Big drum: Kenny Endo does Taiko.
Pan Asian Music Festival
By Matt Stroud
BEATSMITHS OF THE South Bay unite! Stanford University is hosting, for the third year in a row, the Pan-Asian Music Festival (PAMF), between Feb. 17 and 24. This year, the festival is called "Drum Beats of Asia," featuring a weeklong celebration of traditional and contemporary music, focusing on Asian percussion and other forms of rhythmic expression. Founded by Stanford professor Jindong Cai, music director of the Stanford Symphony Orchestra, PAMF seeks to educate students and nonstudents alike about international music and musicians. Professor Cai believes "the best way to understand other cultures is through their art. Though our world is ever more globalized," he says, "the things that bring us together are often overlooked, sometimes in favor of politics and conflicts." And this is significant. This year's PAMF presentation not only features nationally recognized Asian music, but also promotes open-mindedness toward contemporary Asian culture and philosophy, through concerts, commissions, artist residencies and lectures. Here's a brief look at some notable feature artists:
Zakir Hussain, Saturday, Feb. 17 [Listen at www.myspace.com/zakirhussain]
Hussain is an acclaimed tabla player. In case you were curious, a tabla is a small pair of Indian hand drums tuned to different pitches. The tabla's origin is often linked to folklore (one tale depicts two 13th-century drum warriors hammering rhythms, battling MC-style, on single-head drums—pakhawajs—before a winner declares victory and throws the loser's drum triumphantly, like someone from a "World's Strongest Man" competition, splitting it in two). But that aside, it's a fairly simple instrument that's exceptionally difficult to play proficiently, and is played professionally by only a few contemporary artists. Hussain is one of these, and he's no slouch: He's taught at Princeton, starred in various instructional tabla documentaries, composed music for feature films and, most recognizably (to Americans anyway), performed tabla on the soundtracks of Francis Coppola's Apocalypse Now, and Bernardo Bertolucci's Little Buddha.
Anthony Brown, Wednesday, Feb. 21 [Listen at cdbaby.com/cd/anthonybrown4]
Brown is a jazz percussionist who's most often credited as being a pioneer in Asian American jazz—a relatively new (mid-1970s) jazz style integrating guitar, bass, drum, sax and other traditional jazz instruments, while also incorporating more traditional, lesser-known Asian instruments like the taiko (large, upright drum), shamisen (three-stringed guitarlike instrument), and the Suona (Chinese oboe). In addition to having a Ph.D. in ethnomusicology from Berkeley, he has also been nominated for a Grammy—in 2000, Anthony Brown's Asian American Orchestra received a nod for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Performance, for their recording of Ellington-Strayhorn's Far East Suite.
Anandan Sivamani, Sunday, Feb. 18 [Listen at www.james-asher.co.uk/drums_on_fire.html]
While some sources say multi-instrumentalist Sivamani has a history of being "very naughty," he's best known as a charismatic Indian percussionist who contributes prolifically to Indian film soundtracks, and internationally appreciated collaborative albums. He's performed for more than 30 years, worldwide, and has done much to incorporate rock, pop and jazz into Indian fusion.
Jin Hi Kim, Wednesday, Feb. 2 [Listen at www.jinhikim.com/recordings.html]
South Korea-born Jin Hi Kim plays geomungo (a six-stringed bass zither—a flat-sounding box with strings stretched over it, played on horizontal surface with a plectrum). She's known for efforts to introduce not only the geomungo but the electric geomungo to an international audience. Like many instrumentalists and composers at this year's PAMF, she seeks to spread recognition of lesser-known instruments by incorporating traditional sounds with more familiar Western concepts like jazz and improvisation. She seeks to release meditative energy in her music, and to keep time-honored Korean music alive in a time when, as she states in an autobiography at www.lafolia.com, "The Korean people [are] rejecting Korean music as inferior to the music of the West."
Other artists include Kenny Endo and Stanford Taiko, Kyaw-Kyaw Naing, and Abbos Kosimov, a renowned doira player from Uzbekistan. This should be an interesting collaboration of artists and scholars. If you're inclined to learn a bit more about the art of significant drumming beyond more familiar rock, pop and hip-hop rhythms, this is a must-experience.
For more information on dates and performances at this year's Pan-Asian Music Festival, visit panasianmusicfestival.stanford.edu
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