Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Green Ragas Experience

At the end of the year 2009 I found a message in my email box from one of my best musician friends, the British sarod and guitar player and film maker Chinmaya Dunster. I think we first met when we collaborated on a CD with Sangit Sirus, who was then an artist of the famous NIGHTINGALE label in South Germany. So was I, and Sirus had asked me to play some flute on this recordings and do the engineering. The name of the CD was Spiral Dance. It was a great session, I think it was around 1993. I still remember that Sirus said to me: „you are a born flute player“, which encouraged me to carry on studying the bansuri (the Indian bamboo flute). I also remember those fantastic Persian meals that Sirus prepared. But it was a special gift from existence that I first met Chinmaya during these sessions. Not only because it was a great experience to play with this excellent musician who was continously searching for ways to combine Indian and Western music, but also because this was the start of fa great friendship and has led to many more collaborations over the years.

But back to my email box. In this message Chinmaya simply asked me if I would like to participate in a series of live concerts in India. Well, this was beyond my wildest dreams, although I had already thought many times about visiting Mother India once again (after 20 years of absence). So I packed my suitcase, gave my dog Mayla into the loving care of my Welsh neighbors Roy, Louise and Zoi (thanks!) and off I went in February 2010 from Crete via Athens to New Delhi. And what can I say? It was one of the greatest experiences in my whole life! Besides Chinmaya and the fantastic singer Sandeep Srivastav we were six more musicians: three from the West and three from India. In the cozy living room of our little hotel we spent 10 days of intense rehearsal and worked out the program for the „Green Raga Band“. I mostly played bansuri, except for two songs where Chinmaya had begged me into playing a few Cretan tunes on my Cretan Lyra. At first I was a little worried if this instrument would really fit into the all over style of the band. But I quickly realized that our Indian friends played those tunes as if they had Cretan blood running in their veins. Even the singer Sandeep contributed a vocal solo on a Cretan „Sirtos“, a mixture that has most probably never happened before. Instead of describing these highlights verbally I am just presenting here one videos, I think it says enough.

In October I went to New Delhi again, for two concerts that were given as part of the 2010 Common Wealth Games festivities. Another fantastic experience! The audience was simply freaking out – there was so much joy and heart touching energy happening during those concerts. Here is a link to an article in the Osho Times about Green Ragas Concert in Delhi, that says it all.

What also made these concerts so special was the fact, that they are really multi media events. This is mainly Chinmayas contribution, who is deeply engaged in spreading awareness about environmental concerns and social justice issues, mainly in India. He presents on a screen above the stage his great video films, carefully chosen to fit with each song of the program. Moreover, to add more color to the program, the female poet Kanupriya Dhawan from Delhi presented her poems and the vocalist Anand Risha from Gujarat performed two of her great songs with the band as a guest artist.

And whats next? I don't know, but I have a feeling as if this was just the beginning. Lets stay in touch, I will keep you informed.

Sangit Om