Kolkata (Calcutta), India
Since our last update, we've been travelling and touring all over the North of India. Jonathan and I have had some great opportunities to perform in some new places and visit some of our old favourite as well. I don't want to go on about each and every performance and trip, so I thought it would be better just to show you our adventures through some photos, slideshows and videos. Please scroll down, let the slideshows load and enjoy!!
Our first concert was a trip to Motihari, Bihar to play at the Champaran Festival. We took the train with our dear friend and Tabla accompanist Sudhir Ghorai to the northern edge of Bihar near the border of Nepal and arrived in Motihari; a city that is known for being the birth place of the great novelist George Orwell and for one of Gandhi's protest and fasts against the british rule. We performed for and audience of around 5000 people, most of whom had never seen a foreigner in the flesh and certainly never heard or seen a live saxophone. We played for almost 2 hours; performing a variety of compositions in 4 different Ragas and finished with some Indo-Jazz renditions of John Coltrane's music. All in all it was a wonderful experience and certainly an honour to perform at such a prodigious festival in Bihar.
Motihari Photo Slideshow
Shortly after arriving home to Kolkata Jonathan and I welcomed our girlfriends at the airport, Shayna who was coming for an extended period and Delia, who was coming to visit and travel for 4 months. We also welcomed our friend Lou Natale, a composer and musician from Toronto, and one of Shayna's friends, Tiffany who was passing through Kolkata for a few days. For almost a week, our little apartment was the home to double the normal occupancy. If we've learned anything here in India, it's that you can always fit more people in a space that we westerners are used to or comfortable with...it's all about compromise and tolerance. We were more than happy to host our friends and welcome our girlfriends to our Indian home and with a bit of a surprise turn, we were asked to travel to Hyderabad to perform at the Queen's Birthday Celebration hosted at the Taj Deccan by the British High Commission. Certainly a high class affair and a chance for people to gather and mingle amidst the pride of British industry; Rolls Royce, Mini, Richard Branson, and more....we were the entertainment for the night. We chose to perform our most recent adventure in Indo-Jazz; A tribute to the Great John Coltrane with our dear friend Subhojyoti Guha on tabla. We performed and presented a mix of Coltrane's late material which is most connected and suitable to India and Indian music, including 'My Favourite Things', 'Afro Blue', and 'A Love Supreme'.
Hyderabad Photo Slideshow
We returned from Hyderabad with only a few jam packed days to prepare for the major tour we had been organizing since arriving here in Kolkata this January. We had been asked by Scott Slessor, the Consul General of Canada here in India, to come and perform in Chandigarh and Shimla. Since our girlfriends had just arrived here in India, we included them on the tour and made plans to also visit some of our favourite places in the North West of India. You will see in the following slideshows the many wonderful places we visited on this three week tour of the Punjab and Himachal Pradesh.
First up was Shimla, the beautiful mountain town which used to be the summer capital of British India. We had the wonderful opportunity to perform at the Gaiety Theater, built in 1887 and restored to it's original shakespearean style. We had a wonderful audience who enjoyed our concert of Indian Classical music and Indo-jazz. Big thank you to Delia, who took all of our performance photographs during the tour with my Canon Rebel T4i.
Shimla Photo Slideshow
The next night we performed in Chandigarh at a college which is in affiliation with the Canadian University of the Fraser Valley. Performing a similar set of music as we did the night before, we received many wonderful comments after the concert from the music lovers and listeners, many of whom were Indians from Chandigarh who have lived in Canada for many years!!
Chandigarh Photo Slideshow
We had the great fortune to spend a few days with Justin's Aunt Geetika and Uncle Sheru, two wonderful people that have truly welcomed and hosted us here in India since our first steps on this land. We spent a few days at their home in Chandigarh sharing music and stories from our travels. On our last day with them, they took us to their farm near Ropar, a beautiful piece of land on the bank of a river. We spend the day enjoying the Eucalyptus and Turmeric grove, playing music in the shade and breathing in the clean and fresh air.
Ropar Farm Photo Slideshow
After saying our goodbyes and thank you's to Sheru and Geetika we jumped in a jeep and headed for one of our favourite places here in India, McLeodganj, near Dharamshala. We've been there almost every trip here in India and have been so lucky to be able to stay at Sheru and Geetika's amazing cottage just a 3km walk up the mountain road to the home of the Dalai Lama and Tibet's headquarters in Exile. We had just over a week to spend in this wonderful place, playing cricket with Hakim & Kusum's boys Jaideep & Ajay Deep at the cottage, trekking to the snow line, learning about the Tibetan plight, a Tibetan Buddhist Meditation course and of course browsing through the many many shops filled with unbelievable trinkets, cloth and other neat items. We also met up with our friend Lou there and shared a few meals with him and even set up an impromptu concert with some Tibetan musicians one night at a local hotel!! It was a wonderful time spent in the mountains and certainly not the last time we will travel there.
McLeodganj Photo Slideshow
On our journey down to Delhi from the mountains we stopped in Amritsar for the fastest lightning tour of the Golden Temple you could ask for. We sped through this holy complex filled with thousands of worshipping Sikhs and ate lunch with the thousands of other people who enjoy the free 24 hour food service offered by the temple. Before we knew it we were back at the train station and getting on our evening train to Delhi for a two day stay at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram and to celebrate Holi!!
Amritsar Photo Slideshow
Prayer Wheels Video
We've spent the last few springs here in India and each year we've celebrated Holi in a different fashion; Two years ago in Kolkata with our Aunt Judy and Uncle Alastair, Jonathan and Al unknowingly enjoyed a potent dose of Bhaang Lassi (a drink made with Marijuana, Opium, Spices and Yogurt) while I enjoyed the local villagers Holi Gaan (songs celebrating the festival of colour). Last year our parents and sister Jennifer and her fiancee were with us and Gurujee's family here in Kolkata; we celebrated with a huge water and colour fight and then played Kabadi on our roof in the intense heat! So, like 5 years ago on our second trip here in India, we were back in Delhi to celebrate Holi and being Delia's first time, I knew I had take here out to experience this world famous festival of colour. Enjoy the photos below, many of which were taken with Delia's Olympus waterproof camera!!
Delhi Holi Photo Slideshow
Holi Colours, Dancing, & Music Video
We hope you have enjoyed browsing through our recent adventures.
Please come back to browse some more, and also stay tuned for further updates.
Andrew & Jonathan