WESLEYAN NAVARATRI FESTIVAL REVIEW
WORLD MUSIC LEGEND SHANKAR RECEIVES
WARM WELCOME AT NAVARATRI FESTIVAL
- double neck violin, compositions, arrangements
- tabla, kanjira, ghatam
At 8 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 29, audiences packed Crowell Concert Hall to hear world-renowned composer and musical innovator L. Shankar Ph.D. 1974 . His performance was one of six events that occurred this past weekend during the University’s 40th annual Navaratri Festival, celebrating traditional Indian music and dance. L. Shankar captivated listeners for a 110-minute concert, displaying his years of classical training with the entire range of a string orchestra at his fingertips.
“Shankar created and designed his own invention, the ten-string stereophonic double violin, built for him by Kevin Parker,” reads the concert’s program on Shankar’s instrument of choice for the concert.
Shankar, an alumnus of the University’s ethnomusicology graduate program, was accompanied by the storied world music educator and percussionist Christopher Garcia, known for his expertise in jazz, avant-garde, and both indigenous and traditional Mexican music.
“It’s great to be here, fantastic,” Shankar said in an interview after the concert with The Argus. “Wesleyan is one of the very few universities in America which supports a world music program, which is really amazing. When I first came to America, this was my home.”
The stage was set with a platform shrouded in rugs, on which the musicians sat. Another massive rug hung like a tapestry on the back wall, delivering a wide spectrum of colors to the otherwise bare wooden Crowell stage. The musicians sat with legs crossed, playing a total of six songs. Every piece delivered unique emotional resonance. The concert began fast-paced and gradually became more somber toward the middle, only to then pick back up for the final two songs.
Shankar manually controlled a public address system for the instrumental mics on stage and began each song by adjusting a backing drone track to fit the ensuing time signature and raga. Garcia’s drumming cut through, complemented, and grounded the reverberating echoes of Shankar’s masterful slides on the violin throughout the hall.
Highlights included Garcia’s percussion solo in the fifth composition, in which he built upon various rhythms for several uninterrupted minutes, beating every drum in front of him, including tapping his face to a comedic, yet fascinating effect; another highlight was Shankar’s singing on the fourth track. Skankar, with his five-and-a-half octave vocal range, engrossed audiences with his unparalleled vocal ability over a skillful series of plucks and bends on his 10-string stereophonic double violin.
Shankar’s notable works include (but certainly are not limited to) one of his early bands, Shakti, which he started alongside John McLaughlin in 1975, blending Indian and jazz music. (Shakti refers to the Hindu deity Durga, which coincidentally, the Navaratri festivities honor.) Frank Zappa produced Shankar’s first solo album, Touch Me There, in 1979. Shankar later helped Peter Gabriel with the score in “The Last Temptation of Christ,” eventually winning a Grammy for one of the film’s follow up albums, Passion-Sources. He also scored Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of Christ,” which he is currently performing on tour as a vocalist accompanied by an orchestra. Throughout his storied career, Shankar has worked with Phil Collins, Elton John, Sting, Michael Jackson, Madonna, Bruce Springsteen, Talking Heads, Van Morrison, The Pretenders, and Lou Reed among many others.
“His musical contributions helped sell over 50 million albums through his solo projects and collaborations with other artists where he has been a featured guest as a composer, arranger, producer, singer, violinist and performer,” reads the night’s program.
The Argus had the chance to sit down with both Shankar and Garcia after the performance.
This wasn’t Garcia’s first time at the University, having performed three times here in the early ’90s.
Though Garcia has worked with Shankar before, he was called in last minute to step in as percussionist
after the planned backing musician had to cancel due to an injury.
“Shankar called me and said,
‘What are you doing on this date?’” Garcia recalled in his interview with The Argus.
“Which was two weeks ago. I was thrown into the pool there…We actually only played 6 pieces, but we had 12 [pieces prepared].
It was very, very difficult….It’s wonderful working with him.”
Toward the end of the performance, Shankar expressed his happiness in returning to the University.
The last time he was here was for a performance alongside Zakir Hussain in 2000.
“It has been a long journey,” Shankar said.
In 1977, my musical mentor, John Bergamo
was asked to perform with SHAKTI in Canada as there were visa issues
with one of the traveling Indian musicians.
Vikku Vinayakram (unable to tour)
John asked me if I knew the music and shook his head
in remembering the difficulty of it.
He recorded the 3 albums onto a 2 track machine
(i.e., some of you will have to GOOGLE that)
so that he could hear and learn the composition and the konnakol
I remember that he told SHAKTI that if he could have
3 rehearsals that he would do the performance after having
studying the recordings
they agreed and flew him out,
but his only rehearsal was at the soundcheck.
Solo orders were discussed and they did the performance
- in the moment, at the moment every moment
which John Bergamo ALWAYS excelled at bringing himself,
his spirit, his training and his hard work to the table
he played a cassette recording of the concert for me and his playing
was full of surprises, morsing solos, where drum solos were expected etc.,
and nailing the pieces
He played ghatam, kanjira, and morsing...........
and is remembered and spoken of fondly by L. Shankar
Fast forward 39 years
I have been rehearsing with L. Shankar now for a few weeks
working on 2 very different non related musical projects
- music from his solo albums and new compositions
mostly his non classical music
and a multi media project,
featuring his original compositions,
guitars and a world of percussion
He called me in July and asked if I was available for a performance 10/29/SA/16
to perform a concert of traditional Carnatic Music with him at Wesleyan University
in Connecticut as his original accompanist was unable to perform due to an injury
When I explained to him that his fans would be expecting an Indian musician
"I am not worried about you.
You studied with Pandit Taranath Rao, John Bergamo,
Leonice Shinneman and Swapan Chaudhuri and I will
teach you the compositions" .................
His classical compositions by the way are not typical
they are difficult to learn, assimilate and make 2nd nature
with only comes from doing it, then doing it again and again and again
It was just like going back to school.
Pieces were recited again and again and recorded
Learned, practiced, dissected, worked on,
rehearsed and recorded and listened back to
worked on independently,
and together and with a metronome at all times
the most difficult piece in 9 and 1/4 beats = 37/16
Rehearsals went anywhere from 3 hours to 8 hours per day the last
few weeks in order to prepare for the performance.
Almost 40 years later that John was asked to do SHAKTI
I was asked to do this
(the only westerner ever invited to play
classical music of India with L. SHANKAR)
It is only because of Bergamo's great giving sprit
and INTENTION which
gave me the training as well as studying with
Pandit Tarnath Rao,
and with John Bergamo that this was possible for me to jump in willingly
as far as I know it is the only time he has used a western
percussionist to work with him in an Indian classical duo setting,
which is a tremendous honor for me, my teachers and mi familia
An amazing opportunity,
blessings and LOTS OF HARD WORK to learn
Thanks to mi familia,
and 40 years of making music every day of my life
that allowed me to do this
standing on the shoulders and in the shadows of the giants who came before me ..........
PERCUSSION OF INDIA REVIEW
"I know Christopher Garcia ... he is an angel from above. We have been working over 3 years touring and everything else, and many times we rehearse, all the time, as music is not my profession.
Music is my passion, Music is my LIFE, see…..We are always rehearsing so many times, and Chris used to come, he is one of the busiest percussions on earth, he is incredible, he also plays South Indian percussion, clay ghatam, kanjira and everything else......”
L. SHANKAR - composer, violinist, vocalist
"Garcia’s drumming cut through, complemented, and grounded the reverberating echoes of SHANKARS
masterful slides on the violin throughout the hall. Highlights included Garcia’s percussion solo in the fifth
composition, in which he built upon various rhythms for several uninterrupted minutes…..”
"Christopher Garcia is a critically acclaimed percussionist, composer, performer, ethnomusicologist, and multi-instrumentalist ……he is known in different circles for various reasons: either as a composer or performer either on drum set, percussion instruments of North and South India, marimba, or instruments of indigenous Mexico/Mesoamerica….. he had the privilege of receiving a full scholarship at California Institute of the Arts where he studied tabla with Pandit Taranath Rao, Leonice Shinneman, and Swapan Chaudhuri, and tabla , ghatam and kanjira with John Bergamo. In 1976, his mentor John Bergamo was asked to perform with Shakti in Canada and 40 years later Christopher was honored to be the first Westerner to be invited by L. Shankar (aka Shenkar) to perform Indian classical music with him. His compositions for woodwind quintet, pedal harp, classical guitar, pipa, piano, and percussion of India and Mesoamerica continue to be performed in the Americas and Europe."
“Garcia revels in playing the new and unexpected…..his musical vocabulary
not only spans centuries and cultures it's also spontaneous."
GERMANYS INTERNATIONAL BROADCASTER
"Christopher Garcia, a multi-faceted percussionist, added an eclectic array of musical instruments
from India, Mexico and other places creating an imaginative array of sounds along with the movement."
"We hear a variety of world percussion, including instruments from India, and MesoAmerica.
They sing and throb to the pulse of a single person, Christopher Garcia. He produces an extraordinary
array of sound and rhythms, effortlessly weaving in and out of familiar Indian patterns to those of Mesoamerica”
INDIAS PREMIER MAGAZINE FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS .
Onstage with L SHANKAR aka SHENKAR
CLICK ON PIC FOR ADDITIONAL INFO