Posts Tagged ‘Dartmouth College’

ta-ka-ta, TA-ka-tah!

October 22, 2009

“Welcome to Dartmouth.”

That was the gracious opening remark from a man who, himself, was actually the visitor on Tuesday night. But only in the most formal sense. As a performer on the world stage for over five decades, in truth Ravi Shankar’s name and music are as well known as even the most frequent visitors at the Hopkins Center’s Spaulding Auditorium.

He continued, “I will miss Anoushka tonight as much as you will miss her. We will do our best to make up for it as much as we can.”

It had just been announced that his daughter Anoushka had taken ill and would not be joining him on the stage that evening. That could have been a disappointment, but instead it turned instead into a very intriguing prospect: her absence allowed for his first live performance without her, in fifteen years.

The first half of the concert had been filled with a single raga, plaintive and rhythmic with Ravichandra Kulur’s  soulful solo flute taking the lead. Typical of North Indian classical music the textures were layered and transparent, the structure was patient to develop, gaining volume and speed even as each of the three instruments folded in to the mix. The first half ended in a breathless punctuation of synchronized voices.  Exciting!

After what seemed to be an extraordinarily long intermission (I didn’t time it, but it felt like a half hour or so) Ravi Shankar and the original three musicians took the stage: Kulur on flute, with percussionists Tanmoy Bose and Pirashanna Thevarajah, along with two younger players identified as Kenji (Shankar’s student) and Benjamin.

They played a long set of several ragas, and throughout the whole performance the one thing that struck me was what a bluesy sound Shankar  was able to make with his sitar. I’ve heard the instrument played in many different ways, in live settings and on recordings in all kinds of music. And I’ve heard a lot of Indian slide guitar, much like the lap steel of American blues music in both construction and sound. But I’ve never heard the sitar sound like a blues voice before Shankar’s performance.

So is that his legacy to the art? It’s certainly one of them, but with a professional and personal history so closely associated with the Beatles, the Indian music infusion of the ’60s, and a long past of humanitarian work – it’s only one of many.

One final thought – the Spaulding stage sits low, and the auditorium seating is at a very moderate incline. Since Indian musicians traditionally sit right on the  stage the situation made for difficult viewing at best.

Maybe a raised platform on the stage can be arranged for the next Indian concert?

Which reminds me, the next show: April 1st, 7pm, again at the Spaulding. One of the best Indian percussionists in the world, Zakir Hussain. Must see (hear!)

tonight and thinking ahead

October 20, 2009

TheEssentialRaviShankarTonight at Dartmouth College’s Hopkins Center: sitar legend Ravi Shankar and his daughter, Anoushka Shankar – a righteous sitar player on her own merits.

I’m going, but I just noticed today that the show has sold out. While I can’t do much about that for you I CAN let you know right now there are a couple of other hot shows coming along soon that will also likely sell out, and you’ll miss out if you don’t plan ahead to be there:

Sunday, Nov. 1st @ the Flynn –Dee Dee Bridgewater and her “Lady Day” tribute to Billie Holiday

Sunday, Nov. 9th @ Parima Thai Restaurant – Rupa & the April Fishes: With a signature blend of gypsy/Indian/Spanish/French influences, their energetic second release “Este Mundo” is due out later this month on Vermont’s own Cumbancha label.

Sunday, April 18 – Mali’s Rokia Traoré: The new recording (Tchmantché) fuses traditional instruments with blues guitar and Rokia’s powerful voice, furthering her reputation as one of Africa’s most eclectic and vibrant musicians.

There will be others, I know. Keep an eye out here. And if you hear of them before I do – let me know!

throw a stone, you can’t miss

October 12, 2009
On Church Street

Last week on Burlington's Church Street

The thing about music in Vermont is that it’s everywhere.

Same with poetry, visual and performance art, and literary and learning events of one kind or another.

On a recent September Monday I reviewed the evening’s options and realized within an hour’s drive I could participate in an equinox stargazing party at a local library, see an internationally-recorgnized author speaking on worldwide food production, hear a piano trio performing Beethoven, or attend a reading of Robert Frost’s autumnal poetry.

Many days are like that.

Autumn’s already shaping up to be rich with offerings,  a few upcoming suggestions are below. You’ll notice most of these take place in Central/Northern Vermont. It’s because that’s where I live, and these are the ones I have the best chance of actually experiencing.

There are an equal number of  events and performances taking place in other areas of the state, so by all means look to your local arts/cultural scene and don’t just stop here!

Oct. 13, 8-10pm @ the Bluebird Tavern, Burlington: guitarist Jim Stout  and the Queen City Hot Club in an evening of gypsy jazz and gourmet cuisine. A fabulous combination.

Oct. 20 @ the Hopkins Center, Dartmouth College: Indian classical musicians, Ravi and Anoushka Shankar

Oct. 23 @ the UVM recital hall (part of the Lane Series): German keyboardist Andraes Staier, whose Bach will make you wonder how you ever listened to that music before Staier came along.

Oct. 23-Nov. 1 @ Palace Nine Theatre, South Burlington: the Vermont International Film Festival

through Oct. 25 @ the Shelburne Museum: Nature by Design, an exhibit highlighting Louis Comfort Tiffany’s Art Nouveau creations

through Oct. 25 @ the FlynnSpace in Burlington: Opus – a play about what happens as a string quartet prepares for their highest profile performance ever, as the group’s personal dynamics create as much tension as there is on any violin’s bridge.

Oct. 25 @ Langdon Street Cafe in Montpelier: local blues man Dave Keller hosts a tribute to blues legend Koko Taylor

through Oct. 29 @ Club Metronome, Burlington: New Orleans’ own trombone funk band, Bonerama as the artists-in residence Thursday evenings through October

Oct. 30 @ the Hopkins Center, Dartmouth College: the Ying Quartet in the final concert of their weeklong residency

all month (October) long @ the Black Door, Montpelier: pick a night, any night

Nov. 1 on the Flynn Main Stage: the extraordinary jazz/blues singer Dee Dee Bridgewater in a tribute program to Billie Holiday

Oct. 13-Nov. 25 @ the Fleming Museum: (exhibit) Cuban Artists’ Books and Prints, 1985-2008

the whole season at Chandler Center for the Arts in Randolph: especially noting pianist Simone Dinnerstein’s Vermont return with an all-Bach program on January 23


like a refugee

June 27, 2009

Ashade Pearce, lead guitar

Ashade Pearce, lead guitar

“You left your country to seek refuge, in another man’s land…you will be confronted by strange dialects, you will be fed unusual diets…you’ve got to sleep in a tarpaulin house, which is so hard…you’ve to sleep on a tarpaulin mat, which is so cold…living like a refugee… “

I first heard those lyrics a couple of years ago – a snowy afternoon, if I remember right – on St. Patrick’s Day during the annual Green Mountain Film Festival.

I knew I should have been focusing less on the lyrics and more on the visuals of the film that day. But it’s that kind of music.

The Sierra Leone Refugee All Stars‘ story is widely known now, as the individuals who make up the group fled their country’s brutal civil war in the ’90s and came together to make music in a neighboring Guinea refugee camp. That’s where Woodstock, VT native Zach Niles caught up with them. A fan of African music, Zach and a partner went to Africa to create a film about the role of music in West African refugee camps. He made the Refugee All Stars film in 2005, and has  continued his involvement with the group since then as their manager.

The lineup has varied a little from the original six members, most recently with the unexpected death last March of bassist Idrissa Mallam Bangura. In their common mission and experience, though, they remain constant: messages of peace, happiness, and unity still rest firmly at the heart of their music.

Today’s blue skies and sunlit afternoon countered those first snowy film festival memories of  the Refugees, as they lit up the Green at Dartmouth College and launched the “eMotion” Arts Festival.

A most fortuitous omen  for a positive, creative, artistically inspirational summer ahead!


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