My two days with the artists: Pandit Shubhendra Rao and Ty Burhoe

Shubhendra and Tara had been in correspondence about arranging his sitar concert in Bangkok for a while. As Shubhendra said 'Eeega Samaya Banthu' (The time came now!). Events developed quickly and on Monday last, Tara was at the airport to receive the artists. Good that I did not go as they had lots of luggage. Shubhendra obviously had his Sitar, but what surprised us were the two huge 'storm' boxes that Ty had brought along with him. The boxes, apart from the Tablas, were full of electronic instruments; a mixer, an equalizer, a recorder, accessories and tools. They said that they carried these equipment to ensure the right quality of sound. They had learnt from experience that most of the sponsors did not have the right system for a concert. Their commitment to create the best quality of sound and the trouble they took for this was impressive.

It is interesting that as soon as we hear about a 'live concert' being held, we begin to talk about the concerts we had attended in the past and loved. When Tara mentioned that Shubhendra is a disciple of Pt. Ravishankar, I thought of the evening I had heard Panditji for the first time years ago in Bangalore. It was an enchantment that still remains fresh in my memory. My cousin Rangaraj and I just sat on the steps outside the concert hall till midnight. We did not want to go home and loose that special feeling we had in us. I am sure, if we were offered lessons in Sitar by Ravishankar, we would have quit our studies and I would not have become an engineer or Rangaraj a doctor. Alas, we were not the chosen few. I am happy that I went with Rangaraj to the concert as it triggered in me a love for music and changed my life for the better.

For Shubhendra, Sitar was part of his life from the beginning as his father Sri Rama Rao was a disciple of Ravishankar. He was fortunate to be given an opportunity and he made a choice when just eighteen to learn Sitar in the traditional guru-shishya parampara and lived with Panditji for eight years. There are stories about how a guru would test his shishya and his real keenness to learn. The guru would not even teach for a while to see if the shishya would give up. Anyway, Shubhendra says it was easier for him with the Panditji. I still feel it is a tough choice to make while still a teen.

The story of how Ty Burhoe got into Tabla is similar to my story in that he attended Ustad Zakir Hussain's concert. The difference being, he decided instantly that he wanted to learn to play Tabla from the Ustad. He was twenty six then. I did not ask him how he persuaded Zakir to accept him as a disciple, but it happened. Certainly, Ty had a back ground of music and more importantly he has a way about him, which makes him very endearing and it would have been difficult for Zakir to say no!

Day One: We liked Shubhendra to stay with us, and nice that Ty also was willing to be our guest. As Tara pushes off to school early in the morning, they were care of me (I was not sure if I could deal with this, artists are generally reputed to be very moody!) and our Kuhn Nari. I could soon perceive a difference as the sound from the sruti box in Shubhendra's room was pervading softly all over the apartment.

Ty had a workshop at the NIST at 9 a.m. and I accompanied him to the school which is next door to us. As I came back and entered the apartment, I could hear the melodious sounds of the Sitar. This continued till Ty returned from the workshop after two hours. They had brunch around 12 noon and loved the 'Dosa' Kuhn Nari had made and again retired to their rooms for some more practice individually and together. This went on till Tara returned from school at 3 and we left for Lopburi for their concert at the Indo Rama colony. It was a two hour drive and after a brief chat, they got busy again creating new 'bols'. They were in their own world after that.

As soon as we reached the colony, they went straight to the auditorium and devoted an hour setting the system using the equipment which Ty had brought and went up to the room reserved for them only to change their clothes and for a cup of tea.

It is no wonder that considering the type of dedication they had demonstrated the concert was memorable. The auditorium was excellent, the people gracious and the food fabulous. It was also a study in contrasts, there was Mr. Mohta, the Business Head of the factories, obviously a lover of music, who led the applause, which was often during the concert and there was Mr. Umesh Chandra, head of the PET unit, who admitted that a classical music concert was not something he would normally attend. The concert ended to a standing ovation and when Umesh spoke after the concert, he gave a rave review of the concert and said he was a changed man and would look forward to classical concerts from now on!

I know the artists would have loved to play longer at the concert and so would have everyone who attended, but we had a long journey home. We returned late in the night, as Tara wanted the driver to go boringly slow, the artists kept practicing bols to pass the time.

Day Two: I relaxed as I found it was quite easy to take care of our guests and it was easier the next day. Hence, I went out in the morning as I do normally. When I returned the apartment was resonating with music. They were up early and had started their riyaz. I also saw Ty hanging his washed kurta on the clothesline. I suppose he was taking a break and took care of things by himself.

Viji had offered to send them a car if they wanted to go out and do touristy things. They were not interested. The only time they stepped out was to go to the school to check the sound system. They wanted to have a look and decide in advance things needed to be done to improve the quality of the system.

Around 1 p.m. we had a simple vegetarian lunch. Ty said he loved it! The riyaz continued and till it was time to go. Tara got back from school around 4 p.m. and decided we would not wait for the cars, as both Viji and Gayathri were stuck in traffic and asked me to get a Taxi. It is easy to get a Taxi here and before I knew both Shubhendra and Ty had come down with their Sitar and the two huge boxes. They loaded the Taxi themselves, walked down to NIST and unloaded their stuff from the waiting Taxi.

This is not the first time I have let artists take care of themselves this way. As a kid I escorted Vidwan Veena Doraiswami Iyengar in an auto-rickshaw to the Sabha in Bangalore and had let him carry his Veena to the concert hall. I was of course scolded for this, but I suppose I was in too much of awe of the Vidwan and was also too scared to carry the divine Veena. I was lucky this time as none of the organisers saw and the artists did not seem to mind! I suppose I compensated to some extent by carrying the Tanpura home.

I think I will let others speak about the concert. I am totally at a loss for words to tell you how it went, except to say that to me it was outstanding.

I think I should speak a little about the programme high lights. Ambassador Latha Reddy graced the occasion and lighted the traditional lamp and spoke beautifully at the end of the concert. She had also suggested and arranged to invite a few notables to the concert. The Ambassador of Pakistan and his wife, Ambassador of Turkey were present. It was nice to see Mr. Jagjit Singh Azad, who has done yeoman service for music in Bangkok, along with his sons Maiyya Singh and Ganga Singh were seated as invitees in the row reserved for VIP's. I liked the wise decision of the organizers not to invite anyone else and let those who were interested to buy their way in with a donation.

It was nice to see our friend Sunita Daswani and our well wisher Seema Sachdev at the concert. I think they came more to support the organizers, but I am sure they went back feeling happy that they attended. Similarly it was good to see Mrs. Suchitra Lohia, who could not make it to the program their company Indo Rama had arranged a day earlier in Lopburi, present in the audience. Tara, I am sure would love to mention the presence of Kiran Khurana and her daughter. Kiran and her husband Mr. Dalbir Khurana, who was not in town, are ever willing to support music in Bangkok.

The group had requested the Ambassador to join us for a family dinner after the program to meet the artists. 'The Teen Deviyaan' as she has christened them, happily forgot the time they would require to wind up after the concert. The Ambassador waited patiently and gave Tara a ride back with her! At home the Ambassador dropped her protocol and we all had a great time talking about the wonderful concert and reminiscing of the ones we loved.

All kudos are due to the three organizers! I would like to take some poetic license and call them 'Teen Kanyas'. I think Tara, Viji and Gayathri managed to reinvent themselves after the children have left home and are taking on things with great enthusiasm and almost childlike innocence. They pulled off a great one this time! It surely deserves to be the 'talk of the town'.

They organised the program very professionally and at the same time with minimum formality. The contents of the invitation was full of well researched information about the artists, the Sitar and Tabla. There was an interesting power-point presentation about how the instruments were made. Even though it was free seating, the rows were marked very clearly. I wonder whether as teachers, Tara and Gayathri would have loved to give a quiz to the audience to see if they had read all that was given to them and had understood!

The three also worked hard to inform people by e-mail, posters and telephone and had succeeded in getting a 'full house' attendance. I am sure they would love to acknowledge the help given by Sagnik, Joyati, Ruchi and Priya at the concert.

I conclude by wishing the artists the very best in the future. I pray that they continue to manage their talent well and as my dear friend Chandra Mouli would say, discover their own Manodharma. It is not easy to please everyone. I am sure in time they will rise to greater heights and captivate audiences the way their gurus have done all this while.

We were happy to arrange a concert for Shubendra in a greater style than the one we had for his father Sri Rama Rao sixteen years ago. It was a concert many still remember for its sincerity and purity. It was an assay in introspection into which he took us along.
Here are the websites of the artists which I am sure you will love to read.


roopa said…
Kudos to Tara, Viji and Gayatri for the efforts they put in behind the concert. It was two hours of sheer bliss.Shubendra and Ty reminded us of Pandit Ravi Shankar Ustad Zakir Hussain as both have even abosorbed their respective Guru's mannerisms. None of us wanted to leave the auditorium and go home at the end of the performance. Thanks once again to the teen deviyaans (kanyas) for organising such an extraordinary event.
Rohini said…
Sounds like we missed another great event! Congrats!
Ram Prasad said…
Dear Tara and Nidhi:
That was wonderful. I am glad you were able to arrange Shubhendra's concert in BKK. His concerts that we had arranged here in Seattle were also a resounding success. Now I am trying to promote his concert with his wife (Saskia) who plays the cello and the jugalbandhi is indeed quite an experience to listen to.
All credit to Tara, Viji and Gayathri. They are the star celebrities of BKK in promoting and presenting the wealth of India's fine arts. I vote for Tara to become India's Cultural Ambassador to Thailand.
Lots of love
Aloha Lavina said…
A comment from Aloha Lavina, a teacher at the Ruam Rudee International school.

"Last night I had the privilege to attend an Evening of Classical Indian Music. The artists were a sitar master and a tabla master. The sitar master studied under Ravi Shankar, and the tabla master studied under equally respected tabla guru Zakir Hussain. Both musicians were superb; the precision and passion with which they shared their music was in a word--soulful. At the end of the performance, it seemed that the smiles of the strangers around me contained something different from their glances before the performance began. We had shared music, a communication beyond language, to arrive at a common understanding of who we were" Aloha Lavina
Gayathri Rao said…
Gayathri, one of the organisers and a Teacher at the Ruam Rudee International school said:
"Hi! I think that the term that Aloha has used - 'privilege' - to qualify the experience of being at the music recital - describes it perfectly. It was an absolute privilege, one that was made all the more special by the wonderful presence of the artists. Shubhendra and Ty brought with them a genuine sense of enjoyment of their music and that spirit pervaded through the audience. I think that the essence of Indian music lies in its simplicity - it is possible to be totally absorbed into the music without any prior knowledge or sophisticated understanding of the techniques involved. May be it is more so in instrumental music that communicates without the boundaries of language and words. The most ancient of cultures created music that was replication of the sounds & sights of nature. And in the emotive style of the sitar and tabla, I think the audience could identify with the emotions that surface from the sound of rain, the sound of prayer bells, children playing - just everyday sounds that have become a part of one's comfort zone - the feeling that all is right with the world around us! How does one create that perfect balance between technique and emotion and how does one develop that passion & total dedication, the absolute trust in the teacher, the lack of ego, and the belief in oneself. When Ty and Shubhendra were on stage, they brought a certain mystique and awe and respect for what the human spirit can achieve. And I think that is what events of this nature can bring into our lives - the certainty that it is possible to bring beauty and spirituality into our lives while continuing with the required routines of daily existence. As a teacher myself, I am truly appreciative of the fact that NIST (Tara works at this school as a teacher) invited Ty to conduct a workshop for the students of the school. It is not too often that Bangkok receives artists of this stature who are also willing to spend valuable time in interacting with this often neglected sector! The discipline that artists need to put into their lives, and the importance of recognizing that fundamental skills need to be practiced and reinforced all the time is a message that only commited and humble role models can convey to our young people. As a parent, I think of all the members of that wonderful audience that day, who would have taken back the positive experience and shared it with their children, may be even encouraged them to take up music in which ever form and shape. What more can I add, except a very warm thank you to Shubhendra and Ty and my friends who gave me an opportunity to be a part of something so beautiful."
P.V.R. Rao said…
Dear Tara and Srinidhi,
It was, indeed, very interesting to read about the musical concert in Bangkok. The detailed account of the events and the activities behind the scenes were very graphic and once again we enjoyed the writing skills of Srinidhi!
P.V.R and Sarla
Shubhendra Rao said…
Thank you for your mail. Yes--I did indeed read Srinidhi's blog and enjoyed it very much. Yes--you can definitely post what I have written in the blog.

Shbendra Rao said:
Dear Tara,
I have been meaning to write to you ever since I left Bangkok but just didn’t have the time in HK. I have arrived back home after another successful concert in HK.

There are no words to express my gratitude to you and everyone there in Bangkok who made my first visit to Bangkok so successful and memorable. Honestly, I am overwhelmed by all the love that all of you gave and the hours of work that you, Viji and Gayatri put in to ensure a successful concert.

The audience response was overwhelming and it feels good to play for such a wonderful audience.

Ofcourse, everything was so wonderful because of your efforts in wanting this concert to succeed and I think that it was there for everyone to see. Sharing my mornings with Srinidhi was great and he was always so sweet.

Even the other concert for the IndoRama group of people was so wonderful and I will also write to Mr.Mohta personally. Thanks once again and I hope that we will see each other soon. Please also thank Viji and Gayatri on my behalf.

You will also be happy to hear that I have been given a special Art and Culture Award by Zee Television as a Youth Icon for spreading my music with the rest of the world. The award ceremony is on the 23rd of Nov in Bangalore.

Saskia and I are performing together in Bhuvaneshwar on 24th and in Delhi on 28th Nov. I have a week long tour of Punjab starting from the 12th and Saskia has a solo concert here in Delhi on the 19th. A busy time coming up but we are looking forward.

I really hope that I can come back to Bangkok with Saskia and have the wonderful audience enjoy her music too.
Thanks once again and do stay in touch.
Ty Burhoe said…
Ty was as usual sweet to write:

Hi Tara,
We had such an amazing time with you.

You are one of the most generous people I've met and both you and your husband were a joy to get to know.

Thank you so much for an amazing time, great food, great music and your loving spirit.

We'll stay in touch and when your blog link gets set, send it to me and I'll link it to my web site.

Lots of love and miss you already,

Varsha Nair said…
Hello Srinidhi and Tara

I just returned from New York and SF; overdosed on art shows and performances in NY of course! I left to go there a few days after the superb concert given by Shubhendra Rao and Ty Burhoe with the sound of their wonderful music still in my ears. Thank you so much Tara for making this happen. Do feel we are starved of such rich encounters and it means a lot to have my soul nurtured via Viji, Gayatri and your excellent efforts to bring us music.

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