Greetings from California, The retreat with Ustad Zakir Hussain was totally amazing this year. The usual schedule for his classes is meet for 5 days in a row around 5pm and class continues up til around 10pm followed by some student recitals. Then everyone heads home or to their various hotels.
Well, this year the retreat was held in a beautiful retreat center outside Santa Rosa. It was a very beautiful setting in the golden rolling hills that Northern California is known for. And we lived together, ate together, and breathed tabla, 24 hours a day for the full 5 days. A dream come true for us tabla players.
The beautiful hills surrounding the retreat center
Each day we would wake up (at least some of us would wake up...) to do a yoga class with Zakir's wonderful daughter Bela. Then off to breakfast. Our first class was an intensive practice session which focused on digging deeper into simple repetition and endurance. As Zakir made very clear, we should break a sweat when we practice and dig down into our tone, clarity and the physical act of playing the tabla. Simply put, if we were to sit in a chilled room with frost on the floor, our practice should create enough heat to warm the floor and create steam from our bodies.
Classes with Zakir ~ such an amazing teacher.
Then the whole class would go to a nice lunch together. It is was such a different experience for us all to spend time getting to know each other outside of class. It helped us to feel each others deep love of tabla and the lives we lead from day to day. We got to experience what kind of people each of us are rather than simply a familiar face at tabla class. Each day deepened the bonding of us as a musical family and with our Guru and inspiration, Zakir Hussain.
Then in the afternoons, we had a listening class for a couple of hours where we watched videos and listened to tabla solos of the great maestros of the past and had discussions with Zakir about the various styles and genius of each of them. Zakirji is a deep deep well of knowledge in many topics and hearing the stories and insights he has regarding the great musicians of the past is supremely enlightening.
Then a shorter, material oriented class would start to focus on the material we were working on during the retreat. And finally, following dinner we had the big evening class which as always blows every ones minds. It was basically a total immersion into the tabla state of mind. And as we continued day by day, the groove and the spirit of the tabla emerged and began working on our minds and spirits.
My good friend U-zhaan (center) from Japan
prepping for evening class
Zakir & Toni (Zakir's amazing wife)
During the retreat, for an hour before each evening class and for an hour or two late in the evening, Zakir asked me to teach everyone proper maintenance and repair of their drums. So I walked everyone through the process of pulling a drum, adjusting peg and straps and cleaning of the heads and the art of using a string to bring out the resonance of a head etc... it is actually a very big and useful topic for all tabla players. Much of what I know has come from Zakir over the years of touring with him. And I am actually in the process of putting together those lessons for YouTube lessons on line. Should be a useful resource for folks. (It should be up in another month or so).
At the end of the retreat, we put together a gift for Guruji
which I had the honor of presenting to him as a small
gesture of our love and appreciation for all
the treasures he continues to give us.
When Zakir smiles, the Universe smiles!
During the retreat the students left their tabla in place
around Zakir's tabla, I loved how it ended up looking
like a huge heart ~ now that is a heart with a strong BEAT !
I think each and everyone of us felt deeply blessed to be able to attend this retreat and to be able to be close to such a true living legend. Zakir is so gracious with his time and genius. He cares and keeps track of what each person has going on and has an amazing way of making each one of us feel valued and acknowledged. Truly a maestro in every sense of the word. In my book, a true musician finds power, kindness, sensitivity and refinement equally, in their instrument and in their humanity. Zakir Hussain is indeed that ultimate musician, and we are blessed as music lovers to be on the planet at the same time as he.
Amazing Zakir Hussain retreat 2010
Warm wishes and lots of inspiration to you.