On October 17th, the Sri Chinmoy Centre of Ottawa organized a lovely concert featuring several a capella singing groups, the excellent all female vocal and instrumental group Sangit Surabhi and the Pavaka Ensemble. Approximately 100 people gathered in the Freiman Hall of the University of Ottawa for this evening. A similar event will take place on November 28th, so mark your calenders!
In the previous post, I mentioned the short film called Ocean Monk. It has been selected for a few film festivals including the New York Surf Film Festival and just this morning I found out that it was chosen (40 are picked out of 5000) at the prestigious St-Louis Film Festival. One of the awards of this festival is given to a film that gets the most votes online, so I would like to encourage everyone to have a look at the film and then vote for it by clicking here. It’s a 20 minute film, it’s very well put together and it features excellent music including a little Pavaka Vol. 2 action. You can watch and vote until November 11.
In what I understand was a first, the Panorama Café hosted a Fall Festival this past week which featured various performances every night of the week (except Wednesday). I was only able to attend the Saturday evening event (which happened to feature the Pavaka Ensemble), but I understand it was a success and will be repeated – and not just for the fall. Vidura and I drove down from Montreal on a beautifully clear full-moon night and drove back up amidst the lovely fall colors that is upstate New York and the Adirondacks at this time of year. Special thanks to Vrishaketu for his vocal work, Parichayaka for harmonium and percussion and Ketan for inviting us. Also, thanks to Jaitra for the pics and video.
On Oct 19th, there were a few short films that were screened including Ocean Monk by Sanjay Rawal which features Parichayaka’s music and even a snippet from my own Vol. 2. Also screened was a film called Frozen City which is about my hometown of Winnipeg and it’s position atop the list of Slurpee’s consumed per capita. I still haven’t decided what my shame to pride ratio is about this but it’s a well made short documentary that is at the very least amusing and which includes a scene from the stage at the bar called The Zoo where I played when I was long-haired young rocker with stars in my eyes….sometime in the early 1900’s. I don’t think the patrons at the Zoo would dig the current meditation-inspired repertoire.
I’m overdue for a blog on my recent trip to Russia and Ukraine.
This took place at the end of September and early October. My last trip in Sept 2009 was really a great time and this one even more so as I stayed about 10 days. It started in Moscow with a few days of rehearsal with the Gandharva Loka Orchestra. 95% of the musicians were from the former Soviet Union with the odd Swiss, German or Canadian here and there. Using the score that Vapushtara (Amsterdam) worked out we were able to recreate largely the sound that we get when the orchestra is mostly composed of Western Europeans and North Americans. It’s really cool to hear it come together. The first Songs of the Soul concert in Moscow also coincided with the end of the Russian and European World Harmony Run for this year. I had the honor and priveledge of attending the closing ceremony at the Red Square. How cool is that? There was also a small meditation convention where I was able to play some of my arrangements of Sri Chinmoy‘s songs with my friends from Russia. Including Igor from the group Blue-Gold Shore of the Beyond. The Moscow concert consisted of 2 back-to-back concerts, actually and we drew a crowd of 1800 total that night.
The following day Ashirvad (Brazil -Super Sound Guy), Homagni (Australia – Stage Make-It-Flow-Nicely Manager) and I managed to miss our train to St-Petersburg. Just a note, if you travel in Russia, if at all possible, try to hang out with someone who speaks Russian, because it can be really hard to get around with English, French, German, Spanish or Portuguese. Turned out that that particular subway stop is the place for three separate train stations. 3 hours and $100 each later, we were on our German-made high speed train to St-Petersburg at speeds of up to 248 km/h. All’s well that ends well.
The St-Petersburg concert drew 1200 people in another very nice hall. This time (not like last September) I managed to see the Hermitage Museum in my off-time. In fact, I went twice! (just to make sure). It was 2 short visits and I still really only saw a fraction of it, but nonetheless, I was stoked!
We then flew to Kiev for the last official concert for 1700 people in probably the nicest hall of this tour. By this time the group was getting quite tight and I think it was our best-sounding performance. Of course, here I am refering to the Gandharva Loka performance, but the concert featured several excellent groups: Pravin and Anil Dixit, Larissa from Minsk, Phoolendu, Silence and Sound from Kiev, Shikandini and Blue Gold Shore of the Beyond who travelled 6 days by train to get to the tour from Siberia.
Kiev is a lovely city and I got to do some sight-seeing after the concert including seeing the gigantic Mother Motherland statue and also Bill Clinton walking by after some outdoor benefit. I got to see all kinds of Soviet era sculptures and monuments. Very interesting stuff. There was also a small meditation convention where I played a few songs with my dear friend Anton on percussion.
Soon I will post more pictures about this trip as well other recent events including a concert in Ottawa on Oct 17 and in New York on Oct 23 at the Panorama Cafe.
Click the link above to listen to one of the tracks we recorded unexpectedly in Belgrade last June. Read the whole story at http://www.pavaka.com/balkan-tour/
I’m no internet super-wizard so you may be have to look around a little for the track called Belgrade 2010. It’s the only one with a female voice.
Here is a short camera-phone video of me playing Amazing Grace for my dying Grandfather with an acoustic guitar and E-Bow.
My Balkan tour started in Paris, actually. I was flying through Charles de Gaulle, but my original plane was delayed. This gave me 8 hours in Paris which was really great. I hadn’t been there since 1996 and I was pleasantly surprised to see that I could still find my way around after all these years. I found the restaurant where I worked and went to the Musée d’Orsay and found some paintings and sculptures that had had a pretty strong impact on me at the time. They still worked for me now 🙂
Our Balkan tour proper started in Sofia Bulgaria. We didn’t get in all the rehearsals we wanted to get but still managed to make the record crowd of 3200 happy. The previous record for a Songs of the Soul concert was last year in Budapest for 2000 people. A very auspicious start to a great tour. Just like in 2009, Abhijit and I performed two songs as a duo and then I played bass for the Gandharva Loka Orchestra. Other acts included Blue Flower, Mandu and Visuddhi, Premik & Friends, Adesh and Ajita, Paree’s Group, Irina and Vedic Fire.
The drive from Sofia to Skopje went fine but there were no highways. Prior to 1991 the so-called Iron Curtain was drawn at that border. Bulgaria being part of the Eastern Bloc and Macedonia being part of Yugoslavia which wasn’t on any side of the Cold War, really. Tito (Prime Minister and President of Yugoslavia 1943-1980) being the champion of a nonalignment treaty. So it was a scenic drive on small roads. The concert in Skokie was also very nice and on we went for the third concert in Nis, Serbia. The Nis concert was special because it was our first outdoor concert. It was an amphitheater built within the walls of the old fortress. The weather was very nice and so it was a very memorable evening.
The local organizers had even gone so far as buying television spots for the concert. I have to say that in general the local organizers spared no effort to make sure that the crowds would be substantial. For example, in our next city, Belgrade, there were at least 12 full sized billboards for the concert.
Belgrade was also a fantastic concert. Just like in Sofia, we played on the same stage that Bob Dylan had played on the night before. We more or less were following Mr. Dylan on his tour of the Balkans. Some of us got to calling him our warm-up act. From Belgrade we drove to Pecs Hungary. This was one of our most challenging drives. We tried to avoid crossing into Croatia and waiting at another border but in so doing, we lengthened our trip by 2 to 3 hours. All was good in the end and the crowd amassed in the University Auditorium was very appreciative. Pecs is in a very hilly area and several of us got a chance to go out running in the lovely setting. After having unsuccessfully tried to avoid Croatia on the drive from Belgrade to Pecs, this time we deliberately crossed the border into Croatia and drove on to Zagreb. The hall where we played in Zagreb was the most prestigious in all of the former Yugoslavia. Excellent acoustics, excellent equipment, and excellent technicians.
It was a very nice way to conclude the tour. Last I heard 10 800 people attended the 6 concerts.
After the tour proper, Premik and I drove back to Belgrade and spent three days visiting. Our hosts took care of us way above any of our expectations. It was really a great time. Premik had interviews with local television and radio. One of the interview led to our hanging out with a bona fide Serbian jazz legend – Misa Blam – who told us stories about Charles Mingus and the like.
We visited the local sites, the local beach and hung out in cool cafés. My favorite was the Everest Café managed by my friend Purnendu (who incidentally gave me a very thorough and fascinating explanation of Yugoslavian and geopolitics). I had a similar feeling in Belgrade as I did in Istanbul. The feeling of being in an incredibly rich historical place that has been a crossroads for civilizations for thousands of years. Really cool (except for all the wars of course. Those are not cool. Belgrade has been destroyed and rebuilt 38 times in its history). Our hosts even serendipitously set up a recording session in a studio right by the Danube.
Premik and I had the honor and privilege of jamming with Mira (voice) and Dhanu (guitar, mridagam, sarod) who have their own devotional music group called Kamala. Special thanks to Dragan who invited us and engineered the short session. This was one of my favorite experiences on this trip. Maybe I will even be able to post some music from this session in the coming weeks.
In any case, I was charmed by the entire region and hope go back there in the near future.
I just got back from an awesome tour of the Balkans (+) and I promise a report complete with photos as soon as I catch up back home and get back to this time zone. This was a Songs of the Soul tour with 6 stops (Sofia, Skopje, Nis, Belgrade, Pecs, Zagreb) and 10 000 spectators. Plus various cool peripheral experiences. I should have something up soon so come back and check it out!
On Friday May 14th I had the good fortune to see a concert by Rezwana Choudhury Bannya — one of the brightest stars of Bengali music. She is the topmost authority in the country of the music of Rabindranath Tagore. Tagore is one of my favorite poets and considered something like Bangladesh’s Shakespeare.
Bannya’s voice is one of the most sweet and subtle I’ve ever heard. Truly very beautiful. The concert itself was quite an experience as the entire crowd was Bengali. This wasn’t like seeing the Montreal Symphony Orchestra. It was like a big family reunion with a lot of coming and going. People went up on stage to give the performers special requests written on bits of paper.
The evening was a musical experience but also very much a cultural experience. Prior to the concert we had a chance to meet with Bannya and give her flowers on behalf of the Montreal meditation center. I told her that I play with the Gandharva Loka Orchestra which performed in Dhaka, Bangladesh with her last December. She said that I had to come for the next such event which could be as early as December 2010. I guess I have no choice now!
On Sunday May 2nd, Dan Behrman started off his Musique du Monde (World Music) show by playing the Ami Habo Parichayaka remix which is the last track on the latest CD. This is a nationally broadcast french-language show on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s network. Following the track, Mr. Behrman had this to say (translated of course):
“It’s the montreal group Pavaka that made us take off with their cover of a composition by Sri Chinmoy titled Ami Habo which is an excerpt from an album dedicated to Sri Chinmoy who was a philosopher and great master of a meditation technique that still has numerous enthusiasts around the world and who was also the author of musical works which inspired this album from Pavaka which includes 13 of these songs and instrumentals intended for people to feel better listening to them. Which is in fact the reason we started our flight tonight on our virtual magic carpet.”
This is the second time that this track was featured on this show.