Musician keeps North students on beat
A master of the drums known as tablas wows his listeners as
he introduces them to an unfamiliar instrument and scale.
By JARED CURTIS
Register Staff Writer
September 21, 2006
"Give me 45 minutes of your attention and I will give you 45
years of knowledge," Sandip Burman told more than 50 North High
School music students who were invited to a special drum concert
and demonstration on Monday.
Burman is a tabla player, renowned for his drumming skills. He
visited North on a trip through
Iowa, and he performed a
concert-demonstration for a select group of student musicians.
The event was partly sponsored by Gateway Dance Theater and
India Star Restaurant as part of a new program for schools
conducted by World Music Chicago. The demonstration included a
wide perspective of Indian music.
"The whole thing was great; it was better than expected," said
senior Nick Botkin, 17.
The event began with a lesson on the artist and on Indian music
from Penny Furgerson, Gateway's dance instructor, and Mike
Pfaff, a Dallas Center-Grimes graduate with a master's degree in
"I'm a big fan of what I've heard," Pfaff said. "His music is
After nearly an hour while Burman tuned, the students were led
into the band practice room, where Burman sat on a carpet in the
middle of the floor surrounded by an array of drums known as
tabla or tabla tarang. Burman is believed to be the only tabla
tarang player currently touring the world.
Pfaff cautioned that Burman is an intense and serious musician.
Students were advised not to talk during the performance. Burman
paused a few times during the demonstration to silence student
"I was scared to breathe," said senior Sarah Newlin, 17.
The students chanted along with Burman, running the music scale
of India, which
differs from the scale musicians here traditionally use. Burman
demonstrated how to tune the tabla and explained how the weather
can affect the tune of the instrument.
"I tuned to F sharp because of the weather," he said. "Because
the tabla are made with goatskin, it makes them very hard to
keep in tune. But whatever the situation is, you need to know
how to play."
Burman displayed precision and accuracy as he played for the
class, overlaying beats and captivating the students. Between
each demonstration, he encouraged questions from the students
and involved them in clapping and snapping, helping keep time
for his performances.
"This was very good for our students to hear different music and
learn about different cultures," North High music director
Christian Baughman said. "It's not only important to hear and
learn about the music, but it is also an experience to meet the
Burman made an impression with more than the music; Furgerson
said she was enlightened by Burman's ability to control the
"The overall event was wonderful," she said. "Burman got the
attention and the respect of the students. He got them to
understand very quickly and made the students feel like they
were missing something. As an instructor, I'm going to take some
of his techniques with me and use them in the future."
Burman left his students re-energized about music.
"The whole thing was pretty crazy," said junior Kevin Schade,
"I thought it was awesome," added junior Samantha Hearn, 16. "It
was a pretty cool event."
After his performance, Burman talked briefly to students. He
promised he would be backed by a full band on his return to Iowa.
"This is probably the only time in my or the students' lifetime
that we'll get to see this music played live," Baughman said.
Information on tabla music and performer Sandip Burman is
available online at
JARED CURTIS/REGISTER PHOTOS
World-renowned musician Sandip Burman is
surrounded by his drums, or tabla, as he prepares for a
concert-demonstration for North
High School student musicians. He
explained how the weather can affect the drums' tones.
JARED CURTIS/THE REGISTER
North High music students clap their hands
to keep the beat in time during a special performance by
world-renowned tabla player Sandip Burman.
Samantha Hearn, left, a 16-year-old junior,
and Sarah Newlin and Nick Botkin, both 17 and seniors, were
chosen to attend Sandip Burman's performance at North High. They
all thought the performance was cool, but agreed they probably
wouldn't learn to play the tabla.