TravelPod Blog Entry:
January 31st, 2013 - Kolkata, India
"Welcome to Concert Season"
Upon returning to Kolkata this year, Jonathan and I were thrown right into a musical whirlwind; a shift that we've experienced before and slowly it's becoming a bit easier to make the adjustment from West to East, and vice versa. We've gone back and forth now 5 times and have gotten used to Toronto and Kolkata as both being our homes, but now more than a culture shock we notice more the change of pace in lifestyle. Things at home in Toronto move quickly and efficiently, and like the weather right now, maybe with a bit of cold rigidness; where as here in Kolkata things move very slowly and sometimes very unorganized, yet always with a warmth and simplicity, like a school of fish in tropical waters. Both societies approach life very differently and wherever there are people, there will be culture and art that reflects their lifestyle. The music of both these incredible places inspires us in so many ways that we still always feel this cross-cultural journey leads to wonderful learning experiences.
Since coming back to Kolkata this year, Jonathan and I have had numerous opportunities to share music; as the Monsoon:Duo in Classical Raga performances, as well as The Saxophone Brothers in an Indo-Jazz set. We wanted to share with you some of these memorable concerts and give you a feel for what the music and culture we are immersed in is like. As the title states, this is the concert season here in Kolkata and we've found that there are countless concerts and festivals happening all over the city, many of which we don't even hear about until it's too late! We have already attended so many amazing and inspiring concerts by young talented musicians and maestros of the present generation. Concert season is when students and Raga connoisseurs from around the world all come to the city so concerts are great places to meet old friends and reconnect after many months and even years of pursuing our own paths around the globe.
Our first concert of the year was at the renowned and illustrious All Bengal Music Conference, a festival that has been running since 1934, opened by the India's most prolific and repsected poet/writer/composer Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore, with performances by the great Guru Baba Allauddin Khan as well as Faiyaz Khan. Over the many years this festival, set in the courtyard of one of Calcutta's grand mansions in the heart of the old city, has featured the greatest of the great, and most of the Maestros of Indian Classical music including Pandit Kishan Maharaj, Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Ustad Amir Khan, Pandit Ravi Shankar, and Ustad Ali Akbar Khan to name a few. It is also the stage in which many artists, most notably, Vilayat Khan debuted as youngster and gained the recognition that started their careers. We were so honoured to be asked to perform at this years festival and even more so to be accompanied by our dear friend Sudhir Ghorai on tabla and our dear 'Ma' (Gurujee's mother), who attended the concert and sat in the front row listening intently. We were the first artists of the second day of the festival and performed Raga Multani, an afternoon raga that we have been learning and working on for the past few months, as well as a short bhajan in Raga Bhimpalashri. As we took the stage and looked out into the large audience filled with some of Kolkata's most devout raga lovers and connoisseurs, we took a deep breath and prepared our minds for our first performance of the year. We hope you enjoy this video of the first half of our performance, featuring the slow 12 beat 'Vilumbit Ektaal Bandish' and 16 beat 'Madhya Teentaal Bandish' in the vocal style rendered on the Saxophones in a Brother Jugalbandi (Duet).
Monsoon:Duo + Sudhir Ghorai @ All Bengal Music Conference - Raga Multani VIDEO
We performed this same Raga a few weeks later at the Tollygunge Mehfil, an all day concert organized by our friend Carsten Wicke, one of the few people on this planet devoted to learning and carrying on the tradition of Dhrupad on the Rudra Veena. The concert featured over 25 musicians starting at 9:30am and running past midnight. It was held at Carsten's apartment, an intimate setting for Raga music with an audience of around 50 people who all sat on the floor absorbing the music all day long. Featuring performances on Sitar, Sarod, Rudra Veena, Saxophones, Dance, Tabla, and Pakhawaj by a wide mix of artists from India, Germany, U.S.A., Canada, Austria, and elsewhere, the whole day was filled with the wonderful atmosphere of close friends, music lovers, and people who enjoy the class and art of Indian Classical Music and Dance. Our performance was for many of the audience members the first time they were hearing us, and hearing Raga Music on saxophone!! We performed at 5pm, the perfect time for Raga Multani, just as the sun was setting and dusk takes us into the evening. We hope you enjoy this video of our performance. These two recent performances of Raga Multani create a very interesting comparison showing us playing the same compositions, but how a different atmosphere and setting effects the unfolding of the music!
Monsoon:Duo + Sudhir Ghorai @ Tollygunge Mehfil - Raga Multani VIDEO
On a different note, we had the great opportunity to perform at this years International Evening at the Calcutta Club. We were asked to perform on both nights of the annual event by the Canadian High Commissioner and his team at the Embassy. We had a wonderful time last year performing for them in New Delhi. The first night featured a Indian Classical Music performance and the second an Indo-Jazz set. We played with our dear friend and tabliya Apurba Mukherjee and a new friend Rahul Sen Gupta, a percussionst who joined us for the second night. It was a wonderful challenge to put together this set of John Coltrane's music and we can't wait to further develop these ideas and arrangements. This event featured speeches by various diplomats and dignitaries speaking on the Environment and Green Energy; certainly a worthy topic to advocate in India which is so under regulated in these ways. We hope you enjoy seeing some of our Indo-Jazz performance from the second night in this video.
Saxophone Brothers + Apurba Mukherjee & Rahul Sen Gupta @ Calcutta Club - Indo-Jazz VIDEO
About a week after this event, we were called by our neighbour and told that we were in the newspaper!! We later found out after various calls and comments by other students of Gurujee and friends that we had a feature article and that were headlined as the Posto-Eating Brothers (a traditional poppy seed food preparation very popular and specific to West Bengal and Bangladesh that Jonathan told the reported he makes on a regular basis). We were happy upon reading the article because it actually reflected many good points we discussed with the reporter on culture and music (unlike some unfortunate previous experiences).
We hope you enjoyed reading about this wonderful season here in Kolkata. We will be back soon with more updates on concerts, music learning, and other cultural experiences from India!! Thanks for reading.
Andrew & Jonathan