Tag Archives: music

gaon chodab nahi: an anthem for the global #occupy movements

There have been other occupations. There have been other #occupy movements.

Occupation has for long been the name of the game for the colonists. Occupying far corners of the planet. Monopolizing the riches yielded by the earth. Displacing the indigenous inhabitants, the original occupants. Colonizing not just the lands and the bodies, but even the very minds of the peoples of the earth. This is how the global transnational corporate oligarchy has been built. At a faster pace in recent decades, yes, but it has for long been thus.

And long have the colonized, the occupied, sought, and often found, creative ways to resist the occupation. To refuse to be displaced, colonized, overrun, forgotten. To leave behind at least a voice of conscience that echoes through the ages. This is one such powerful voice, from the folk traditions of the indigenous peoples of the Deccan plateau in India, not far from the rocks that gave ancient Gondwanaland its name. Singing this time about dams and mines. Of pepsi and bisleri. Of the never-quenching thirst of the rulers of the first worlds for the lifeblood of the earth, drained from her every vein. Even of national parks and wildlife sanctuaries which displace indigenous people in the name of wildlife they’ve scarcely threatened. A voice that refuses to be silenced, displaced, occupied. A voice urging its people, us, to occupy, reclaim that which was rightfully ours, liberate the earth from the nexus of the money-changers and the politicians with their dogs wielding guns (and pepper-spray). A call to resist that is itself hard to resist.

This is an anthem, surely, for the current occupy movements worldwide. Even if their flames were lit from sparks within the heart of the global empires. For, it turns out, there are third worlds, and colonized peoples, within Manhattan and California as surely as the first world reaches deep within the jungles of central India and the Amazon. We may tweet and facebook our way towards new communities linking arms (violently) across the earth, to begin reoccupying what was/is ours. Let us not forget, however, that there have been, there continue to be, other occupations, other arms linked together, other fists and voices raised in defiance of the very empire some of us helped build. Or, at least, acquiesced in because we got our sips of the pepsi and the bauxite. Until the oligarchs got a bit too greedy even at home, leaving fertile ground thirsting for revolution in their own backyards.

And so, Bhaghwan Maaji’s powerful words and spiritedly plaintive elemental voice echo through the ether(net), and proclaim on behalf of us all: we will not leave our village! We will (re-)occupy our villages.


Gaon Chodab nahi!!

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8M5aeMpzOLU?wmode=transparent]


Making classical music with young musicians for 60 years!

If you put 100 children ages 6-12 in a room for an hour and a half, you’d expect a fair amount of squirming, right? This is the era of the shortened attention span, after all. Some giggling here, whispering there, one or two sharp rebukes?

Not at rehearsals of the Youth Orchestras of Fresno (YOOF), continues the above nice article in the Fresno Bee, about the concert coming up this Sunday to mark the 60th anniversary of YOOF. As you may know from a previous posting here, my older daughter, Sanzari, has been playing violin with YOOF for a couple of years now. She will be on stage again on Sunday, as part of a much larger group of musicians, mostly young, but also some older alumni creating some unique sounds. Try to be at the Saroyan Theatre in downtown Fresno for the concert if you can (see YOOF website linked above for ticket info).

The two younger groups within YOOF – Youth Chamber and Youth Symphony Orchestras – performed another concert on May 15th. Here are some images I was able to capture of the young kids enjoying making some wonderful music led by their irrepressibly energetic and buoyant conductor Thomas Loewenheim.


I tried to capture the mood with close-ups, sticking to my 300mm telephoto lens for the most part – let me know what you think of the results. Oh, and note that it was Kaberi who posted the images to her Flickr account before I got around to it – so the link will take you to her photostream!

The Rap Guide to Evolution returns to Fresno State! March 4th! Be there!!


Tri-Beta is thrilled to welcome Baba Brinkman and his acclaimed peer-reviewed hip-hop show “The Rap Guide to Evolution” back to the Fresno State campus once again. A regular performer at Fresno’s Rogue Festival, Baba first came to the valley with his Rap Canterbury Tales,  catching the attention of some of my English faculty colleagues who brought him to campus to perform to a limited audience. I first heard about his rap when he came back to the Rogue shortly after the Darwin Bicentennial to give us one of his early public performance of The Rap Guide to Evolution. We managed to bring him to campus where he rocked the house (although I don’t know if rappers rock houses, what with my general ignorance of musical genres). This modern-day bard, this Rapconteur, has since made quite a name for himself with his hip-hop takes on such erudite subjects as evolution, medieval poetry and human nature.  The Rap Guide to Evolution won the prestigious Scotsman Fringe First Award in Edinburgh in 2009, was written up in the New York Times,  and went on to tour the USA, Australia, and the UK, including appearances  at the Hammersmith Apollo in the UK, off-Broadway, and a TV appearance on The Rachel Maddow Show. Baba’s hip-hop tribute to Charles Darwin is set to transfer to New York City this spring. As I blogged here recently, Baba is currently producing a DVD version of the Rap Guide to Evolution, complete with fancy hip-hop videos of every number in the album and additional material.
He is back in the valley next week to perform on our campus and at the 2011 Rogue Festival where he will do his new show as the Rapconteur – you will want to catch that show as well, so check out the schedule in that link. But before he kicks off his Rogue show, we will get to see him on our campus, on Friday, March 4th, at 7:00 PM in the Peters Auditorium within the new Student Rec Center near the Save Mart Center. You can read/download/print the full flyer about this event attached below. Note also that this is a free show for students, faculty, and the general public, sponsored by the Tri-Beta biology student club, who continue to bring fascinating lectures and performances to our campus, like the recent Darwin Week festivities. So if you know any of the club members, or run into them somewhere, do give them a shoutout to thank them for enriching campus life for all of us! (Disclosure: I happen to be faculty advisor to the club and have played my role in instigating them to do all this stuff).
I look forward to a full house next friday joining in to chant I’m a African with Baba…

Download this file

Pandit Bhimsen Joshi: that magnificent voice will summon the monsoon no more…

Many will remember his more magnificent classical musical performances, running out of adjectives to describe the wonderful voice, its fantastic range, and his scarcely credible control over it. For me, though, this particular song, an invocation to goddess Laxmi, remains the one that has resonated throughout my life. It is perhaps one of the few things that still marks me out as a Kannadiga – that I can’t help but be moved by the devotion in this song! I grew up listening to my mother sing a version of it, she who was also trained in the same vocal tradition as Pandit Bhimsen Joshi; eventually, through my inadequate education into Indian classical music, I came to love his rendition of this classic. Years later, as a father walking around the house late at night to calm a cranky infant in my arms, I discovered that his voice had even more amazing powers: somehow this song, his voice, worked wonders that no lullaby could, instantly calming down both our daughters in their infancy! I am told that we even have a distant family connection with the maestro (genetically I am a Joshi, although my father got adopted into the Katti clan), through my paternal grandmother – but that is not the only reason why I can feel his rich voice resonating in my very bones.

A true musical highlight of my life: a concert he performed over 20 years ago on the shores of Dal lake in Srinagar, Kashmir. It was 1989, the last summer before the insurgency began, when the corrupt state government was making ever more desperate attempts to hold things together and bring in tourists. One of the incredible things they did was to team up with the Times of India, which was celebrating its 150th year, to host a series of classical music concerts at open air venues throughout the valley, free to the public, with transportation provided by the state! Not sure who thought that would calm the waters of the seething unrest, but I remain grateful for some truly wonderful musical experiences. The most magical was an evening in a park at the edge of Dal lake, with the lake and the mountains providing a magnificent background appropriate to his rich voice. And, as he got us deeper into the spell he was weaving, to the monsoon raga Megha Malhar, I remember monsoonal thunderclouds gathering over the lake behind us, catching the last rays of the sun, adding their own percussion to accompany his voice! It was July, and the mountains do get thunderstorms in the evenings anyway, sure – but surely his voice alone had summoned the very elements that evening, and all the troubles of the valley were washed away for a night. I still shiver thinking about the experience, feel the electricity of the evening.

Here’s one sample of his singing the Malhar:

Pandit Bhimsen Joshi is no more today. Here’s one short account of his remarkable journeys through an astonishing life. May his voice, at least, remain with us forever…

UPDATE: Aai (mom in Marathi) reminds me that the relation is not all that distant – Pandit Bhimsen Joshi was actually my Ajji’s (grandmother’s) cousin! He was also married to another cousin of hers (cousin marriages were common in that part of the country) – although that arranged marriage was a miserable one for the poor woman shackled to this freewheeling free-spirited (pun very much intended) mercurial genius. As a child I even visited his house for a wedding it seems, but clearly well before any lasting memories formed in my brain. How I wish I had remembered the exact family connection when I saw him in Kashmir!