A Musical Story of India.

Toss Levy lives in Warmenhuizen, a town in the Dutch province of North Holland & maintains & restores Indian musical instruments. He wrote us about how he came to this…

Toss Levy“I was turned onto Indian music from George Harrison with “Within you and Without you” back in I believe 1967. I was then 12 . A few years later I discovered Indian classical music and immediately realised this is what I was destined to follow…  the path of Indian music.”

“I went to India in the early 70’s with the magic bus ( 60 pounds one way London-Delhi!) and came back with 2 sitars and no shoes… those were the days.”

Toss & Jamaluddin Bhartiya, 1986“Since then Indian music has been the red line running through my life. I moved to Holland and started lessons on sitar for 3 years with the late Jamaluddin Bhartiya, one of Ravi Shankars top students. I switched to tabla and within a couple of years was accompanying him in concerts. He was a Sufi at heart and I learnt through him in my view the emotional essence of the music.”

“I went on to study tabla under Latief Ahmed Khan and Ustad Fiyaz Khan, both from the Delhi gharana.  I got my degree for tabla and secondary subject sitar at the Rotterdam Conservatorium in 1995. I have played concerts with other great artists such as Uday Bhawalker, Lakshmi Shankar, Prince Rama Varma and Roshan Jamal, and besides many European lands have also had concerts in New York , the Middle East and India. As one of the five co-founders of ISTAR Nederland,  with Professors Joep Bor and Wim van der Meer, we were responsible for the start of the Indian Music course at the World Music Department of the Rotterdam Conservatorium.”

“I have in all these years acquired a lot of experience giving workshops and lessons in Indian music, and about the Indian instruments themselves. I gave a lecture at the India Instituut and demonstrations at the Tropical Museum, both in Amsterdam.
I have also been involved with the repair and restoration of Indian instruments for almost 40 years and have had several trips to India for this purpose. Having sat with some great builders and musicians to learn the trade, I feel I have accomplished a true understanding of the requirements for the special Indian sound quality production and its possibilities.”

 About his web site he writes…

Tambura I“You will read about the meaning and the profound importance of the sound quality and the process of jawari (the filing of the bridge from where the main sound and overtones are produced). Also you will find a history of the origin of the flat bridge, jawari and its development.”

“I have looked into the tanpura, the drone instrument that supplies the backbone to all Indian music. Its history, building of the tanpura and basic will be found here. Information about playing positions and techniques can be found here too.”

“Studying tabla and sitar at the Rotterdam’s Conservatory in the early 90’s, I wrote my thesis on tabla. I will also share some interesting parts from this paper.”

Tambura head“And as a service I will explain some basic instrument maintenance. It’s for those of you who are new to the instruments so you understand a little more how to care for them.”

Toss Levy.We will be publishing articles by Toss & in the meantime you can enjoy his web site TossLevy.nl

Read a review of a 1980 LP by Jamaluddin Bhartiya (with downloadable tracks) from the excellent Anthems for the Nation of Luobaniya.

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Eight Finger Eddie’s advice…

Eddie's advice.

Eight Finger Eddie – Advice in “Pigs & Palms”, Goa 1975

Eddie lived on Anjuna Beach from the late 1960s & was often concerned for the young & inexperienced travellers who experienced ‘bad trips’; here is his advice on how to come down. Still relevant today, viva The Stoned Pig Magazine! Eddie himself had stopped taking drugs in 1963 although he was fond of an occasional shot of dark rum.

I don’t know which year Eddie started his soup kitchen for indigent travellers, but it was running in 1969 when I lived briefly on Anjuna Beach. He had let it be known that anyone with spare uncooked food, often only rice & dal, could bring it to him & whatever was available in the late morning would be cooked up & served to whoever appeared; anyone could turn up & get a basic meal; this was literally a lifesaver for some of the crazier boys & girls.

He was also known for being able to handle people who had flipped out; he’d tie them to a coconut tree until they came down, rough & ready perhaps but it usually worked & afterwards they would join the queue for the soup kitchen as often people flipped out from lack of food as much as from too many drugs.

He’d talk to them in his crazy-seeming rapid-fire monologue, which if you listened to it was usually good old-fashioned parental-like advice, but couched in Eddies own inimitable Beatnik/Hippie style.

The Stoned Pig magazine was started by Tarot Ray Selby, who wrote:

“The original idea came out of a realization during 1974, whilst tripping on a full-moon night in late season that we freaks had been shitting on our own doorstep and were too stoned out – in the wrong way – to realize what we had done and were/are doing Tin cans purchased by freaks, from the fruit-juice vendors lay discarded half-buried in broken glass, used Tampax, shitty newspaper, broken ampoules, cigarette packs and the other waste products of a Stoned-out sub-culture of the modern western mixed-drug culture removed to a once deserted palm beach paradise.”

“I had learnt that it would cost very little and be an important service to the beaches of Goa and to our ecosystem in general to publish a broadsheet that gave simple instructions as to functioning in an environment such as we lived in, in a clear and healthy manner.” From Year of the Pig.

Eddie officiating marriage Anjuna.

Eddie took on many roles & even officiated at marriage ceremonies on the beach, he became a kind of alternative minister; there was a certain cachet too in having the oldest hippie officially bless your union.

Eddie & Nico - Jan 2010 Anjuna.

I left North Goa in March 1970 & didn’t meet Eddie again until January 2010 when Georgette took me to see him; he of course didn’t remember me & I remembered him only as a kind of symbol of the Goa 1960s scene; it turned out he was this really nice, friendly, skinny old man of 86, living alone with few visitors & supported by a couple of devoted much younger friends who saw to it that he got his meals & had his rent paid.

The next day I came back alone with a bottle of dark rum & a couple of cans of Coke & we sat in the looming evening of a Goan winters day, drinking & talking.

When I left I could hardly walk; Eddie seemed unchanged by the alcohol.

I never saw him again & nine months later he died.

Eddie on The Flower Raj encyclopaedia.

Eddie in The Flower Raj photo albums.

(thanks to Peter Thomas for alerting me to the Stoned Pig article).

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Shop for Children of The Flower Children.

I don’t ever do advertising on this site, but my talented son-in-law David (supported by my energetic daughter Kimo) has started a shop online for handmade screen-printed children’s clothes, starting with lovely t-shirts made to David’s’ own designs using his own hand-press.Real Wild Child UKReal Wild Child UK (For Kids with Attitude), is based in Manchester in the glorious North of England, a small family business run by designer, screen printer and stay at home dad David and partner Kimo, mum to ‘real wild child’ Dylan. We create fun, original, hand-screen printed clothing for kids who want to wear something just a little bit unique & distinctive.

David working here; this one is a four colour Miles Davis t-shirt, which he gave me later. You can contact Dave via the shop if you have a design you would like made to order.

Real Wild Child UK On-line Shop

Real Wild Child UK Facebook Page

For the children & the children of the children of the flower children!

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Cows Ear – A Short Time in Gokarna.

Gokarna in Karnataka, just over the  border with Goa, first Hindu outpost reachable from South Goa in one easy stage by the spectacular Konkan Railway, a winding line through a thousand kilometres of the Western Ghats, tunnel after tunnel & in between, spectacular views of the coastal regions, travelling down South.

Gokarna Railway Station NoticeIt’s worth clicking on this remarkable wall notice, glued with tape to the peeling pink paint of Gokarna Station Hall, reminiscent of a South Indian temple design, secularised for the Transport Devata, whoever he may be. One feels he must be a God as a female deity would have run things better!

Only in India could a railway notice contain exhortatory quotations from (in order), Mahatma Gandhi, the Atharva Veda, Oprah Winfrey, Quintillian, Kant, Thoreau, the Lord Buddha & Ruskin.

Let me bow in respect to the anonymous railway official who composed this poster & let me now add the penguins of the Gokarna Road Railway Station into the mix. Continue reading ‘Cows Ear – A Short Time in Gokarna.’

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Ragascape III – Surbahar, Sources.

Surbahar, sources: in this third article the musicians who contributed to the development of the surbahar & its music are described & placed in a historical context.

Bahadur Shah IIIt was in 1858 that Bahadur Shah II surrendered to the British at his royal palace in Delhi.  Not long thereafter he was exiled to Rangoon where he passed away in 1862.  Although the cap was definitely sealed on the Mughal Empire with the dethronement of Bahadur Shah II, the British did not hesitate to behead his sons, presumably to ensure that no one could ever lay claim to the small estate that remained a part of the Mogul dynasty to the very end.

At this very same time Ashiq Ali Khan was born into a family of musicians in Varanasi, the holy city 350 miles southeast of Delhi.  His ancestors had come to Varanasi some fifty years earlier in the company of Jahandar Shah, the eldest son of Bahadur Shah II.  Jahandar had been gifted a piece of land in Varanasi; and along with his family, friends, and court musicians  he left the Red Fort in Delhi and proceeded to Shivalaya, a small enclave within Varanasi not far from the banks of the Ganges. Amongst these court musicians were two brothers Jaggu and Makku Khan. They were dhrupad singers and grandsons of Nayak Dhundu, the renowned court musician of Shah Jahan (ruled 1628-1658).

Ashiq Ali KhanJaggu Khan had four sons, one of whom was Sadiq Ali Khan. He was trained as a dhrupad singer but died prematurely when his own son Ashiq Ali Khan was still a child.   It then became the responsibility of  his uncle Waras Ali Khan to continue  Ashiq Ali’s training. Little is known about Waras Ali Khan’s blood lineage, but we do know that he was adopted by Makku Khan and Bade Mohammed Khan, a famous veena player. We also know that, as an adopted son, he learned veena  well.

Due to the early demise of Ashiq Ali’s father, it became the responsibility of Ashiq Ali Khan’s uncle, Waras Ali, to provide his musical training.  He could not give him the vina transmission, as it was a strictly held belief that to teach veena  to anyone but one’s own son could lead to misfortune and unknown disease.   As a result, Waras Ali decided to teach him the surbahar, an instrument related both to sitar and veena.

Surbahar

Although the surbahar looks like an oversized sitar, it has a deeper, more powerful and sustaining sound. The gourd of the surbahar is much larger and flatter than that of the sitar. It is shaped like a tortoise shell and was referred to in ancient texts as a kachipa (tortoise shell) veena. Although the left hand technique is similar to the sitar, the right hand technique is the same as the veena. This technique on the surbahar requires the use of three mizrabs (plectrums) whereas the veena only requires two plectums. There is no other school of surbahar in India to this day that knows this technique based upon the stroking patterns of the veena. All other schools play with one plectrum in a way similar to sitar.

Continue reading ‘Ragascape III – Surbahar, Sources.’

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Mary Finnigan on the Tibetan Buddhist Diaspora.

My interest in Tibet and Tibetan Buddhism started when David Bowie introduced me to Chime Youngdon Rinpoche in 1969. The initial driver was curiosity about an exotic oriental way of life, cloaked in mystery, myth and stoned hippie legend.

After a year of the Beckenham Arts Lab, which peaked with a Free Festival in a local park, which has itself now become a legend, I took myself off to Samye Ling in Scotland. My fantasy about what to expect from the first Tibetan meditation centre in the developed world revolved around monks and nuns in maroon robes,chanting at dawn and meditating all day.

David Bowie 1969.What I found was a clique of upper class dropouts, including one or two recognisable celebs, basically enjoying a holiday in the romantic surroundings of a shrine n’dine in a former Victorian hunting lodge. There was only one Tibetan in residence — he sported a Jimi Hendrix hairstyle and slouched around the place in velvet bell bottoms and an Afghan jacket, bored out of his skull and waiting for the day when his brother the abbot returned from a trip to India and he could be off back to sex n’ drugs n’ rock’n roll in London.

Actually there was lots of sex and some drugs at Samye Ling in those days. It was more like a rest home for burned out hippies than a religious institution. But there was frisson of excitement for me in the Samye Ling shrine room. Gazing at the thangka paintings of deities, some serene and full of light and others ferociously dark, triggered a yearning — as if I was re-encountering something familiar. This was how my love affair with all things Tibetan began.

Chenrezig Mahakala.It took me to India several times and to Nepal. It took me back to Samye Ling many times. I helped Sogyal Rinpoche set himself up as a meditation teacher in London. The more I mined for information and experience, the more the fascination grew and developed. Then I met my root guru, Choegyal Namkhai Norbu and the pieces of the jigsaw that were still missing fell into place.

I’d had a few interesting moments on the cushion, but nothing  to compare with Norbu Rinpoche’s capacity to make contemplative practice accessible. It was roughly three years later when the first shadows started to appear on my Tibetan horizon. A young man from Sogyal’s group phoned me with a saga of concerns about Sogyal’s sex life. This was worrying, but it didn’t jolt me out of the Shangri-La bubble. For some time I didn’t want to believe there was a dark side to pre-Chinese Tibet.

Then, knowing that I am a journalist, a succession of very sad and disturbed women told me horror stories about  their sexual encounters with Sogyal and other Tibetan lamas. As the internet came into our lives, I researched the reality of Tibet — the dark side — the very dark side, that had arrived in equal measure to the light with the exiles who realised that Vajrayana Buddhism was their greatest asset and could be marketed to naive westerners.

It was very difficult to hang onto my Buddhist mojo while all this was going on. More than once I was on the point of walking away and never coming back. But thanks to the genius of Namkhai Norbu that never quite happened. Instead I launched into a one-woman campaign to shed light on the darkness, to talk about the corruption and the greed — the sexual exploitation and the political skullduggery. And I write about it.

Choegyal Namkhai Norbu.In so doing, I hope to extend awareness of how and where the magnificent tradition of Tibetan Buddhism has been bent out of shape. I have lost friends as a result, because I broke the law of omerta that forms the bedrock of religious cultism.  I saw many Tibetan Buddhist groups adopting cultish attitudes and behaviour — in most instances encouraged by their Tibetan gurus.

This seemed to me to be the polar opposite of the freedom of mind, body and spirit inherent in the Buddha’s realisation. Nico Morrison assembled this anthology for The Flower Raj of my writings for The Guardian Comment is Free. They emerged from my desire to make a small contribution to correcting the swing of the pendulum towards spiritual materialism in diaspora Tibetan Buddhism. I do it because I cannot think of a better way to help it survive.

From “The Guardian – Comment is free” (in order of publication):

Tibet's 17th Karmapa, Urgyen Trinley Dorje,.No role for the Karmapa“The Dalai Lama has acted shrewdly in giving up his political position and removing the need for a regency”.

 

Tibetan Buddhist nun prostrates. Lama sex abuse claims call Buddhist taboos into question“Allegations against Sogyal Rinpoche highlight the dangers of Buddhist injunctions against gossip and insistence on loyalty”.

 

Buddhist monks attend an alms offering ceremony. Mingyur Rinpoche, the millionaire monk who renounced it all“The Buddhist teacher’s decision to leave his monastery suggests a revival of the principles laid down by the Buddha”.

 

Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje attracted 2,000 people, paying $200 each, to hear him speak at an event.The Buddhist organisations that are thriving during the debt crisis“In times of financial hardship, meditators are still willing to pay large fees to hear the teachings of high-profile Buddhists”.

 

Young Tibetan Buddhist monks in Bodh Gaya, India.The YouTube confessional sending shockwaves through the Buddhist world“Young Kalu Rinpoche’s traumatic revelations highlight the dissonance between Tibetan tradition and 21st-century life”.

 

The Dalai Lama has warned against being seduced into Tibetan Buddhism by its exotic tantric aura.'The lamas who give Tibetan Buddhism a bad name“Don’t be taken in by the Shangri La factor. If seeking guidance in Buddhism, choose your teacher carefully”.

 

 

Mary Finniganby Mary Finnigan
mary.finnigan@gmail.com
Mary Finnigan Journalism and PR.
© 2013 Mary Finnigan & Guardian Newspapers.

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