In my second week in New Delhi I went to my first Indian classical music concert. I also began teaching private lessons and theory classes as well as directing ensembles at the Global Music Institute (GMI). For the last seven days I was thrown into situations in which I was not experienced. I had (and still have) little understanding of Hindustani music. I had never taught college-aged students in a classroom setting. However, I made a conscious effort to embrace my lack of knowledge.
I attended the Hindustani concert in an auditorium at the Indian Habitat Centre. The band consisted of a Tabla player, harmonium player and flutist who supported two vocalists (each vocalist performed a set by themselves). As the vocalist sang the melody of each piece in rhythmic phrasing that I could never notate, the harmonium player played the melody precisely in unison with him. The flutist would fill in the spaces in the melody with colourful embellishments. The Tabla player’s groove and perfectly placed fills created a feeling in my body that I often experienced listening to funk drummers like Zigaboo Modeliste and Billy Martin. Hayden Farrar, the fellow GMI faculty member with whom I attended the concert told me it was hilarious to watch me dancing in my seat every time the Tabla player would establish the groove at the beginning of a piece.
My first week at GMI was rewarding. I was pleased to learn of my students’ wide range of musical tastes. They expressed interest in different styles of Western music including blues, soul and jazz. I taught one of my ensembles “I Heard it Through The Grapevine”. Once everyone had learned their parts by ear I felt a rush of happiness. I was overjoyed to educate and hopefully inspire the pupils through the music that I love.
This week reminded me of the cliché “Ignorance is bliss.” My experience at the Hindustani concert was similar to the first time I listened to Oscar Peterson’s “Night Train” album, the first jazz CD I had ever heard. It was one of those lightbulb moments at which one thinks to one’s self, “I have no idea what is going on here but I know that I love it.” We should all be thankful for such moments. They are the times at which new doors are opened with no preconceptions to discourage us from going through them.