Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Weeklong Indian Music Workshop in India!

Its a common thing to hear that people are interested in Indian music, want to understand it a but better, but don't have the time to dedicate themselves to a full study of it. Here's a great program for those interested in learning about Indian music. If you are already practice Indian music, its a way to deepen your understanding, learn from Guruji (Pandit Divyang Vakil), work with the world fusion group Taan and Rushi and jam with musicians from around the world for a week!

Intrigued by Indian Music?
Want to learn how use Indian rhythm and melodies?
Explore the vast world of Indian music in India

Rhythm Riders invites you to

1 Week Indian Music Workshop in India
Dec 20 - 27, 2009 in Ahmedabad, Gujarat

*Experience India through its music
*Explore Indian music, from its classical and folk to its contemporary forms
*Nightly jam sessions and concerts
*Learn to adapt Indian Music to your own music and instrument
*Special workshops on Indian percussion
*Special lectures with Tabla Guru Pandit Divyang Vakil
Final Concert Performance with World Fusion Group Taan

Open to musicians from around the world
instrumentalists and vocalists of all music genres welcome

Fees cover teaching, accomodations, local transportation, food and events.
**Airfare not included**

Register by Sept 30th, 2009.
Contact Rhythm Riders at
or call (201) 467 4431
For information on Rhythm Riders, visit

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A Small story about a Small Action creating Small Change

One nice thing about the location about my flat is that it is 2 min walking distance away from a MORE grocery store. This is very convenient when I randomly remember that I need something.

I generally go to MORE from home, so I take bags with me, which which I can bring home my groceries or if its small enough, stuff the things into my fairly large purse (whose size I actually chose for this purpose).

When you go to MORE, like any other grocery store, the cashier or his assistance automatically starts to put things in plastic bag. The first few times, I got strange looks and had to repeat myself when I would ask that they not put my groceries in plastic bags (and I don't think that was because they didn't understand my Gujarati accent). Over the course of a couple trips, I kept getting the same cashier, who asked me the third time he rang up my bill why I didn't take their bags. I quickly explained how plastic bags are bad for the environment, cause cancer and cow deaths and he seemed to appreciate the information. When I was about to leave, he stops me and asks, "Mam, can you fill out our comment form?"

I look and the form and am about to tell him that I needed to go, when he interjects my thoughts and adds, "I think you should share why you didn't want to take a plastic carrying bag."

I look at the form and again, my mind tells me that there is no point. But then figure what the heck, there is no harm. I quickly fill out the form stating that MORE should discourage stop providing plastic bags or encourage customers to bring their own bag (by potentially providing a financial incentive like stores in N. America do) as that will show that the company cares about environment, which is good for the company's image (I had to pitch it in corporate terms). I had the cashier the form and proceed home.

After that day, whenever the cashier rang up by bill, he never gave me a plastic bag. Through my small action, one other person learnt about the dangers of plastic bags.

An even bigger surprise came a month or two later. I walked into MORE after a long time and noticed a new sign on their announcement board behind the cashier and near the vegetables. It read:

MORE has not stopped giving plastic bags, but it atleast had taken one step in the right direction. Who said that you can't be the change?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Serving Music

The world needs two things: correct knowledge and true music. - Guruji (Pandit Divyang Vakil)

When I first changed paths and decided to follow the music route versus continuing with volunteering and doing water and sanitation, a lot of questions and confusion arose in the minds of many. After all, the "purpose" of doing volunteer work or water and sanitation in the developing world is easy to figure out. Its noble, its for the greater good. Easy to understand, hard to argue against its value. But now here I was - pursuing Indian classical music seriously, that too at a late age (like ballet, generally you begin ICM or indian classical music at a young age). Compared to the engineering degree and lofty goal of building toilets around the world, somehow putting that aside and training to become a professional tabla player did not quite stack up in the minds of many.

But there is a purpose, a higher purpose, if you want to call it that. Music is completely intertwined with universe and its source. Indian classical music was not a spontaneous creation, but a well-understood and thought out development. I don't believe stories of Tansen and Bilaskhan are mere folklore, they speak of the true depth and power of the music. Music moderates society, it keeps things in balance. That isn't hard to believe. They are countless who listen to music to relax. Good music, true music has kept the world in check. Look at society over time and how it has degraded and compare it to its music and its degradation, you'll find a strong parallel.

Music is and can be a saving force. So long as true music is alive, there is some force that is working to balance the negative. What is the higher purpose of what I doing? I am trying to serve that music.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Guru Poornima 2009

Last night was a super duper success. The hall was jam packed. We had people who stood outside the doors for 20 minutes before some space was created for them to come in. There were students sitting on the stage, people in all the aisles. It was nuts. The energy in the room was incredible. So many people from all over the country and world came together to celebrate the person who has had such a profound impact on their lives and our family and friends join in our celebration to witness the talent that he has nourished and cultivated. From one of Guruji's first students from 30 years ago to a student who just began learning at Rhythm Riders two weeks ago, three decades of students were present at the occasion. I am so happy that I had a chance to be apart of it.

I got a chance to start off the evening with a pure Delhi gharana solo and it went quite well. Then of course, the professionals took the stage. Tabla Triveni - Guruji's American group tabla ensemble did a fantastic job. 17 year old Rahul Shrimali blew the audience away with his Ajrada tabla solo (to give you a sense of the difficulty in playing this gharana's compositons - there is a saying amongst the maestros that if a crazy dog bites you, only then will you think to play Ajrada). The tabla trio, specially created for the occasion, of Nishant Mehta, Kaumil Shah (aka Khakra) and Sahil was fantastic with Nishant playing only Guruji's compositions, Sahil playing pure Punjab and Kaumil playing compositions from Guruji, Ajrada, Delhi and Punjab.

Thank you to everyone who honoured our invitation and graced the occasion with their presence. Thank you to all my friends, family and supporters who were there in spirit cheering me on and have supported me through my journey.

Lots of pictures and videos to come.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

I bow down to my teachers

To the universe - the Param Guru that has been guiding my footsteps as I walk along the path of life. Thank you for all the hints, for being so persistent even when I was stubborn and giving me signs time and time again, for being so patient, for taking care of me and watching over me and for leading me to my Guru in human form. Grant me the ability to always have the awareness and humility to listen and the courage to follow the markers on the road and fulfil my purpose.

To Guruji - Thank you for your patience, for your faith in me, your love, guidance and support. There really aren't enough words. I pray that I become a more worthy student of yours with every passing day.

Everyone who my life's thread has been connected you. Each person, each experience has led to where I am and will continue to help shape the person I become. Reflection allows you to see where the road curved and how one experience prepared you for something else down the road. With deep gratitude, I thank you for being in my life, for your support, your love, your encouragement and the challenges that we have faced together. Thank you for teaching me.