Posts Tagged ‘india’

A beautiful journey

February 2, 2009
We’ve been back for a while now and have had some time to adjust.  Right now we’re working on the journey’s  DVD that will be released in about one year.  Meanwhile Bert and I are undertaking new adventures.
Last week  we played at Celtic Connections in Glasgow and at the Cathedral Quarter Arts festival in Belfast and we will start touring with “Het Internationaal Folkcomplot” soon.  I’d still promised to write about the last part of the journey, so..here it is..

After leaving Darjeeling we headed for Kalimpong, a small Ghorka city where we recorded Sandy Denny’s “Rising for the moon” in a flower garden with the snowy peaks of the Himalaya in the background. The next morning as we left quite early, I walked down the hill into town in a very good mood.  As I passed a Buddhist monastery below with prayer flags waving in the wind and the snow mountains in sight, I heard the low sound of prayer coming out of the building and I stopped for a while. It seemed like a perfect moment.

Then we drove to lower India, passed the poor but beautiful province Assam, where we travelled the last few miles with armed police escorte (for there’d been about 30 kidnappings there in the last month). On a desolated road we proceeded through the rural border area.  And then..entered Bhutan.

Being there, after  two hard  months of travelling, was wonderful. Like a fairytale. We crossed  the border at Gelephu, a quite uncommon crossing where no group of western cars had entered before..and there was a welcome commity of Bhutanese school children there. Very overwhelming. It made me smile.

After two days of driving through Bhutan’s  gorgeous mountain landscape we reached the capital Thimphu where we played at the Kilu Music School. Arnold donated the cittern and the other musical instruments. Also a giclee of Henk Helmantel’s still life painting of the cittern was presented to a representative of the Bhutanese Government. To me personally the highlight that day was meeting Namkha and Lhamo, the two royal traditional  singers of Trio Druk Yul, with whom I rehearsed a Bhutanese song that we would record together the next day.

Namkha & Lhamo

Namkha & Lhamo

The next day we also met with Jigme of Trio Druk Yul,  a very special encounter. The five of us rehearsed in our hotelroom, Bert on the cittern, Jigme on his dranyen (a beautiful 6 stringed instrument with a dragon shaped end). Hans filmed it all and that afternoon we went to the Dzong (see the earlier pictures) to make some outside recordings. We repeated our rehearsals the next day and performed together at the finale, the big centenary concert, as part of the festivities of the crowning of the King in the center of Thimphu on the festival grounds aside the river. All was broadcasted live by Bhutanese national television. Afterwards Namkha, Lhamo and Jigme took us to a National Gross Happiness congres in another part of town, where the five of us perfomed once more. As we were about to start the power went off and the lights went out, but that made it all the more special, as we started singing and playing in the dark untill it switched on again.

And then, after our short, but very intense stay in Bhutan, we flew home and entered the Dutch winter.  It has been a tremendous journey of numerous impressions. I’m looking forward to the release of the DVD as well as to future collaborations with the musicians we met along the way. I will still be writing on this blog if there’s any news..

Linde, The Netherlands

p.s.  a special giclee of the still life with cittern by Henk Helmantel (like the one donated to the Bhutanese Government) can be ordered via this link.

The final concert

The final concert

Henk Helmantel's still life painting of the cittern

Henk Helmantel's still life painting of the cittern

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“Music with a cause”

November 5, 2008

These are turbulent times and we’re travelling in a bubbly part of the world. One day after we’d left Quetta (Pakistan) there was a severe earthquake just 70 kilometres off the city. Right now I’m watching the Indian coverage of Barack Obama winning the US elections in a hotel room in Agra, India; a special moment in history.

Travelling through Pakistan was interesting and the images were beautiful, but as we were constantly escorted by policemen it was hard to really experience the country and its people. Whereas in Pakistan there seemed to be large areas with still a hugely ‘traditional’ lifestyle, crossing the border to India we entered an eclectic world of the new and the old, the rich and the poor. Sacred cows at the motorways eating the garbage alongside the roads; tuk tuks, walkers, bicycles, fancy cars and the occasional elephant all using the same road in a dangerous driving style. Bert and I drove to Delhi (an enormous city with 16 million inhabitants) for a concert that was scheduled for November 3rd in the outside auditorium of the Vasant Valley School.

The concert was organised via Roger, the man who has lent his Landrover to us, by Round Table India (an organisation that does a lot of benefit projects) in support of their project, ‘Freedom through Education’ and they did an impressive job of organising it all. The main organiser Khushroo Kalyanwala, an Indian architect, invited us to stay at his house the first night and took us to the Delhi main TV station the next day for a live interview announcing the concert. We told about our journey and our aim to connect with people through music in all the different countries we cross and on the studio monitor I could see them broadcasting the both of us with the subtitle “Music with a cause” (quite an impressive title…). It was a nice, sparkly interview and we played two fragments of songs (“Follow the Heron” and “The snows..”). That evening we slept at the beautiful farm house of another man, by the name of Puneet Gupta, on the edge of town.

The next morning Bert and I were taken to the school site and met with three very fine musicians (mr. P. L. Dhandra: Sitar, mr. Uday Debanshi: harmonium, mr. Sukumar Kolley: tabla) with whom we rehearsed some songs for the concert later that evening (the traditional indian way, seated on the ground carpet together). And the concert was a special event…in contrasting Indian style. Bert and I played two sets of 40 minutes, joined on some of the songs by the beautiful sounds of the Indian musicians and as we played our songs about..winds, seas, love, birds and spring in the outside concert room, every 4 minutes a noisy airplane flew over after it’d just had taken off from Delhi airport. Still we played very well I think and I enjoyed it a lot. Kind of surreal was the small media hype that took place that evening. For apart from Hans recording there were many, many cameras of multiple TV stations there filming the event with its unique mix of music, travelling and the good project. We were interviewed by three national TV stations (i.e. CNN IBN) as well as some smaller ones and it was definitely one of the highlights of the journey.
 
The Delhi concert

The Delhi concert (see the large posters in the background! We've never had them this big before..)