Drummer on a roll
Master of tabla from
enthralls Ellet students with his music and more
By Elaine Guregian
Beacon Journal music writer
Ken Love /
Sandip Burman is intent in his playng and
an Ellet student is intent in his watching.
You could have heard a feather drop Wednesday morning in the
auditorium at Ellet
High School. That's the way tabla
player Sandip Burman wanted it, and that's what he got from a
group of students from music and world history classes sitting
on stage near him.
Barefoot, cross-legged and surrounded by a circle of 10 small
drums shaped like short bongos, Burman held his wrists near the
drumheads and let his fingers flutter. Fast, resonant pattering
was punctuated with deep, earthy slaps as Burman spun out
intricate rhythms at top speed.
Burman began studying the oral tradition of tabla playing at
age 6 while growing up in
India. Now 40, the musician
maintains a home in Calcutta
and frequently tours the
United States to perform and
give workshops for students, in the hope, he said, of exposing
them to Indian music. On Saturday, he'll give a concert at
Oberlin College Conservatory. On Oct. 22, he'll perform at
in North Canton.
Burman plays Indian classical music, but he is sought after
for his versatility in other forms of music, too. He has
performed with stars such as Ravi Shankar, Bela Fleck and Al
Adam Grom, the director of instrumental music at Ellet,
arranged for Burman's visit.
He especially wanted the students in his jazz ensemble to
hear this masterful player.
You can't cover an entire system of music in a morning, but
in a couple of hours, with some students coming and going,
Burman covered a remarkable amount of ground.
He set out to explain some of the basics, beginning with an
elaborate tuning process. As the students watched, Burman took a
small hammer to tap at the rim of each drum, adjusting the
tension on the camel straps around its side to change the pitch,
then tapping the goatskin head to see if it was in tune. There
is no shortcut through this time-consuming process, nor is there
a quick way to become a musician.
``Eat it, sleep it, drink it, dream it and 20 years later you
will get it,'' Burman told the students more than once.
He went on to explain the mechanics of an Indian raga
(melody) and rhythm (tala). Getting the students involved,
Burman had Grom conduct a steady beat, then had the students
clap on beats one, three and eight. Not as easy as it sounds, if
you want to do it cleanly. And precision was everything to this
Western musicians know about solfege, the do-re-mi way to
sing notes. Burman walked the class through the syllables Indian
music uses for rhythmic solfege, to sing rhythmic patterns.
Some students, like Cody Aldstadt, had heard a tabla player
before. Comfortable in the subject, Cody asked a lot of
questions. A group of students who stayed after the session
ended called it ``amazing.'' From the way they hurried to help
answer a reporter's questions, it was clear that when Burman
talked, they had listened.