Paying tribute to the memory of The Maui News writer and performing artist Liz Janes-Brown, a unique "Devotion in Motion" benefit concert will be held on Friday evening featuring a premiere collaborative performance by tabla player Ty Burhoe, sarode player Steve Oda, Odissi dancer Sarala Dandekar, Japanese Yosakoi dancer Akari Ueoka, and Indian vocalists Manju and Tanya.
"It's a true fusion event blending aspects of central India's classical dance with north India's classical music and Japan's traditional Yosakoi dance and vocals from the folk tradition of India," explains Ty Burhoe. "I am very excited about the evening. I love putting together new collaborations."
Proceeds from the benefit will help the Ola Maui organization and Hospice Maui support their work with women and families impacted by breast cancer.
Steve Oda on sarode and Ty Burhoe on tabla collaborate for a ‘Celebration of Life’
Last year, a concert by Burhoe and sitarist Roshan Bhartiya at The Studio Maui was dedicated to Liz while she was in Hospice at the time.
"It was a very moving evening, and I am very happy to be able to participate in this dedication a year later," Burhoe continues.
A student of Indian tabla master Ustad Zakir Hussain since 1990, Burhoe is recognized for creating unusual collaborations that have woven the tabla with jazz, flamenco, rock, bluegrass, Celtic, Chinese, and African music. In recent years, he's worked with a number of notable musicians across the spectrum including banjo virtuoso Bella Fleck, Steely Dan's Walter Becker, Def Leppard drummer Rick Alan, jazz pianist Art Lande, former Journey drummer Steve Smith, devotional chanter Krishna Das, Native American flutist R. Carlos Nakai, popular New Age artist Kitaro and the Tibetan Guome Monks. He has released a number of CDs and performed on the soundtrack of the Oscar-winning documentary "Born into Brothels."
* The first Liz-Janes Brown Celebration of Life gala takes place Friday beginning at 7:30 p.m. at The Studio Maui. Besides the concert with Ty Burhoe, Steve Oda, Sarala Dandekar, Akari Ueoka, Manju and Tanya, the event also includes a yoga for wellness class, a silent auction, an arts show, a presentation by Paul Janes-Brown and Denise Fleetham, and pupus. Tickets are $50 (tax deductible). For more information, please call 575-9390.
Ty Burhoe and Steve Oda will also perform an intimate concert of classical Indian music on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at the Temple of Peace in Haiku. Tickets are $10. Limited seating, call 575-5220.
This acclaimed musician first encountered classical Indian music while studying counseling and therapy in college.
"It was an epiphany," he recalls. "It was (sarode master) Ali Akbar Khan playing "Rag Chandranandan" on an old LP series called the "Signature Series." It is still one of the all-time classics for any Indian music lover. I stumbled upon this music, but I didn't gravitate towards the tabla right away. I thought I wanted to be a sarode player at first. I would disappear every day at college into an old, wooden telephone-booth-sized listening room with my headphones and a record player and totally dissolve into the few classic Indian music LPs that they had in the library. It was totally life changing for me."
Burhoe was inspired to learn the Indian percussion instrument discovering a seminal album by the jazz/Indian fusion band Shakti, featuring legendary guitarist John McLaughlin and the phenomenal tabla playing of Zakir Hussain.
"I realized that I deeply wanted to learn the tabla, and it was because of Zakir Hussain," he says. "It was almost as if I knew he was going to be my teacher and that we were supposed to work together for the remainder of our lives. It was a mysterious and awe-inspiring feeling. I have been his student now for over 18 years and for the last 12 years, I've been his tour manager and right-hand man for many of his big tours. I also build all his percussion rigs and cases for bands like Shakti and Mickey Hart's Planet Drum. We have become very close over the years and like in the old days, the guru-student relationship has become a reality."
The melodic appeal of the Indian tabla particularly entranced him. "I have never and still don't think of my self as a drummer," he emphasizes. "I was the melodic, folky type guy playing guitar and violin and singing. So to this day, I still think of the tabla as being a melodic instrument that happens to be incredibly rhythmic."
Having played with musicians of assorted genres, Burhoe says classical Indian music requires a very specific, defined approach from which a trained musician can improvise.
"There are clear rules of engagement with classical Indian music," he explains. "I know what I am supposed to play and how I am supposed to improvise within the music. It is so clear and specific, that it is incredibly beautiful because of its purity. It might seem limiting if we try to describe all the rules that keep it classical, but once those rules are digested and the character of the music is realized, then the freedom of expression that begins to appear is quite captivating."
As one can imagine, it takes years of practice to become proficient playing classical Indian music with this demanding instrument.
"It is regarded as one of the most sophisticated and complex drums (if not instruments in general) on the planet," he reports. "It has a language that that represents exactly the sounds the instrument makes and has as many letters in its alphabet as the English language. It has sentence structure, styles of composing and improvising as well as poetry and storytelling as any major language has. This all applies to the classical tradition of the tabla. The folk and light music traditions of the tabla show another side.
"The rumor that it takes 10 hours a day and you must sacrifice your life in order to play tabla is simply not true. With proper technique and intention, a couple of hours a week can get someone to a place where they can play with people and have a lot of fun."
At Friday's concert, Burhoe will team with Canadian sarode player Steve Oda. The two musicians have worked together over the years.
"Steve has become one of the great exponents of the sarode within classical Indian music," says Burhoe. "He spent many years as a jazz guitarist when he was young and then, like myself, came across Ali Akbar Khan and the sarode, and was swept away by the beauty of the tradition. The sarode is an 18-stringed fretless lute with steel strings, and is a very difficult instrument to play with subtlety and tenderness. Steve is able to play the sarode with such sensitivity and dynamic range. We have been touring together in Japan and Australia and around the U.S. for a number of years now."
Last year Burhoe released the sublime CD "Invocation," designed for yoga and meditation practice. Later this year he will release a duet CD featuring Kai Eckhardt of the John McLaughlin Trio playing five different basses and Burhoe on tabla and percussion. "It's a bass and tabla funk record," he says. "It should be pretty cool. I am also releasing a CD by jazz pianist Bill Douglas, Kai Eckhardt and myself in the winter."
He also plans to release two DVDs soon. "One will be a classical Indian live concert with Shubhendra Rao, Ravi Shankar's top student," he adds. "The other is a live concert of the poetry of Rumi, with poet Coleman Barks, cellist David Darling, and myself on percussion. There are many things on the horizon that I am excited about."
* Contact Jon Woodhouse at jon firstname.lastname@example.org.