onsdag 13. januar 2010

Diving into eastern classical music!

Happy new year everybody! (Although it still is 2066 in Nepali year :-)).

I must say that the year is taking on very nicely. I know that I have been a terrible blogwriter, but I guess that is mostly because I am enjoying my life so much here that I don't have time to sit down and write about it! However, I will try to do better!

Today I have taken two hours of eastern vocal class, and it is so much fun! The vocal classes differs a lot from the way I teach in western. I always start my classes with a vocal warm up, and we are for the most of the time standing up during the lesson. For you who knows the western scale "do-re-ma-fa-so-la-ti-do", the corresponding scale in Nepali is "sa-re-ga-ma-pa-dha-nee-sa". My vocal teacher starts the class with singing on "sa" for a long time, accompanied by tampura, a large string instrument that gives the tone to the scales we are working on. You can almost say that it functions as a drone (borduntone). First I attended a beginner's class, but the teacher quickly told me to move to advanced level! That was very uplifting!

The first hour we worked with intervals. First it was pretty easy, singing more or less stepwise. And then the teacher advanced and gave us more and more difficult intervals. After a while he gave me a short melody that I had to give name to (i.e. he would sing pa-dha-re-ga, without giving the name of the notes, but asking me for them). Now, because he meant I was fit for advanced level, I stayed for the next class, and got to learn the scale of a raag; raag yaman. Raag or raga basically means a melodic mode in Indian or eastern classical music. It is a series of four or more notes that can shape a melody. There are extremely many ragas, and it takes a long time just to learn one raga. All the ragas has something we call pakad - this means the main notes of the raga. In the raga I partly learnt today, the notes pa-ma-ga-re-nee-re-sa are the main notes, or if you like: so-fa-mi-re-ti-re-do! To join this class was really an exhilerating experience. Once I got the hang of it, and also attached it to the way we work with intervals in western music, I got really hooked! So hopefully I will be able to learn so many new things to bring home by the end of my stay!

Also because I am getting more Nepalese friends here, they are happy not only to talk Nepali with me, but also to teach me popular Nepali songs. So don't be surprised if I invite you to a Nepalese concert when I come home!!

It is not always easy to express in words how it is to be here, so I want to share more with you in pictures and music. Hope you will enjoy what you see and hear, and maybe you can understand why I am enjoying my life here so much! :-D

fredag 27. november 2009

Dancer in the Dark

So, another great concert in Kathmandu! Yesterday me, the Norwegian students and a bunch of great colleagues had concert at Electric Pagoda, an excellent spot in Thamel, the tourist district of Kathmandu City. Not only was it great to perform there, but we also had a "dancer" to join us. Jimi is his name, and he dances whenever there is some music going on. I actually saw him on my first night here, when there was a concert in Garden of Dreams. Same thing, dancing for hours! He got his name because he met Jimi Hendrix when he was ten years old!! Meaning: he is in his 60-70's! Ok, so maybe he was a tiny bit high on something, but I must say that it was an inspiring, magical experience. Singing good old Stevie Wonder-tunes with this man dancing full of joy and energy in front of me. Singing together with me, enjoying the music from the bottom of his heart. Soul. That was soul, he was the music!

For all my music therapy friends: I must say that music here is perceived on a much deeper level than I tend to see in Norway. It is not only about being good, technically skilled or "showing off". It is linked to spirit. The musicians here are definitely technically skilled, but their appreciation, love and spirituality towards music is so visible. I always get a rush from playing, singing, dancing here. I can let go of my critical, judging and analyzing ego (eh, that is sometimes at least) and just be in the music. I feel that many of the things I have experienced lately in professional means have been emotionally significant to me. I am really living, and I feel that my job is a part of me, the person I am. It feels good - it is not separated from the life I am living.

I am very thankful these days. I will never stop being thankful for the wonderful opportunity to be here, in the middle of beautiful people, music, culture, nature, challenges, students, life. It's all good!

søndag 22. november 2009

Getting fans in Kathmandu!

I guess it isn't necessary to say that the reason for writing a little too seldom, is that I am nicely busy and happy here! The Nepali feeling is really going to my heart now, and I can't even begin to express how thankful I am for every little thing I get to experience here! And now I have finally got to start up with my classes! So far I like all of my students! I think that when all the groups are settled (still working a bit on that..takes Nepali time...;-)) I will have around 40-50 students. Nice challenge! But I must say that with the lifestyle here, and the way of being, I am so much less stressed here than I was in Norway! Things are just happening in a very relaxing tempo, but still I feel more ambitious than ever. I have so many objectives for this year, and I just have to watch out so I don't eventually GET stressed!!

Nowadays we have Norwegian visitors from the University of Agder. Three music students are here for ten days to teach their instruments and have concerts. I join them for the concerts, and our first one was at Friday, at a great place called Attic. Lots of people, and many of the colleagues supporting us! After the concert one of my colleagues came to me and told me that her friends had become fan of me and wanted my autograph! Haha, nice! Today me and Svein, the folk musician who also works at Nepal Music Center, also had a very great concert at Budhanilkantha School. The school lies about half an hour away from Kathmandu City, and it has 900 pupils! I think almost all of them were present at our concert! We presented some of our Norwegian folk music, and it was GREATLY appreciated! By the way I love the way of the concerts here: the musicians sit on wide, soft pillows, together. None of the artists are given more attention, everybody sits together. Not the singer in front, which is so typical in our ways of performing. I like the way! Afterwards, when we passed the pupils, they really showed us such appreciation and gratitude, and that was overwhelming. In the end I had a bunch of cute girls coming to me, asking for my e-mail adress! Haha! I especially liked one of the comments: "Oh, you sound like an OPERA singer!!" That was pretty interesting, considering I didn't sing anything close to opera at all. Haha. Anyway, there might be some more young vocal students coming my way... ;-)

So all in all I have some new fans here, I get lots of chances to perform, I have great challenges at work, and the people that surround me are beautiful. I feel that I am so well taken care of. I love the feeling of getting up at 7 am in the morning, walking the 100 meter distance to our cantina to join some of my colleagues for a cup of dudh ciyah (milk tea) or kalo kaphi cini nahaliko (black coffee without sugar)! That's how the day is started, gently and smooth, and then we are ready for work! Ekdam raamro! Meaning: "extremely nice/good". Malai khushi lagyo! I feel good!!

Next project is getting my fan club started here! Haha! :-D

fredag 6. november 2009

A little bit of family feeling

I am getting more and more adjusted to my life here. Liking it more and more. The people are wonderful, the colleagues almost treat me like family, and I really start feeling that I can be myself here! It's a strange, good, warm, wonderful feeling... :-) I think it also helped that I finally had my presentation this Monday. It went so well, and it was a good feeling to finally be able to get the students to know me a little bit more! I had been walking around as "someone" for three weeks. It's always good to know that you can turn into a someone somewhat more defined. :-) My presentation was actually a concert, sharing repertoire from different genres I have worked with, and also teaching them a couple of songs - that was FUN!! And I really felt appreciated! I will put out some videos and pictures very soon! :-D

Today we have a concert at an Italian restaurant in Lazimpat. A very exciting project with 16-17 great musicians and an artist. It's a bit of an avantgarde project, where the artist will be painting (in Jackson Pollock style!!) as the concert goes along. The music is beautiful, and I've even been allowed to dance! ;-) The artist wants to have me dancing close to the canvas - I have no idea how that will turn out, but hopefully it will be an inspiring experience!

I never lack of things to do here. Always a chance of having a concert someone, always someone that invites us to this and that. This Wednesday was Chhatra (I am not sure of the spelling), a one-day festival celebrating the god Ganesh (elephant god!),

and we were invited to the home of one of the musicians at our school. Great HOT Nepalese food (which I afterwards say is marvellous, and I really mean it, it's just that I'm almost DYING as I'm eating it!! I need litres of water!), some strange rice BEER, whisky and rum (which was the two types of drinks I read I should NOT drink here, but anyway, I survived - haha). And his great family, lots of friends, sitting on his rooftop terrace on mats, having the view of Pashupatinath and parts of Kathmandu. No electricity, candlelights, cosy, great atmosphere. During the day there were two wagons with Lord Ganesh in the one of them, which travelled around the city - everyone comes out with sweets and flowers to give to the god (actually a particular kind of sweet, that Ganesh prefers..:-)) to worship him. Behind the wagons were drummers and dancers, making the ceremony even more special! I even got a tika (red painting on the forehead)!

So the days go by, and there is always something to be amazed, excited and also sad about. It is great to see that I'm improving my knowledge about the language. I love that people are so friendly here. I am given so many opportunities to use myself to the maximum. I have fallen in love with Pashupati - the green, lovely area of our city. But - the pollution is there, it is terrible, and a motorbikeride around the town for 45 minutes makes you completely exhausted. The people lying on the stairs below Pashupati with lepra.. it breaks my heart to see how their bodies just falls apart - what to do? Who will I choose to give money this day? The stray dogs, making me want to start a home here! (I don't think I have time for that as well!). Yes, contrasts definitely, but there is also so much life spirit here, a lot of will, a lot of hospitality. I just can't avoid falling in love with Nepal :-)

søndag 1. november 2009

Monkey Kathmandu

I think monkeys will continue fascinating me for the rest of my life..

Taking care of their babies...:-)
Hilarious...love them....

Just a glimpse of things I see every day :-)

Durbar Square, Kathmandu!

The way to Pashupati by morning

A regular sight :-)

A typical morning at around 7 am...

fredag 30. oktober 2009

Still alive - and the hills are as well!

It has been three weeks in this intoxicating, fascinating, strange, wonderful country. And maybe that is the reason for not being the best on blog updates! But the Times they are a-Changin', as Bob Dylan would have said it (have to integrate my expected teaching of western vocal in this blog, haha)!

The past days I have been a little bit sick, but I am finally recovered, and was introduced with a healthy day of morning-salsa - in Nepal! Seriously, I had expected my "regular" Nepali traditional dance-class, which I attend three days a week, but there was not as such, so I settled for salsa, and had GREAT fun! I just have to do both, but don't know how to squeeze it into a schedule that is about to become tighter and tighter...

So what am I doing in Kathmandu? For three weeks I have been a perfect tourist, with some planning here and there... (read: I have not started teaching yet, correct...). Why? One reason is the festive periods in this colorful country: the past month, which you now all know as Kartik (!) has been very busy with two important festivals, Dashain and Tihar/Diwali. Actually the first one starts already in September! These festivals, especially Dashain, is very important for the Nepali people. Dashain is almost celebrated like we celebrate Christmas. Families get together, and travel extremely long distances to see each other. They're off work and school during this festival, and spend their time in their family homes.

Just for fun, I will give you some background information :-D

Dashain (main festival of the months september/october, which is "Aswin"):
The different festivals always have a religious perspective, celebrating either one or several gods, or focusing on specific religious themes. Dashain is a festival celebrated throughout the valley and all over the country. Its duration is almost two weeks. The "valley" means Kathmandu Valley, which includes the three main cities Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Patan. Dashain celebrates the forces of good over evil. It is based on a story in the Ramayana epic, with Rama victoring over the demon Ravena. The goddess Durga is worshipped, represented as a vessel filled with holy water. Throughout the festival there are lots of sacrifices on animals, whereas the blood for example is used to bless all moving vehicles...(probably needed in Kathmandu - the traffic is wiiiiild!!). Aside from the sacrifices, there are of course also a lot of blessings within family groups, as giving each other tika. There is dancing and parades, shamanistic and tantric trance rituals.

Tihar and Diwali is a "milder" festival without the terrible sacrifices. It is the festival of lights and the celebration (puja) of Lakshmi - one of the wives of Vishnu, and the goddess of wealth. I was happy to be here during this festival! The last days of the festival was almost like New Year's eve, with fireworks and crackers roaming the streets everywhere! You actually had to watch yourself so that noone would smash one up right in front of your nose...pretty scary for me, as I'm already a little bit scared of fireworks.. but it was a beautiful celebration. Lights everywhere, all over the city! And we also were so lucky to be invited to the home on the day of "tika" - sisters (the meaning of brother and sister is a tiny bit looser here than in Norway - they don't have to be related) giving blessing and gifts (sweets and fruits) to their brothers. The brothers in return give some money back to their sisters (the amount of the money usually being a bit higher than what the sisters paid for the gifts, so that they are actually able to earn some money on this..:-)).

Another beautiful thing about the festival, is that all the entrances of people's houses are decorated with color painting, beautiful ornaments in order to welcome Lakshmi into their houses. Almost a bit sad the festival is over! :-) Speaking of New Year: the saturday during the festival is actually New Year's Eve according to the calendar of Newar (the ethnic group of the Kathmandu Valley), so this is also the celebration of a new Newari year (year one-thousand-and-something...).

(Source: Gibbons, B. & Pritchard-Jones, S. (2005) Kathmandu; Valley of the Green-Eyed Yellow Idol. Pilgrims Publishing, Thamel, Kathmandu)

So, tomorrow I am finally gonna meet my students for the first time! I will introduce myself with a musical presentation, which basically will be a mini-concert showing them what I have worked with earlier, and what I would like to work with this year! I look forward to this! And hopefully I will havea lot to offer. This is the first time the students are offered classes in western vocal, but many of them are well trained in eastern vocal, which is the "main" course here. I hope I will be able to sneak into some classes and learn a bit myself! It will be interesting to see how I teach in comparison to the eastern vocal training here. Hopefully we compliment each other!

More coming up very soon! :-D