by Jason Koransky
Burman finds someone he wants to perform with, he does not
beat around the bush in conveying his intentions. The Indian tabla
player simply calls them up
even if they don't know who he
Burman met John DeJohnette - with whom he has performed
on several occasions - as well as Bela Fleck. "I called
Bela and said, 'You have to play with me,'" Burman laughs.
"He did not know who I was. If you want something, the only
way to make it happen is through action."
because his persistence paid off, as the Chicago-based classical
Indian musician has appeared in concert with the Flecktones, collaborated
with Fleck and bassist Victor Wooten separately, and lends
his rhythmic propulsion to several tracks on the Flecktones' Outbound
album. "He knows Indian classical music through and through,"
Wooten says. "Now we are working with him on blending that
with our Western approach. We had him listening to James Brown
and learning a simple backbeat. It's not a one-way learning process."
At only 32
years old, Burman would not consider himself by any means a master
at Indian classical music, which has traditional ragas (essentially
the song melodies) and talas (rhythms) dating back more than 1,000
years. The native of Durgapur, India, is, however, an amazingly
accomplished musician for his age, capable of improvising for
hours complex meters, such as 8 ½ and 5 ¼. He started
playing tabla at age 6, when Pandit Shyamal Bose of Calcutta,
a tabla maestro, accepted him as a student. From this point forward,
tabla did not serve as a hobby for Burman - it became the focus
of his existence, and he has performed with such Indian classical
musicians as sitar player Ravi Shankar and sarod player
Rajeev Taranath (with whom he recorded the album Indian
Classical Music). He first came to the United States in 1988,
when the ashram at which he was a teacher in Calcutta sent him
to Los Angeles to teach at one of its branches.
up extremely poor, and came to the States with no money and knowing
virtually no English," Burman emphasizes, explaining that
this plays a major role in his drive as a musician. Through tireless
self-promotion and persistence, he has developed a career. Part
of this career includes reaching out to the jazz world. In addition
to his work with Fleck and DeJohnette, Burman assembled the band
"East Meets Jazz" - featuring Randy Brecker (trumpet),
Dave Pietro (saxophone), Howard Levy (harmonica),
Paul Bollenback (guitar), Jerry Goodman (violin),
Victor Bailey (bass), and Steve Smith (drums) -
that toured the States in summer (the tour was cut short due to
the Sept. 11 attacks).
'Ran-deep,' the Indian raga trumpet player," Brecker jokes.
"The music was difficult, playing in these complex meters,
trying to improvise around a particular set of notes."
"Both jazz and Indian classical music are improvisatory,"
says Pietro, who has traveled to India twice with Burman to stay
with his family and perform. "There's a natural affinity
and attraction between the two musics, but they're completely
different. You can play whatever you want in modern jazz, any
note at any time in any rhythm. In Indian classical music, the
notes stay within the raga. Phrases have to resolve in a certain
way. The rules are there for a reason, to create a certain sound,
feel or mood."
also become involved in music education, having conducted clinics
at universities such as Stanford, DePaul, Wichita
State, and Texas Tech. "Sandip's mixed meters
are exciting," says Alan Shinn, director of the percussion
and jazz studies departments at Texas Tech. "Tabla always
entices our drummers and adds another element to their studies."