Friday, May 30, 2008

In Concert--Mishra Dreaming

Pandit Shivnath and Deobrat Mishra
The Lincoln Theatre
Mount Vernon, Washington
May 29, 2008

I do not know why it was not front page news that internationally renowned Sitarists--father and son duo, Pandit Shivath and Deobrat Mishra were making a special appearance in town. Certainly folks here could get an eyeful of positive news, of a music that spreads peace and love instead of fear, but sadly, even with the wonderful efforts of the concert promoters, Elfa Gisla and Diane Light, this concert did not receive the fanfare it so deserved. Imagine playing second fiddle to rising gas prices and other gloom.

However, for those who did attend the concert held at the historic Lincoln Theatre in Old Town, Mount Vernon, there was plenty of fanfare in the guise of fiery rhythms, and melodic phrases that brought chills to my spine due to the sheer beauty they possessed. The audience for the most part, appeared educated in regard to classical Indian music, many of them having come of age during the Summer of Love era and familiar with Ravi Shankar, probably the most famous sitarist ever.

Yet, Deobrat's introduction of the components of ragas (time of day, beat cycles, etc…) acted as a lovely refresher and prepared us for the slow unfolding of the Alap to the first and only raga, Raag Charukeshi performed that evening. While many folks enjoy the rapid notes and explosive beats that come from the faster beat cycles, the alap is a wonderful meditation that allows listeners' hearts and minds to enter the music, gently.

And with most alaps, Pandit Shivnath and Deobrat built on excitement through playful call and responses of their respective sitars--a nudge here and a smirk there. While some folks might have seen it as a competition between father and son to see who could outplay the other, I saw it as a marriage between the two instruments which seamlessly flowed into one another. And at times, the musicians amused themselves and audience members. Occasionally, an explosion of applause would reverberate through the theatre.

The visuals too added to the peaceful atmosphere--clouds of powder flying off of the tablas as tabla player Marco Zonka of Chicago prepared for a real musical workout. And Felicity Gerwing of British Columbia gracefully plucking the tamboura strings added to the poetics. Light fell onto the sitars causing the fret boards to shimmer and sparkle, as if all of this was a beautiful scene in a nightly dream. For me a concert provides both audio and visual delights, and it feels Zen like--taking each moment as it comes while allowing the music to invade every cell of the body to create wholeness. Indian Classical music possesses both the advenurous spirit of rock music without any toxic effects, and the beauty of exotic poetry.

Deobrat had mentioned that his father, who he loves so dearly is a "tiger of sitar" and in a way this appeared to be true. Just as a tiger awaits patiently for the right time to move, to pounce, and to act, Shivnath would search out the right moment and the right notes to deliver his deeply poetic expression. And this expression evolved over the course of three beat cycles, (7, 12 & 16 beats). Zonka offered steady beats throughout, never showing off, but always displaying great dexterity and assuredness. No doubt, if he had wanted to, he could have launched into a long winded tabla solo (not that anyone would have minded). However, the concert was about unity and not one musician or another outshining another. I found this refreshing.

The musicians ended with a song Dream that was composed by Shivnath. Deobrat shared his father's dream of preserving the classical Indian music for future generations and an academy that he created that bars no child, despite their class or cultural origin. This dream, like the song that flowed out of the musicians instruments, and through Deobrat's stunning vocals, dovetails other famous dreams such as John Lennon's Imagine or Martin Luther King, Jr. I Have a Dream Speech. This dream possesses a universal appeal and a selflessness that touches the hearts of anyone willing to hear it.

And by sharing this dream with others, more people will manifest their own visions, those that hide in dusty hearts, those dreams that never until now seemed possible, but seeing what another human being has done, all of a sudden seem doable. And among those dreamers, we can also include Elfa Gisla, Founder of the Conway Muse and her business/dream partner, Diane Light, a healer and colleague of The Mishras.

Having seen The Mishras perform their stunning compositions, I feel lighter and more hopeful that some day we will all be more conscious and conscientious towards the music we perform or choose for listening pleasure. That we won't play our music too loud because of a strong need to be noticed. That we won't treat music as wallpaper or as a psychological manipulative tool to sell more products or change people's thoughts against their will. That music will recall its roots when it healed, exhilarated and informed its listeners.

And besides, I would rather hear musicians who place Spirit before ego, and perform for the joy of it. In this way, joy enters all who listen and that joy seeps out into the world, healing everyone it encounters.

For information about The Mishras go to

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