Saturday, 7 February 2015

The Music Lesson

Learning music teaches us to listen, to feel, to understand the connections between things. It goes far beyond studying a method, an instrument or learning to perform. These are the tools we have to try to get to that place. The place we know but find it hard to talk about. A place without constraints of time or purpose, a place of freedom, peace, beauty and expression.

Early morning in Mumbai. The air is almost cool. The birds, the traffic, the people are all just beginning to fill the day with sound and movement. I watch as the air turns thick and warm, listen as sounds grow into a constant drone to accompany my practice. I am back in the first city that I came to in India. Somehow all this bustle, shocking, beautiful, dirty, relaxed, dangerous, calm, fills me with a familiarity. I can not help but feel that my heart rests in this city. It is here that I am greatly challenged, and here that I grow so much.

I have come back for more. To listen to amazing musicians. To learn from a great and inspiring teacher. To be still in the midst of all this chaos and find that centred place where music and joy come from.

I came here to study music. I have been playing music for as long as I can remember, and sure, I have been performing since I was very young, but I have never stopped feeling like there is so much to learn. It was after a few years on the road playing folk music that I went to University to complete a fine arts degree. In a way that was like starting over. I had to break down my sense of self in order to do that. And it was hard, but well worth it. I graduated as a different person. More engaged in the world, and less concerned with who I was. And that study opened the door to Indian music. The door I had been pressing my ear against since I was a child. But oh, it was another painful process to realize that though I felt I knew music, I knew nothing about this completely different form and aesthetic. I had to start again as a child, learning beside children. From that broken down ego, came a new joy and confidence. And a flood of creativity. And now, more years have passed, and I find myself at another beginning. This time I won't fight it. Again it is hard, but this time I know what is coming.

As a young musician, I was taught the form, though at the time I did not see it as form. I played and created my own sound. In university, I discovered how to study, and how to work hard. As a cross cultural student, I learned how to let go of myself and to surrender in order to understand a new form. Now there is something else. I am learning to feel each note on a deeper level. I am learning how to listen, not only to the subtle nuances of the music, but to my own inner filters. To see how my mind has interpreted what I hear. It is an incredibly awakening experience to become conscious of the way our minds affect what is. To more deeply understand how two perspectives can see the same thing completely differently, how two people can hear the same sound and perceive it with totally different meanings. And how even beneath that, when I try to be completely open, and to repeat what I hear precisely as it is, there is still my own accent, built from years of listening and repeating, almost imperceptible to me.. until it is pointed out. And then I see.. wow.  I am made up of layers and layers of influences, judgements, thoughts, practice, repetitions..

And underneath all that? An incredible joy. Wonderment. Huge appreciation for this amazing way of expressing that we call music. We are so blessed. And I am honoured and humbled to be able to be here. 

Monday, 29 September 2014

India, China, Canada and back again...

An amazing summer in Nova Scotia, Canada wraps up a year of musical adventures with my bands and my solo show. I feel blessed to have been able to tour in India and China with Ask Your Sister, to have reconnected with Blue Lotus Trio for shows and workshops in Canada and to have shared the stage with so many great musicians from all over the world, including Daunt Lee (Japan/Newfoundland) who will be joining me on tour next spring!

Playing with Blue Lotus Trio always busts our hearts open. This summer, we recorded 3 new tracks, preparing for our tour in British Columbia next April and our upcoming album. 

Ask Your Sister recorded a new CD this past spring which is getting lots of play on CBC radio and we are looking forward to reuniting for festivals and to share music together again next summer.  As always, when we are apart, I am missing my sisters!

This past year I have had the incredible fortune to be touring the world, playing great stages with my loved ones. This fall, I am back in Asia for some intensive study of Indian music and to spend some time composing. I look forward to reuniting with the Canadian folk circuit next spring as I tour my own show across Canada with support from Blue Lotus and Daunt Lee!

Saturday, 29 March 2014

The Music Business - The World

Some people say that to "make it" in the business of music, you have choose one path and stick to it, perfect it, and eventually your time will come. Others say you must diversify and be able to play whatever is asked and go where ever the work is. It is funny that this conversation follows me everywhere I go, though I'm quite sure I don't bring it up. I suppose my very presence brings it up. And I appreciate that people who know me want me to do well and take an interest. Lately I am getting constant emails from CD Baby, and Radio Airplay and other online music platforms that are giving endless advice about how to get more fans, write a hit song, promote and become a mega success. This feels rather less sincere, but still sometimes can be helpful. Usually though, this discussion is the air that I breathe and the water I swim in, it is probably the same for any business. I am polite, I read the occasional article in my inbox, I agree with pretty much everyone. And still my life feels like the great unknown. We can all say after the fact what worked or didn't as far as making a living or having an effect, but business and art are always pushing and pulling each other. This is a good thing. It means that no one really knows. As soon as you know, the game changes, and advice becomes dim. The only things we can try to know as musicians, are ourselves in the midst of pressure to become otherwise, and those who really listen to the music.

So my life in music is not a plan for the future, it is embracing the moment. Every day asks something particular, and every day I try to respond fully. Today I am loving Beijing. I must practice a song in Chinese for a show with Ask Your Sister. Today I am missing my home in India. Today I am looking forward to being back at home in Canada, where soon I will have the chance to perform with Blue Lotus, my world fusion band. And always, I am writing and keeping the joys and heartbreaks with me in song form. They make the show. Today I feel both terribly diverse and completely focussed. Perhaps that is what everyone has been trying to tell me. Perhaps that is what it takes to make it. In anything. 

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Ask Your Sister

This is a momentous moment in my musical life. It has been a long time coming. Finally after years of travelling, learning, experimenting with different styles (of music and life..) everything seems to be bringing me home. Back to my roots.. as complex and varied as they are. And back to my home. These last few years I have been spending a lot more time in Nova Scotia, Canada in the amazing music scene that is there. A few months at a time even :) 

And now, after dreaming about it my whole life, I am joining up with my sisters and brother to take our new band, and our new sounds, encompassing all of our collective experiences and all that is "home" on the road!!!!

Ask Your Sister is the four of us. Ariana, Andy, Kamila and myself. They are joining me in India this January and we are making a new show. The first performances will be here in India, then a tour in China before we land back in Canada to record a new album. I could not be happier. 

We made a video of the first song that we have written together. "Take a Little Step"

Go to and see the video!

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Himalayan Hand Weaving

I am back in India, this time in the Himalayas.. Manali to be specific. What a beautiful world. It has been too long since I wrote.. so for one post, there is too much to write about. Life here, life before I left canada... working with Blue Lotus and the way that feels like coming home... and ooh oohh  I haven't even mentioned the big new project that is brewing and is almost ready to be fully realized... you will have to ask your sister what that is. I will reveal it in a post very soon. Before that let's talk about Manali. Sheep. Mountains. Hand looms and weaving.

Some may have noticed that I am wearing this green woollen stole in a number of photos taken over this past year in a bunch different places. I have travelled too much this year perhaps, and this stole has come with me everywhere. It is so soft, and so warm and so light, I always love having it with me. Well, this is the where it was made, the Kullu region in the Himalayas. The hand weaving and traditional designs from here are famous for the craftsmanship and quality. I love this stole so much that when Ji Myeng asked if I wanted to work with him to send some back to canada, I was all in. Sometimes I sell jewellery that my friends make, or scarves that Ji and I have designed at shows in Canada, so those who come to my shows or blue lotus shows will have a chance to see them and buy them. There is also another opportunity, Heidi Kalyani from Blue Lotus is organizing TAZA, Indian Gift Bazaar in Wolfville, NS. If you can make it, there is going to be amazing stuff there.. Check it out:

Friday, 16 August 2013

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Blue Lotus

This month I have been hiding away in a magical music house working on the concert that we will present this Sunday, July 28th at the Horton Community Centre. It will be the debut of our group Blue Lotus, consisting of Ken Shorely, Heidi Kalyani and I. 

We will present an intimate concert of songs and grooves, inspired by our passion for the sounds of India, Afghanistan, Persia and Turkey! We are so excited to finally be putting this project together as we have been talking about it for years and finally, it is the perfect moment!  Please come and join us after the days workshops mentioned below. The concert is at 7:30!