Thursday, October 15, 2015

First credits for QCE in Indian Music

Article published in Brisbane Indian Times October 2015 edition:

 Thejan Elankayer of Pacific Pines, Gold Coast, has become the first student in Queensland to have Indian music exam results credited towards his Queensland Certificate of Education (QCE). The Indian Music and Dance examinations held by Pandit Ram Sahai Sangit Vidyalaya (PRSSV) were officially recognised by the Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority (QCAA) earlier this year. Thejan achieved a Distinction in Grade 6 Tabla in the exams held in July.

Asked about tabla and PRSSV exams, Thejan said “Tabla has been a source of pleasure for me more than half my life for a number of reasons. For example, when I am distressed, I often play Tabla as it seems to have an uplifting effect. The PRSSV Tabla exams work effectively in providing a source of perspective and accomplishment. The vast pool of knowledge that is entwined within Tabla is practically boundless. When comparing what I have learnt to that pool, I often feel that what I’ve learnt is insignificant and can sometimes go so far as to be discouraged. The PRSSV Tabla exams are a great help in that area as each year I am constantly working towards the next grade. Upon finishing each exam, not only is there a sense of accomplishment bestowed within me, I also begin to feel that I am one step closer to that vast pool of knowledge.”

“I have 3 goals for my near future in Tabla, the first is of course complete the grade 8 (year 12 equivalent) PRSSV exam. My second goal would be to be awarded the Rising Star Award and perform at Sangeet Mela. My final near future goal would be to travel to India for a bit and absorb some of the culture and music straight from the roots. In regards to the long term for Tabla I would like to take as many opportunities as I can to further expand and enhance my relatively trivial amount of knowledge on the subject. I would also like to try my hand at teaching Tabla later. All in all, I plan on continuing working with this skill that I’ve worked on for the past 8 years.”

The next round of PRSSV Tabla Examinations are planned for late January 2016. As well as tabla, the recognised courses include Bansuri, Carnatic Vocal, Dhol, Harmonium, Hindustani Vocal, Kathak Dance, and Sitar. Music and dance teachers who are interested in presenting their students for PRSSV exams are requested to contact Shen Flindell by email at

Sangeet Mela 2015 - A glorious celebration of Indian Classical Culture

Article published in Brisbane Indian Times October 2015 edition, though with a smaller selection of photos:

September 19 saw Queensland Multicultural Centre hosting Sangeet Mela 2015, Australia's premiere festival dedicated to both Hindustani and Carnatic classical music and dance. The event was a big success, with the packed venue rejoicing in the resonant tones of sitar, violin, tabla, mridingam, vocals and much more from early afternoon until late in the night. The calibre of the performances was such that each new item was eagerly awaited.

Altar thanks to Usha and Sush Chivukula and various friends
The opening session highlighted the Sangeet Premi Rising Star Award winners – 5 young artists who were selected for their dedication to excellence in Indian classical arts. Congratulations to Mathuja Bavanendrakumar (Bharat Natyam), Sanjey Sivaananthan (tabla solo), Manbir Singh (Hindustani vocal), Roshini Sriram (Carnatic vocal) and Arthavan Selvanathan (mridangam) for their admirable efforts in reaching such high standards despite primarily growing up outside Mother India. The growing national reputation of Sangeet Mela and the Rising Star Awards was evidenced by the presence of Manbir Singh who flew up from Sydney at his own expense to receive the award.

Ku Mathuja Bavanendrakumar (Rising Star Award winner: Bharat Natyam)

Sri Sanjey Sivaananthan (Rising Star Award winner: Tabla), accompanied by Sri Adarshbir Singh (dilruba)

Sri Manbir Singh (Rising Star Award winner: Hindustani vocal - Sydney)

Ku Roshini Sriram (Rising Star Award winner: Carnatic vocal), accompanied by Sri Arthavan Selvanathan (Rising Star Award winner: miruthangam) and Sri Kranthi Kiran Mudigonda (violin - Sydney)

Roshini receiving Sangeet Premi Rising Star Award from Yousuf Alikhan 

Dr Indranil Chatterjee (sitar) with Sri Shen Flindell (tabla), enjoying completion of Raga Bhimpalassi in matta taal and teentaal.

We were graced with the presence of several international artists, starting with beautiful Bharat Natyam dance by Janani Ganapathi (Switzerland), immediately followed by one of the day's most popular items, a tabla solo by Pt Pooran Maharaj (Varanasi) who presented compositions in the traditional Benares Gharana style made famous by his father Pt Kishan Maharaj. Along the way local artists Dr Indranil Chatterjee (sitar) and Dr Mansey Kinarivala (vocal) matched the high standards of the visiting artists. Credit too must go to all the local and interstate accompanists including Joseph Abhay Nand (harmonium), Adarshbir Singh (dilruba) and Maharshi Raval (tabla – Sydney) who gave able support throughout the day.

Bharat Natyam dance by Ku Janani Ganapathi

Tabla solo by Pt Pooran Maharaj (Varanasi) - accompaniment by Sri Joseph Nand (harmonium, off-photo) and Sri Adarshbir Singh (dilruba), taali support by Sri Maharshi Raval and Sri Shen Flindell.

Carnatic flute recital by Sri Sridhar Chari (Melbourne)

Hindustani vocal recital by Dr Mansey Kinarivala.

Stalwart harmonium accompanist Sri Joseph Abhay Nand

The evening session opened with local Kathak dance star Dr Helena Joshi who dazzled the audience with dynamic spins and footwork, accompanied by a live ensemble of top local musicians led by tabla player Shen Flindell. Then followed sublime Hindustani vocals by Kumar Gaurav Kohli (Jalandhar) whose performance included an amazing Raga Mala effortlessly traversing 18 ragas in the space of a few minutes, and the festival closed with renowned Carnatic vocalist Smt Manda Sudharani (Vizag), with fantastic accompaniment by interstate artists Sridhar Chari (mridangam) and Kranthi Kiran Mudigonda (violin). We were really blessed to have such high level performers visiting us in Brisbane and it was only possible thanks to the growing reputation of Sangeet Mela as such a prestigious event.

Kathak dance by Dr Helena Joshi and live ensemble: Sri Shen Flindell (tabla), Smt Usha Chivukula (vocal), Sri Joseph Nand (harmonium), Sri Adarshbir Singh (dilruba), Sri Murali Ramakrishnan (bansuri).

Dr Helena Joshi (Kathak dance)

Kumar Gaurav Kohli (Hindustani vocal) gave a memorable performance.

Smt Manda Sudharani (Carnatic vocal)

Organisers EthnoSuperLounge and Sangeet Premi Club are grateful to all of our sponsors, volunteers, performers and of course the audience for supporting Indian classical music and its development in our region. We are optimistic that Sangeet Mela will continue to grow year by year and make Brisbane a focal point for Indian classical arts nationally.

Cast photo of those performers who could be there at the end!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

8th Annual Ashu Babu Memorial Tabla School Concert

On Saturday 1st August 2015, the day after Guru Purnima (the full moon for Gurus), we held our 8th annual tabla school concert at QLD Multicultural Centre. There was a real step up in quality this year with 21 students all preparing well in the preceding months and playing their best on the night. We have to thank my senior guru-bhai Govinda Chakraborty for the way he influenced our lessons in his visit last September, resulting in a lot more attention being paid to counting rhythms and maintaining correct posture while playing. Quite a number of the intermediate students started to get more deeply into practice in the last year.

Harmonium accompaniment was given by Joseph Nand and this year we added dilruba accompaniment by Adarshbir Singh for a few of the acts, which really added to the colour of the naghma. Many thanks to Brent for the photos, to our regular sponsors Brisbane Indian Times, and to all the students and parents for their continued efforts.

Item 1: Bhajan by Rhea Ravi, accompanied by Nikhil Deo.

Item 2: Beginners - Aarav and Aditya.

Item 3: Juniors - Ashwin, Josh, Aaryan, Mann.

Item 4: Varun Lal. Varun was going to perform in the Inaugural Ashu Babu Memorial Tabla School Concert in 2008, but had a tragic car accident which left him unable to walk, talk, or move much at all. After years of intensive therapy and hard work he restarted tabla lessons last year and performed at our school concert! He's unable to use his left hand so performed a kayda and paran composed especially for the right hand only.

Item 5: Ladies - Anna and Rhea.

Item 6: Westlake and Chermside - Ishaaq, Bipro, Hari, Ayngaran, Sivamsan

Item 7: Gold Coast - Arun, Siva, Nikhil, Thejan

Item 8: Seniors - Sanjey, Tito, Jesinthan

Presentation of certificates, featuring our guru lineage from Benares Gharana founder Pt Ram Sahai, to my gurus and myself.

Adarshbir brought a beautiful new sound and energy to our concert with the dilruba.

Tabla solo by Shen Flindell, accompanied by Adarshbir Singh (dilruba) and Joseph Nand (harmonium).

...watched over by Guru-ji Late Pt Ashutosh Bhattacharya.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Various concerts Nov 2014 - Jul 2015

It's been a while since my last round-up of past gigs, and I've got a big tabla school concert to post about so I'm catching up first. Here's what I've been up to since going to Varanasi last November...

DEC 2014

FEB 2015

MAR 2015

Bart Stenhouse (guitar), Shen Flindell (tabla), Shyan Kishore (bansuri)

APR 2015
  • Sat Apr 11 St Lucia: Rahim Zullah (vocal), Shen Flindell (tabla) - Private mehfil until late in the night. Everyone seemed to be happy with my ghazal accompaniment, which is a new thing for me.
  • Sat Apr 18 Banyo: Pt Shantanu Bhattacharya (vocal) with Shen Flindell (tabla) - A really memorable concert which was pulled together on short notice, thanks to Shantanu-da's student Inderpreet for bringing him, and to Swara Mohini association for hosting the concert. I really hope that he can come back regularly.

    Shen Flindell (tabla), Pt Shantanu Bhattacharyya (vocal), Rupam (tanpura), Manbir Singh (dilruba)

  • Sat Apr 25 Sth Maclean - Ashu Babu Memorial Tabla School @ Selva Vinayagar Temple - After a traditional tabla lehra by Thejan and Sivamsan, my 3 senior students Tito, Sanjey and Jesinthan, along with myself and sitarist Anju Ketheeswaran presented an original arrangement for sitar and 4 tabla with parts of sitar solo and tabla lehera intertwined. It also included a special arrangement of complimentary kaydas on differently tuned tabla, creating an arpeggio effect, something I'm calling "kayda parivar" (kayda family).

MAY 2015

JUN 2015

  • Fri Jun 12 BEMAC: World Music Cafe with Feridun Avar and friends - An interesting gig organised by my good friend, Turkish musician Feridun Avar, in which we collaborated with kora player Lansana Camara. We presented a mix of solo, duo and trio pieces, largely improvised and well-received by the BEMAC audience.

  • Sat Jun 13 BEMAC: Spirit of Bhakti CD launch with Shai Shriki - A glorious success, as Spirit of Bhakti launched our new CD Open Door to a full house at BEMAC. Go and buy our CD now, it's fantastic.

    Spirit of Bhakti CD Launch: Marcello Milani (guest guitar), Shen Flindell (tabla), Rebecca Bornstein (vocals, guitar), Menaka Visvanathan Thomas and students (vocals), Shai Shriki (guest oud, vocals)
  • Sat Jun 20 Zillmere: Rahim Zullah and friends morning concert - attended by about 5 people, but fun.
  • Sat Jun 20 Tamborine: Nepal fundraiser featuring Tenzin Choegyal and Rafael Karlen (saxophone) - An unexpected invitation to join Tenzin and improvise with some amazing jazz musicians made for a pleasant night with some unexpected good luck. It was a really fun night which raised thousands for Nepal, and I met my old school friend Kara who offered to host a Spirit of Bhakti concert in August, which turned out to be a great success too.

JUL 2015

AUG 2015

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Indian Music and Dance Exams Recognised for QCE

The Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority (QCAA) has recognised the Indian Music and Dance examinations held by Pandit Ram Sahai Sangit Vidyalaya (PRSSV) as contributing studies for the Queensland Certificate of Education (QCE), which most students receive at the end of year 12. The studies can contribute up to 8 non-Core credits out of the required 20 for a QCE, and advanced studies can contribute to improved ranking with QTAC for tertiary entrance.

PRSSV Ambassador in Australia, tabla player Shen Flindell, said “My students have been taking the exams in tabla for several years now, which has really motivated their learning in both the practical and theoretical sides of Indian classical music. The higher grades are really quite demanding in terms of both practice and study, so I hope this official recognition will give them even more incentive to prioritise tabla in their day.”

The next round of PRSSV Tabla Examinations are scheduled for Saturday July 11th. As well as tabla, the recognised courses include Bansuri, Carnatic Vocal, Dhol, Harmonium, Hindustani Vocal, Kathak Dance, and Sitar. Music and dance teachers who are interested in presenting their students for PRSSV exams are requested to contact Shen Flindell by email at

(Submitted for publication in Brisbane Indian Times, May 2015)


Sangeet College Certificate
PRSSV's World Music and Dance Examinations are structured to test ability of
the pupil at every level, starting with Grade 1 for a beginner and progressing to Grade 8 for an advanced level. A diploma course is available to those wishing to study further.
These examinations are accredited by the Open College Network Credit4Learning.
This accreditation is evidence that PRSSV examinations are audited to the same standard, quality and expectations as a GCSE or A Level, and are therefore recognised nationally.
PRSSV's Heritage skills qualifications are available in Oral History and in Collections Management and Interpretation at Level 2 and Level 3.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Concert with vocalist Sunita Tikare

On 14th February 2015 I accompanied vocalist Sunita Tikare, visiting Brisbane from Mumbai, in a small concert organised by Rahim Zullah, who also gave harmonium accompaniment. It was a most enjoyable concert, with a range of khayals, tarana, thumri, ghazal and bhajans. I really enjoyed Sunita-ji's rhythm sense. Here is a review published in Brisbane Indian Times March 2015 edition (official BIT clip here).

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Sangeet Mela 2014 promotional videos

I'm very excited that Sangeet Mela 2015 is going ahead at QLD Multicultural Centre on Saturday 19th September. This year's Sangeet Mela will feature both North and South Indian classical music and dance. We are now requesting young artists under 25 to apply for the Sangeet Premi Rising Star Awards - entries close July 31st - and also seeking sponsors and organisations to support the event.

Please have a look at these two promotional videos highlighting how fantastic Sangeet Mela 2014 was. "Magic Moments" is just over 2 minutes long; "Highlights" is just over 9 minutes.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Beyond Optimism at Festival of Tibet 2015

In late January 2015 I participated in the performance art show "Beyond Optimism" at the Festival of Tibet, Brisbane Powerhouse. The show featured live painting by Tibetan artist Karma Phuntsok, poetry by Tibetan activist Sonam Lhamo, and live music directed by festival director Tenzin Choegyal and an array of fantastic improvising musicians.  Here's a playlist of videos from the performance:

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Woodford 2014-15 with Pt Santosh and Sangeet Mishra

Over the New Year we were honoured to host 7th and 8th generation sarangi masters from Varanasi, Pt Santosh Mishra and his son Sangeet. Sangeet is a regular visitor to Australia - he was last here just a few months earlier for Sangeet Mela - but Santosh-ji had only been once previously, in 2012.

Woodford Festival, Hilltop (via)

Santosh and Sangeet were invited to perform at Woodford Folk Festival and this year's festival had quite an extensive Indian classical programme compared to other years. Along with the Mishras, I also accompanied sitarist Saikat Bhattacharya, and bansuri master Vinod Prasanna was up from Melbourne. I was very happy to meet Vinod's tabla accompanist Afroz Koya. I also arranged an impromptu performance at Bill's Bar for vocalist Tahir Qawwal. Along with the classical dance programmes, altogether there were 24 Indian classical performances!

Sarangi masters, Santosh & Sangeet Mishra & Shen at Woodford Festival (via)

In celebration of my 20th year of tabla I was given a tabla solo performance, with the wonderful accompaniment of Sangeet on sarangi. It was scheduled just before the excellent Taiko drumming group, Kizuna, so the Folklorica tent was full of drum lovers and the response to the tabla was really enthusiastic. I think it was a great combination of the two extremes of drumming - the intricacy of tabla followed by the raw power of taiko.

My tabla solo performance at Woodford. I look surprised but I was just speaking tabla bols.
Photo via Serendigity.

I think my favourite concert in the festival was the New Year's Sunset concert on the Hilltop Stage, overlooking the land around Woodford including the Glasshouse Mountains. It was a gorgeous sunset, the sound system was fantastic (and there were no nearby stages unlike the rest of the festival), and the music went really well.

Sangeet Mishra spontaneously joined Vinod Prasanna's Hilltop Sunset concert. It was an excellent jugalbandi.

After Woodford we had a small classical concert in Brisbane thanks to Swara Mohini association, and a packed house for "Sufi Soul Sangeet" in Mullumbimby with Tahir Qawwal and Barbi Joffe.

The Mullumbimby concert had a slightly different format - rather than doing a long classical set, we presented one short classical set at the start of the night, followed by light classical songs by Tahir and Barbi accompanied by Sangeet and myself. In the second set, Santosh-ji presented some light classical songs then accompanied Tahir and Barbi for the closing songs. I'm getting more and more into light classical genres and that night we presented Ghazal, Bhajan, Thumri, Qawwali and film songs, as well as the more classical Khyals that I'm more experienced with. Lots of fun!!!

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Varanasi 2014 again!

Yes, we were in Varanasi in February. And then we went again in November. The main justification was that our daughter Saraswati would be turning 2 in late February and after that we'll have to pay for 3 air tickets instead of 2 plus a small fee for an infant.

Yuki took lots of lessons - daily lessons in Sanskrit with Pt Vagish Shastri and lessons every 2-3 days in Dhrupad vocal with Pt Ritwik Sanyal. You can read about her blog about the trip here (you might need to use an online translator.)

Meanwhile I had lessons around twice a week with Sri Hari Om Hari, a disciple of Pt Kishan Maharaj, excellent tabla player and nice guy. I came to know him first through his accompaniment of Tahir Qawwal's Qawwali group in a concert in Varanasi. We worked especially on light classical styles - Qawwali, Ghazal, Thumri, and variations of keherva and dadra - all my weak points in tabla accompaniment. I got so much great material that will take me a while to process, but it's enriching my playing already. Many thanks to Hari Om-ji.

The rest of the time I got to spend a lot of time with my beautiful daughter Saraswati, and got to see a few concerts too.

Saraswati dancing in my Guru-ji's house.

Blessings on tabla at Guru-ji's house.

Saraswati with her new special small tabla.

First boat trip on "Gangan" for Saraswati.

On the bike around town.

Practice with sitarist Shrabani Biswas.

Performance by Devashish Dey (vocal) with Kishore Kumar Mishra (tabla), Rohan Naidu (violin) and Bhaiyan-ji (harmonium) - the first "Subah-e-Banaras" dawn concert on Assi Ghat.

On our last day in Varanasi, we got to see Pt Kumar Bose giving tabla solo in Dhamar and Teentaal. So powerful!!!

In Kolkata we were looked after very kindly by vocalist Supriyo Dutta.