A Concerto for Tabla and Inter-Cultural Orchestra
I. Lotus II. Orchid III. Rose
This Concerto had its beginnings in a friendly challenge from the VICO director Moshe Denburg. While he was visiting me in Victoria two summers ago, I lamented the fact that no one was writing compositions for the VICO that included the Tabla. Moshe then suggested that I should write a Tabla Concerto. Inspired by his suggestion, I started to work on it immediately and two years later here it is, ready for performance.
My Concerto consists of three movements based upon the scales of three different Ragas. In Indian music a Raga (that which colours the mind ), consists of more than just a scale. It also has strict and complex rules defining the order, approach and importance of the notes. I have in no way attempted to play Ragas in this Concerto but, merely used the scales as a compositional tool.
The three Ragas that I have chosen are Bhairavi ( C Db Eb F G Ab Bb ), one of my favorite Ragas. Yemen ( C D E F# G A B ), often taught as the first Raga to beginning students and a pentatonic Raga, called Hansadhwani ( C D E G B ).
I have also used three different Talas (clap of hands) or rhythm cycles. The first movement is in Deepchandital (14 beats), the second is in Jhaptal (10 beats) and the third is in Tintal (16 beats).
The Tabla in North Indian music, are extremely popular and versatile drums. They are used to accompany Classical vocal, instrumental and dance music and as well, there is a Tabla solo tradition. They are also commonly used in folk, light classical, devotional and popular film music. My endeavour throughout the Concerto, has been to feature the Tabla in various ways. For example, in the second part of the first movement, the Tabla plays a short sample of a solo form known as Kaida (theme and variations). In the second movement the Tabla plays more of an accompaniment role, soloing when the melody instruments return to the theme. In the third movement the Udu joins the Tabla and they both perform a call and response section like a Sawal-Jawab (question and answer) found in North Indian instrumental music and in the South Indian percussion ensemble known as Tala Vadya Kacheri.
I have also featured a form commonly found in North Indian music known as Tihai throughout all three movements. A Tihai is a phrase repeated three times usually ending on the first beat (sam) or sometimes, another prominent beat. The Tihai can be very short in length consisting only of a few beats or very long, lasting several cycles of the Tala. An Indian musician’s ease at improvising Tihais in any Tala is a sure sign of their ability as a master of rhythm.
The name KUSUMAMAYA is a Sanskrit word meaning consisting of flowers. I was originally going to call the composition Lotus, Orchid and Rose which are the names of the three movements. In searching for the Sanskrit word for three flowers, I found KUSUMAMAYA and it seemed to jump off the page and call to me.
Niel Golden (b. 1953), originally from Toronto, Niel has been specializing in the subtle yet powerful, tuned, paired, hand drums called tabla for over twenty-five years. A student of world muisic all his life, his teachers include Trichy Sankaran, Bob Becker and the tabla master, Pandit Sharda Sahai, of whom he is a disciple. A resident of Victoria since 1986, he has helped found and lead many successful world music-fusion projects, including New Earth and Djole. He has collaborated with many “West Coast” artists, including composer Robert Rosen, Kokoro dance, Joseph “Pepe” Danza, Celso Machado, Harry Manx, Andre Thibault and Sal Ferreras to name a few. Working with composer and VICO founder Moshe Denburg for the past fourteen years, he is an indispensable member of Vancouver Inter-Cultural Orchestra.