This June I will be hosting a Dhrupad Days with my amazing Gurujis, right here in North New Jersey at William Paterson University in Wayne. Information is HERE.
If you want to attend please email me ASAP so I can get your name on the spreadsheet. (payton [dot] macdonald [at] gmail.com)
I’m a very lucky man, indeed. This month Branan Silvius Dubh is here in the U.S., living in our upstairs room. We’re doing riaz (practicing) together every day, and we just performed our first concert together a few days ago. Branan is a senior student of Gundecha Brothers and an amazing singer. His voice is silky smooth and he blends with the tanpura (the drone instrument) in the most lovely way. He’s been studying Dhrupad much longer than I have and has a very deep and heartfelt knowledge of the music. Every time we sit down to sing it’s essentially a lesson for me. I’m listening hard and doing my best to learn as much as I can from him.
The first concert was a success. Now we embark upon a real vocal adventure, with a string of concerts in a row. Six concerts in seven days to be precise. I’m excited to share this wonderful music with our audiences here in the U.S. I’m grateful to Branan for being so generous with his knowledge. I’m also grateful to our Gurujis for everything they’ve taught us and to the Dhrupad Music Institute of America for their support of the tour.
Please see the schedule page for more information. I hope to see you at some of our shows!
The month of August has been an intense period of riaz, or practicing. I’ve been in Bhopal, M.P., India, staying at my Gurus’ Dhrupad Sansthan, practicing from 5:30 a.m. to about 10:00 p.m. every day. Spending time with Gurujis has been revelatory. As always, they are pushing me to listen harder, focus my mind better, and stay in tune. The tuning is an especially deep subject. It’s more than just finding the correct the frequency. It is a relationship with the tanpura (the drone instrument we use in Dhrupad) that extends from pitch precision outwards to mind-body connection, to really listening to the way our voices merge and blend and speak, not just with the tanpura, but with each other and ourselves, and with the world at large. I’m missing my family and looking forward to seeing them next week, but I’m also cherishing every moment that I’m here, going deeper into naad, or the yoga of sound.
I have some nice singing opportunities ahead of me. On April 8 I’m singing some Dhrupad at the Wayne Public Library with my friend and colleague Dibyarka Chatterjee. Dibyarka is Pandit Samir Chatterjee’s son. Samir-ji is one of the top tabla drummers in the world, and also an inspiring composer, teacher, and impresario. He has been a major inspiration for me for many years and even though I never studied tabla with him (because I was studying with Pandit Sharda Sahai), Samir-ji’s deep musicianship and beautiful spirit have always inspired me. Dibyarka takes after his father and is a wonderful young man who plays tabla very, very well. I’m honored that he is joining me for this concert and I hope it is the first of many to come.
Then, on April 26 I’ll be singing my Dhrupad trance music at the Shastra Festival. I am the Co-Artistic director of Shastra and I’m very honored to share the stage with some incredible musicians, including Rajna Swaminathan, Michael Harrison, Rez Abbasi, and many other top artists. I hope to see you all there.
On May 3 I’m planning another midnight show at William Paterson University of my Dhrupad trance music. Stay tuned for details about that . . .
Then, on May 16 I will be in Seattle for a week as part of the Dhrupad Days of Seattle. My beloved Gurujis the Gundecha Brothers will be there performing, as well as Pandit Uday Bhawalkar. I am also singing a concert and presenting a lecture on Indian/Western fusion music. It is my greatest honor to sing with Gurujis and Uday-ji in the audience. I’m praying for the strength to be strong and honor the teaching they have generously bestowed upon me.
Finally, on May 23 I will present a Naad Yoga and Dhrupad concert at Yoga Montclair. More details about that later . . .
Ah, Mother Nature! You decided to unleash one more big snow storm on us here in the Northeast. The university closed down and the concert was cancelled. Unfortunately the next full moon night in April isn’t the best night for me in terms of scheduling, so we’ll have to make this concert up this coming week on a different night. But what can we do? It’s Mother Nature. She’s in charge!
Next Thursday, March 5, a full moon night, I will present a musical event at William Paterson University. HERE is a video explaining the night. It’s going to be an amazing evening. I’ll start the drones at 11:15 p.m. and start singing and bringing in beats at 11:30. The lights will be low (including some candles), and we’ll be in a big open space. There may or may not be tea and food . . . 😉 As with the concert I did a few months ago with my duo partner Ina Filip the audience is invited to bring a yoga mat or blanket or whatever and make themselves comfortable. I don’t really think of this as a concert so much as an event, a musical group meditation. Collectively we will explore the mystery of Raga Chandrakauns, a deep raga that taps into the energy of the moon. March 5 is a full moon night, so it’s perfect.
Preparing for it has been exhilarating and energizing. Of course I’m singing a lot every day, doing my usual routine of technical exercises to keep my voice in top shape plus leaving plenty of time to improvise on Chandrakauns and get to know the raga inside and out. I also took a few Skype lessons on Chandrakauns with my teacher in India. As usual, his guidance was uplifting and humbling.
I’ve also spent considerable time expanding my sample set from the previous show. In addition to all the percussive vocal beatboxing sounds I’ve included a loop of marimba chords, tuned pipes, almglocken, vibraphone, some of Ina’s vocals (she’s in India so won’t be there in real time), and various found percussion objects including a chunk of wood and some empty beer kegs. The organization of the show is much more complex than my previous work, including a section with chord changes and an almost Radioheadesque tune in the middle.
I’m spending time every day practicing with my Akai APC40 and my Ableton software. I’m getting quite comfortable with the computer/human interface. It’s becoming intuitive and free. I’m making music from my heart, and going ever deeper into Naad, or the yoga of sound.
I hope to see you there. This is some of my best work and I’m looking forward to sharing it with everyone. Feel free to make audio and/or video recordings of the event and share. Let’s work together to bring people together in peace with this ancient music from India, with some beats to keep it flowing.
January was a busy month with many concerts and traveling. February is a quiet month. No concerts, no traveling. Just some much needed time to go deep in the shed and do a lot of what Indian musicians call “riaz”, or dedicated practicing. Actually, it’s more than that, it’s sadhana, or a complete giving up of the self to the Muse of Music. Each day is full of singing, drumming, teaching, and composing. I have some specific musical problems to solve, and some long-range projects that need my attention. I am falling into the bliss of Naad, or the pure yoga of sound.