guruji (Zakir Hussain) is like being around the purest elements of nature. He demands nothing but the best out of us all and yet offers such beauty when we arrive in the moment. I certainly have a remarkable amount of waking up to do when we gather for these tours. No matter how busy and focused I think I have been with my own musician life, when we do one of these tours, I feel like I am starting from scratch. Many days begin around 4 or 5am because of the intense travel with all the guys and gear, and often end around 2am when we finally pack up, eat and get into the hotel after the shows. You might wonder then, when do they sleep? Well, the guys usually sleep during the afternoon in each new city during tech setup and load in.. But then the next question is, so when does Ty and Mujeeb sleep who are crazy busy during the set up times? The answer is, either on the planes, or simply don't sleep and "Drink lots of coffee". The truth is that during these months, we actually learn to operate on much less sleep. Zakir grew up this way and knows about endless sleepless nights - for the rest of us, it is a crash course in energy management.
Abbos' doyra drum and Zakir during a dance rehearsal in LA
Italian Dinner in Fair Fax CA - near Zakir's home
フェアファクスカリフォルニアにて夕食にイタリアン - ザキア家の近く
We had another interesting adventure in California with Mr Joy Singh. He had been complaining of a bad pain in his mouth which seemed to get worse and worse over the days of the tour. Even pain killers didn't work to keep him put of pain. So it was clear that he had an infection in one of his back teeth. Well, when we got the emergency appointment at the dentist in San Rafael, he finally told us that he actually had never been to the dentist ever in his life. Not only that, but at the age of 46 years, he actually had never been to a doctor either. So many of the questions on the emergency data form, we simply didn't know. (allergies / blood pressure / heart conditions or any prior conditions what so ever...)
As it turns out, he had quite a large number of serious problems and infections one of which was close to life threatening. So they immediately removed the two teeth causing the main issue and gave instructions for him to see a dentist when he gets back to India. So we narrowly escaped that crisis and continued the next day to Mexico City.
Joy Singh entering the dentists office to get his first ever checkup!!!
Antonia Minnecola, Zakir's wife joined us not only for the Mexico concert, but also was with us for four other concerts on the tour. She is a beautiful Katak dancer (student of Sitara Devi) and really added a lovely energy to the Master of Percussion collection of boys on the stage. Toni, as we call her, is truly a bright light and strong grounding force not only for Zakir and his career, but for many of us long term students who have come to know her. It was great to have her join us on the road and on the stage.
Antonia & Zakir backstage in Mexico City
Dance piece in Mexico City with Zakir's wife Antonia
Uma & Ty
Back stage in Mexico City
Navin, Ty & Abbos back stage in Mexico City
I do believe that this was the lightest luggage tour we have ever had. For most people when traveling, luggage is a side issue - a small extra burden - especially if you move around with more than just your cloths. However, on these tours, traditionally, we have between 20 and 40 pieces of luggage all ranging in size from medium clothing bags to huge and very heavy hard shell cases. So I remember some tours where we had drum set players along and had $1500 in overage fees on just one flight. If you have many flights on a tour, that is indeed something serious to consider. This tour however, we only had about 16 to 18 bags depending on if we were on United Airlines where Zakir and I hold high level Gold Status (lots of free bags).
Abbos, Ty & Uma in Canada
Sound check in Calgary Canada
Beautiful venue in Canada
Ty & Abbos in Vancouver Canada - Cherry Blossom Season
The new guys on the tour were bamboo flute virtuoso Rakesh Chaurasia. Who is by the way, a truly amazing musician and a great person to boot. We had so much fun together and if you ever spend enough time around him, you find out what a killer sense of humor he has... we laughed a lot!!!
The other new kid on the block is Uma Shankar, youngest son of Viku Vinayakram. He is another maestro from the lineage of maestros of that musical family and is what all of us on the tour would agree on, is this world's closest thing to a living cartoon character. He is a happy, child like, hilarious and colorful guy who can play the living day lights out of the clay pot (ghatam).
Uma - Is he snow boarding or playing ghatam????
Sabir Khan, son and flame carrier to his fathers lineage, Ustad Sultan Khan
Navin Sharma - finest dholak player alive!
On another plane...
Once we arrived in Savannah Georgia, we were finally done with all the planes and began the tour bus portion of the tour. That is always everyone's favorite way to travel because not only do we "not" have to deal with TSA, security screenings, checking in etc..., but we "do" get to lay around in the luxury couches while watching movies and eating snacks while someone drives us around... wow, what a great idea!
The tour bus - Everyone loves this part of the tour!
Mike Marshal, George Meyer w/ guitarist buddy, Zakir (Guruji), Ty & Edger Meyer
back stage in Savannah
The tours are always so serious :))))
The only exercise I get on the tour is carrying luggage, eating Indian food and climbing poles...
It is often times overwhelming for me to be on these tours, surrounded by such divine talent and powerful forces of the music world and not be able to play - I become so inspired and yet my job and responsibilities don't afford me enough time to even practice but once or twice in the month. So I need to let that go and simply absorb and count my blessings to be holding the space for the maestros. And the depth of that blessing deepens into an endless ocean when it comes to my Guruji Zakir Hussain.
It has been so many years now that I have been his assistant and student. My own life has shifted and molded according to a combination of my own spirits calling, teachers blessings and certain very important people in my life. It is not only interesting, but I think critical to occasionally fly above the details of our lives and get a sense of the larger gestures and landscapes that sculpt our time here. Reflecting on the good and bad, the struggles and the joys, only to ultimately accept what our lives are in full view, everything included, and give thanks for it all.
Joy Singh, Abbos and Zakir (Guruji) in Columbus Ohio
Calling the shows from the side of the stage - always plugged in...
Everyone together with me on the side running lights and cues and Mujeeb running sound -
So this brings an end to the 2012 Masters of Percussion tour and what an amazing time it was. I am very happy to be able to share a few of the details with you. Thanks for tuning in and keeping in touch.
Next I am off to Japan for some rehearsals and meetings to prep my fall tours and workshops. I will have some retreat time for myself there where finally I can relax a little and recover and practice and meditate. I'll share the next adventure with you soon.
Much love and lets keep leaning into the lives we are being given,