This week, I performed my first concert in New Delhi with GMI director Tarun Balani and GMI bass faculty Hayden Farrar. I also visited the National Gallery of Modern Art. My first gig in India was a fantastic experience. The speed at which our trio has connected musically and personally has been pleasantly surprising. I can’t wait to see how this band evolves over the next 3 months.
Although my first gig in India and my visit to the National Gallery were memorable individual events, I want to focus on something I have experienced daily since my arrival in Delhi. Every morning I have gone for a walk in a park near my apartment. Every day I have seen the same people meditating and doing yoga. What I have enjoyed the most to observe has been a group of men in their 60s who sit in a circle of benches after their morning stroll. Although I cannot understand a word they are saying it is easy to tell that this has been their routine for many years. Sometimes they laugh hysterically with each other. At other times they are in deep discussion. Regardless of the topic they are all completely engaged in the conversation.
I feel that in the Western world we often forget or even reject the value of these congregations. We might think that at 8am we should be having our daily caffeine fix to get through the work day. Perhaps we should be getting in some last minute studying or in my case, practicing the piano. We do not realize that in order to be effective in whatever we do for a living or as a parent, spouse, sibling or friend we have to be mindful of the people and the world around us. This year I often reached my destination without recollection of anything that happened on the subway ride I took there. I sometimes heard the person with which I was conversing but failed to really listen to them. Watching this group of men day after day taking the time to hear each other’s thoughts, feelings and stories has reminded me of the value in being mindful in all activities and experiences. I have been inspired to stop worrying about the next thing I have to do and really be present in what is happening right now. This is the first time in the past 5 years (since I began my education at Berklee College of Music) that practicing the piano has not been my top priority. Through daily practice of meditation and yoga I have been strengthening my mindfulness in all of my daily activities as well as musical performances and workshops that I have presented.
Any improvising musician will occasionally get in a rut of playing the same old licks in their solos. Composers in all genres will experience writer’s block. In such moments these artists must realize that music is a reflection of the world. We can find inspiration within ourselves and in the environment and people around us. We have to practice mindfulness just as much as we have to achieve technical proficiency if our art is to be relevant and relatable. Music does not define us. We define our music.