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Cincinnati Enquirer Review

They Learn From The Master

In The Schools


BLUE ASH - Sandip Burman, a percussionist and world music artist, taught at Ursuline Academy Thursday, opening the ears and minds of about 50 music students to Indian and Asian melodies and rhythms.

Burman, who lives in Calcutta, India, and in Chicago, has played with a variety of well-known jazz and world music musicians and has collaborated with filmmaker Tim Burton on movie soundtracks. But on Thursday, he was part of a master class series at Ursuline, giving a clinic on traditional Indian classical music.

He sat on the floor in the music room and gathered the students and his semicircle of drums around him. He said he'd show the Ursuline girls how melody and rhythm are the

Using a set of 12 tonally set drums, called tabla tarang, Burman's hands flew, tapping out rapid melodies and slow harmonies like a pianist on a keyboard. He often closed his eyes and played with feeling, slowing and speeding up.

He stopped to teach the girls to sing scales, as they do in India.

For an object lesson on rhythm, Burman switched to a set of two tabla, a small one under his right hand and a big, round one under his left.

He got the girls to count time up to 10 beats, clapping out certain basic rhythms as he improvised on the tabla.

He played rapidly over their clapping, often trilling his fingers over the drums in intricate patterns. The large drum sometimes sounded like a string bass, while the smaller treble drum punctuated the complex rhythms of his improvisation.

He played this way while holding up his end of their question-and-answer session and helped the students keep their own time as they clapped.

"Inside of me there is much more intensity going on," he said as he drummed. "I'm talking to you, keeping a seven-beat rhythm cycle and I'm improvising.... The point is that you can do it."

He encouraged the girls to keep practicing and playing their instruments "18 hours a day," he joked.

"Wow! That was intense," said Katie Butherus, a 16-year-old Anderson Township junior.

"I can't really keep the beat in my head that fast and keep talking. It shows you how much effort people put into their music."

Added Ellean Zhang, a 14-year-old Blue Ash freshman: "It was really cool to see this. I'd never heard Indian music before ...Your eyes aren't as open to the world unless you have opportunities to see these things and change your world view."

Zhang, who has played piano for seven years, said she'd like to try some of the rhythms Burman performed.

"I'll start counting in my head and thinking of him," she said.

Ursuline music director Carlton Monroe said he plans to hold several other master classes this fall, with professional musicians teaching his vocal and instrumental students.

Burman gives concerts and school clinics, teaching about traditional Indian classical music and other forms, most often playing on tabla.

Burman, 40, has been playing tabla and other instruments since he was 6. His first performance in the United States was sponsored by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the founder of Transcendental Meditation and Beatles guru. Burman performed at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles with George Harrison.

Since then, he has played with fellow Indian artist Ravi Shankar and various Eastern and Western jazz greats, he said. He played on two Grammy-winning albums and does about 120 concerts a year.

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