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Des Moines Register Review

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.

Register Staff Writer


"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 percussion.

"I'm a big fan of what I've heard," Pfaff said. "His music is unbelievable."

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 conversations.

"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 musician."

Burman made an impression with more than the music; Furgerson said she was enlightened by Burman's ability to control the room.

"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, 17.

"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

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