We are very happy to announce that the international family of Gandharva Loka stores has recently committed to sponsoring a group of children in Bangladesh through the Surer Dhara School of Music.
Shurer Dhara is a school of music modelled after the thoughts and successful experiment in education of the Indian seer-poet and Nobel laureate (Nobel Prize for Literature,1913) Rabindranath Tagore (pictured top right). Tagore’s philosophy places as much importance on aesthetics as it does on intellect.
The community music school was founded in 1993 in Lalmatia, Dhaka, by Rezwana Choudhury Bannya (pictured bottom right), an accomplished exponent of Rabindra Sangeet (music of Tagore), who is a distinguished alumna of Visva-Bharati, the renowned Indian university in Santiniketan founded by Tagore.
Rezwana Choudhury Bannya is also a senior member of the Faculty of Music and Drama, University of Dhaka. Bannya was inspired by her guru, Sreemati Kanika Bandopadhaye, a direct disciple of Tagore, to open a school in Bangladesh to continue the tradition of Santiniketan.
The programme is called Music for Development and it promotes music education as an integral part of children growing up to learn social accountability and asset development skills. When I was in Bangladesh in 2009 as part of a contingent of musicians and singers from Christchurch who performed at the Songs of the Soul concert in Dhaka, I was so inspired to see what a difference the Music for Development programme was making for the children that we met and performed with. The following is from the Music for Development page:
Since the earthquake that closed central Christchurch in February, the managers of Gandharva Loka Christchurch, Vajin and Prasasta Armstrong, have taken the opportunity to travel and find more sources for interesting and unique world instruments. They also attended the opening of the latest Gandharva Loka store on Granville Island in Vancouver and, for the first time, participated in the annual Gandharva Loka conference that brings together all of the members of the global Gandharva Loka family of stores. This years conference was held in Berlin and by all reports, it was a memorable occasion for all with workshops, concerts and plenty of joy!
Keen athletes both, Vajin and Prasasta have maintained their training schedules throughout their travels and have some wonderful news regarding Vajin’s running career. Prasasta reports from a running camp high in the Italian Alps…
Last night members of the New Zealand Sri Chinmoy Centre participated in a nation vigil for Christchurch organised by the New Zealand Interfaith Group. The event was held simultaneously in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin with various faith, spiritual and interfaith communities participating through video presentation, prayer, song, meditation and reflection. The members of our Christchurch Sri Chinmoy Centre sang two songs dedicated to New Zealand and Christchurch that were written by our meditation teacher Sri Chinmoy – and recited two of his prayers. Members of the Auckland Sri Chinmoy Centre recited a selection of Sri Chinmoy’s poems and sang one of his songs – all in the theme of ‘hope’. They also offered a short flute recital featuring two of Sri Chinmoy’s melodies.
Members of the Christchurch Sri Chinmoy Centre singing at the National Interfaith
vigil for Christchurch at St Michael and All Angels Anglican Church in Christchurch.
Brendyn Montgomery is a New Zealand born Irish traditional musician who plays and teaches the wooden flute, whistle and fiddle. In 2003, Brendyn earned an M.A. in Traditional Irish Music Performance with first class honours from the University of Limerick – the first person in Australasia to do so. His debut album Mountain Air collected the Recording Industry Association of New Zealand’s 2004 Tui Music Award for Best Folk Album. Brendyn records, travels and performs regularly, and is involved with Ceol Aneas in Nelson. Brendyn also designs websites and offers music courses online.
In this interview Brendyn offers his thoughts on growing up around the folk music scene, his development as a traditional Irish flute player and teacher, and shares with us his view of Irish music in New Zealand. This interview was recorded on Thursday July 15 – 2004. Our thanks to Brendyn Montgomery for kindly giving his time to record this inspiring and informative interview.
Shardul: You were born in Dunedin and now live in Castle Hill. What do you like about living in Castle Hill? [Since the time of this interview, Brendyn has moved to Nelson.]
Brendyn Montgomery: For me really it’s the stillness. Castle Hill is not even really a village – there are no shops, no petrol station – nothing! There’s a little collection of houses and about ten of us live there permanently – the rest are all holiday homes. So in that sense, it’s still as there are not a lot of people around. But in a greater sense for me there is tranquillity about the place that I haven’t really encountered anywhere else, and because I do so much travelling, it’s really nice to be able to come home to Castle Hill and relax.
S: Is the proximity of the Southern Alps a factor? I hear you’re a big fan of the mountains.
BM: I just love the stillness. If I could, I would live in a place by the sea where I could see the mountains, but living amongst them is the next best thing. I love the cold and the effort of having to stay warm. Keeping the fires going is very vital; it’s very raw. Most of these experiences have been removed in the society that we live in now.
This article was written by Brendyn Montgomery in 2004 for the quarterly Flute Focus magazine (now an online publication) and is reproduced here with the permission of Flute Focus and Brendyn Montgomery.
Cultural Biodiversity: finding a sense of place
I sometimes wonder what led me to this place. I am an Irish flute player with a BSc in Zoology and an M.A. in traditional Irish music performance (1st class honours) and I have lived in Ireland. Yet I am a New Zealander. I was born here, my parents were born here, and in fact, five generations of my relatives proceed me in this land…
My music does not come directly from my extended family as a neatly handed-down package as it so often does in Ireland. Irish has such a strong oral tradition in its homeland, where people live and breathe the music everyday. I live in a country where the society has evolved hugely from the societies that my ancestors left. The demise of the family unit and the freedom to choose your own path that has been slower to change in Ireland and Scotland, the countries of my ancestry. I am not against this change by any means; it simply means that many of the threads of the oral tradition have been broken.
Yet I am certain that the immigrants brought their music with them. My mother’s mother talks of how they played for dances from an early age, tunes that were handed down from the wider family. But that was lost as the family moved away to different parts of the country. I was bought up with both recorded and live music and was dragged to folk festivals from the age of six weeks. It is something I have grown to appreciate with time. This was not family music, but folk music of the 1970s and 1980s, influenced by technology and recordings from other parts of the world.
This article was written by Pat Higgins in 2004 for the quarterly Flute Focus magazine (now an online publication) and is reproduced here with the permission of Flute Focus and Pat Higgins.
The Wooden Flute in New Zealand
The simple-system wooden flute has been relatively rare in New Zealand; and in comparison to the Boehm instrument, it still is unusual. However, in recent years we have seen a steady growth in interest in this instrument. It used to be that people would say, “but that’s not a flute… ” on seeing a wooden instrument, obviously expecting the Boehm instrument familiar to thousands from school music classes. The increase in numbers of people becoming interested in and playing this instrument has come about as people became exposed to the sound of the wooden flute as part of the enormous world-wide surge in interest in Irish culture over the last ten years or so. (Riverdance, Lord of the Dance, Guinness Tours of New Zealand, etc…)
The wooden simple system flute [also known as Irish flutes] is used almost exclusively for Irish traditional music, (though there may be professional musicians using it for classical performance, as is the case overseas). The author is aware of one musician in Wellington, Barnard Wells, who uses the simple system flute for playing Cuban and Latin music in a band situation. In nineteenth century Ireland, traditional music survived amongst the poor and impoverished; the classical music of the drawing room being the preserve of the rich. In 1831 Theobald Boehm invented his metal flute and sometime after, the wooden instruments it replaced gradually became un-fashionable; thus becoming affordable or at least more available to ‘folk-musicians’. It is not known (at least to the author) when exactly this occurred, but the transition must have been slow as classical musicians would have had to re-learn a whole new fingering system. In any case Irish traditional music formally played on pipes, fiddle and whistle could now also be played on the simple system eight-key wooden flute.
Pat Higgins is an Irish traditional musician who plays wooden flute, tin whistle and guitar. Originally from County Galway in Ireland, Pat now resides in Wellington, New Zealand, where he works as a computer engineer in the IT industry. Very active in the local Irish traditional music scene, Pat is a regular at the Kitty O’Shea’s sessions on Monday evenings and is a past chairman of Ceol Aneas – New Zealand’s Celtic music school.
In this interview, Pat shares his insights and inspirations concerning the Irish flute, Irish traditional music and life in general. This interview was recorded on Saturday June 19, 2004. Our thanks to Pat Higgins for kindly giving his time to record this inspiring and informative interview. Go raibh maith agat Pat.
Shardul: Would you like to tell us a little about where were you born Pat?
Pat Higgins: I’m from rural County Galway in Ireland – a place called Annaghdown which is on the eastern shore of Lough Corrib. It’s about twelve miles north of Galway city. When I say I’m from Galway people usually say, “Oh, you’re from the city”, and of course I’m from a farm – I’m a farm boy.
S: Did you grow up around music?
PH: Not really. My Mother loved music, but in fact there was no active music in the house at all. My Grandmother, who I didn’t really know, she played the accordion, but I have no memory of the accordion being played in the house. I kind of got into music, well, in Ireland, mostly we were listening to music on the radio. I was twenty-one when I started playing my own music for the first time.