US Tour, 2013
Last month I had the pleasure of touring the USA as a dhrupad singer, playing in a number of cities across the country. I performed traditional ‘jugulbandhi’ (duet) with gurubhai Sou Inoue from Japan, accompanied on pakhawaj by Dnyaneshvara Deshmukh from India. We all trained with the Gundecha Brothers and met at their school, the Dhrupad Sansthan in Bhopal, India. The tour was instigated by our teachers and organised by the Dhrupad Music Institute of America.
The tour began on the East coast playing concerts in Washington DC, Pennsylvania State College and Boston. After being blessed with a small snowstorm in Wayne NJ, we sung raga Megh at the William Patterson University and Yeman at the Vivekananda Vidyapith.
On the West coast, we got to hang out for a few days in funky Berkeley, before playing to a small but spirited audience in the historic town of Nevada City, California. Then a Greyhound bus to LA and a full house at the Mehar Baba Centre where we sung for over 2 hours, ragas Bhupali, Asavari and Charukeshi. Back in the San Fran bay area the following day, we played at the Sangati Centre which runs regular acoustic programs of Indian Classical music in an art Gallery in downtown Berkeley. The next day and another flight, to our last gig in Seattle -raga Bhimpalasi followed by pizza, and the chance to meet Vibhavaree who had done most of the work organising this special opportunity for us.
This trip reminded me what a wonderful place the USA is for traditional Indian music. With great Indian meastros visiting, and immigrating to the country since the 1960’s, North America boasts some of the most serious non-Indian exponents of raga music. We were often singing to people who knew the music well and were very discerning of quality. The basement at Satish-ji’s house, where we stayed in Washington DC had also accommodated some of the greats of Indian music, such as Bhimsen Joshi, Girija Devi, Fahimuddin Dagar and our own gurujis. We felt their vibe.
A heartfelt thanks to all of our hosts, who picked us up, fed us, housed us and shared their hopes and passions with us. Without you this venture would not have been feasible.