Excited for the creative new year!

Swithland Wood recording

Birdsong Project. Photo from Swithland Woods. Credit B Newsinger

2014 was a magical year having got many projects off the ground, working with some fabulous artists/individuals and being able to learn and develop myself. I feel that the momentum is with me going into 2015.

The variety of projects I was involved in last year was astonishing when I look back. YoTabla really took off with the photo-shoot, t-shirts, workshops, performances by students, easter retreat and socials.

Artistically, I was involved in Lucy Stevens ‘Birdsong’ project which opened up my thinking towards improvisation and connecting with nature. Also, spending time and learning from my tabla hero Ustad Zakir Hussain in San Francisco. Performing and doing a workshop in California there was phenomenal and very special.

The big one was the Melodies on the Brink project having secured Arts Council Funding and producing a show from scratch. It was a new experience managing and producing the show. It was one of the most challenging aspects I have faced in my career to date. I got a lot out of it and learned many lessons. We had a sell out show which was a testament to everyone involved.

With regard to professional development, I attended many courses relating to marketing, goal setting, intellectual property, music education and so on. These courses definitely played a huge role in my creative career, although I was not aware of it at the time I was sitting in those workshops! Setting up CEMENT with my good friends from the creative sector Bob Christer and John Kirby was a massive achievement as we really wanted to bring Leicester’s creative community together and make stuff happen(our motto)!

The mentoring qualification was fantastic and I got a lot out of it. I am very thankful to Pedestrian Charity, Leicester for providing this training. I feel that I am in a much better position now to guide young creatives, having done some mentoring last year and seeing results of the individuals I worked with. It is something I definitely want to do more of in 2015.

I have already set my goals for the year. I cannot stress enough the importance of self reflection and being honest with yourself. I love reading personal development books and have a thirst for constantly improving. I noticed when I applied even a minuscule of the many principals learnt in these books, the impact was HUGE!   For example, the above milestones reached was only possible because I had the DESIRE and VISION to be a collaborative artist, manage my own projects and positively impact the individuals I come across. This is just one aspect of manifestation. The rest is all about strategy, surrounding yourself with successful individuals and having the flexibility to constantly tweak your approach so that you achieve a positive result. I will talk more about this in future posts.

One of the projects I am currently working on this year is a unique collaboration of YoTabla! with ADAA (Aarti’s Dance and Arts Academy). AADA was recently set up by my good friend and exceptional dancer Aarti Lodhia. Both of our sets of students are going to collaborate for a performance in November. We both strongly believe in supporting young people who have a passion for Indian classical music and dance. This is the first time we are doing something like this, so we will definitely keep you updated on our progress throughout the year.

Have a blessed 2015 and I look forward to sharing more tips with you over the next 12 months.

God Bless

Rishii

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Preparations for Melodies on the Brink. Not long to go!

It has been a while since I have blogged. The summer was very exciting as I was in San Francisco learning from the God of tabla Ustad Zakir Hussain. Whilst in San Francisco I collaborated and performed with well known Persian musicians ‘The Dehghani Brothers’, percussionist Tobias Roberson and spoken word artists Fariba Bogzaran and Kim Rosen in a performance called ‘Night of Rhythm and Poetry’ hosted by the Lucid Art Foundation. I was also invited to be a guest speaker at the Cultural Integration Fellowship to discuss Indian music and wellbeing. Since coming back to the UK, it has been nonstop with other exciting projects coming up.

We are fast approaching the Melodies on the Brink production and there have been a lot of developments. Rehearsals have gone really well and the show is taking shape. As part of this project we have been truly blessed to have the expertise and experience of renowned kathak dancer Sonia Sabri Ji. She is acting as choreographic mentor for the project. Our first session with her a few weeks ago was highly insightful. Not only did the dancers benefit but the musicians as well. We cannot wait to see her again.
The dancers Kesha Raithatha and Marius IR Mates have literally thrown themselves into this project with their vast repertoire of dancing styles. It was exciting to see them dance to our compositions and interpret the music. I have never worked with Marius, but he has been a revelation and is going to dazzle the audience with his hip/break dance style. Kesha has recently come back from India where she was busy performing. All her experiences are also adding a different element to the project, as Kesha will be incorporating body rhythm and contact improvisation within a few of the pieces.

For the musicians, it has been great having the opportunity to try out performance material at the lunchtime soundbites courtesy of Embrace Arts, Leicester. It has allowed a greater chemistry between the musicians as well as giving us the freedom to express. The last part of this project is going to be intense but the momentum is going in the right direction.
Until next time. 🙂

Tickets are still available for the show.
https://uk.patronbase.com/_EmbraceArts/Productions/XO29/Performances

Speaking Hands-Our first gig and receiving Arts Council Funding.

It was such a joy for our ensemble ‘Speaking Hands’ to perform together for the very first time at the Birmingham Mela on Saturday 5 July. It was important for us as a group to see how we connected with each other. The humorous moments we have shared off stage carried on into our performance and we had a great time.

Since my last post on ‘Speaking Hands’ in March, we have now secured some funding from the Arts Council to produce a special music and dance production commemorating World War 1 called ‘Melodies on the Brink’. This performance will take place on Saturday 15 November at Embrace Arts, Leicester. Our music will be intertwined with kathak and break dance! We are over the moon, to have received this support and we can’t wait for the mammoth rehearsals to kick off! We are already in the creative phase but most of the communication has taken place over facebook, skype and what’s app!

Responsibility:
Now this dream has come true, the level of responsibility has increased. I am finding myself wearing a few hats. One for the creative side and the other for the overall management of the project, such as liaising with venues, artists, choreographers, producers etc. I am grateful to be in this position because; I am bringing together all the skills and experiences I acquired from my education and performing backgrounds. The proof of this will be in the final performance on 15 November.

As simple as it sounds, for any type of project to be successful, you must work with people who are not just talented, but have a positive and flexible attitude. I am really thankful that that the musicians and dancers that are working on the ‘Melodies on the Brink’ project have all of these qualities in an abundance.

I must give a special mention and heartfelt thanks to the Artistic Director of Phizzical Productions Samir Bhamra, Embrace Arts and the Arts Council who have truly supported the vision of this project. We as musicians and dancers feel empowered to create work that will excite and provoke thought into our audiences.
Do check out the link to find out more http://www.phizzical.com/melodies-on-the-brink/
God Bless

Speaking Hands- Taking the plunge to manage and curate own project.

Through the high volume of freelance work I have carried out over the years, I have been fortunate and lucky to have met and built so many connections with wonderful and inspiring individuals. As someone who is pretty restless (a typical Aries trait!), I now want the challenge of starting my own project from scratch. Building up the confidence to do this has not been easy. Through the support and blessings of special individuals and beating my own self limiting beliefs, I have managed to get there!  Looking back is not an option anymore.

I had a lightening moment last year in November which led me to take inspired action. I sent a group e-mail to some dear musician friends of mine and sounded out the idea of us working together and creating our own music. I have had the great pleasure of working with them individually and know they have a lot of talent so it felt right to now pool it together. Fortunately, they agreed and we met up and just played. I was clear with them that this project must have a goal; otherwise we will be doing a disservice to potential audiences who may like our music. As we had a clear focus on sharing and performing, our creativity held no boundaries. The name ‘Speaking Hands’ popped into my mind because all of us play instruments with our hands, but the music that comes out of them is full of energy and emotion. I also wanted a dance element because there are certain traits in our pieces that can be beautifully expressed through the gestures and provocative movements of dance. 

 

What am I learning in the process?

I take full responsibility for this project because I owe it to the musicians and dancers who believe in this. We have spent time rehearsing and the musicians have travelled to be a part of it. I have spent more time co-ordinating, talking to organisers/venues than playing! This leadership role has come to me naturally and I enjoy the challenges of it as I know there will be a lot more to come!

 

Making it Happen

Utilising the connections I have made within the sector, I approached artistic directors to support our project. We are now in the process of producing and we will hopefully be showcasing ‘Speaking Hands’ towards the end of the year. I will definitely keep you updated on the developments, because this is only the beginning.

The Politics of Creativity- Embrace and have fun with the dreaded ‘P’ word!

I will be misguiding you if I was to say that politics never occurs in my line of work. The truth is that politics is absolutely everywhere. However it is up to you as the director of your destiny to decide how you manage it. Politics works at many levels. Here are some examples. You have:

a)      Groups/organisations/individuals that aggressively look to gain solely for themselves at whatever cost. I call them the ‘bulldozers’.

b)      People who decide never to get involved with politics but as they are not in the loop, they continue doing the same thing and not getting the desired results.

c)       Finally, the ones who are more subtle and shrewd. They are clear in what they want but will look at win/win situations so that everyone involved in a process is valued.

 

Where do you fall under?

I used to fall under B) big time. I was sabotaging myself thinking I could do things for myself or even worst, expecting change to happen. Only when I consciously changed my circle, made adjustments to my personal development was I then starting to connect with key players and gatekeepers. I am a lot better now at sifting out the BS! 😉

The angle I am coming from is that politics can be seen as a good thing if everyone involved in a particular process is properly valued as a stakeholder and also benefit from what you are offering. You MUST identify the key people in your area that can ignite your career. If they come to you naturally, that is fantastic but if not, you may require you to schmooze occasionally! However, if it benefits your career and you are not hurting the other person but rather appealing to their interests, go for it! This is where you are becoming example C)

 

Further reading:

Dale Carnegie’ How to win friends and influence people’.

 

CPD for Creative’s.The Quest for Excellence!

It was very important for me to transfer the skills I learnt from my various law degrees to the creative sector; research being the main one. I love accumulating knowledge and learning as much as possible about the creative industry I work in. Attending courses has enabled me to be a more effective practitioner and allow me to honestly assess my career pathway. It can sometimes be that one iota of advice that can positively change your personal/career outlook. Here is a list to the types of workshops/ courses I attended over the past year:

  • ‘Making New Music CPD’ More Music
  • ‘Introduction to Market Research’, WISE(Working in Social Enterprise)
  • ‘Professional Development Planning Workshop’, Creative Leicestershire
  • ‘Education Conference-Embedding Creativity in the Primary Curriculum’, The Mighty Creative’s
  • ‘Unpicking Social Media’  A-N /Creative Leicestershire
  • ‘Skills Boost and Leadership Programme’, Performing Arts Leicester
  • ‘Business Start Up Workshops’ B-Inspired

Impact

Each of these workshops has been pivotal to my development whether as a musician, teacher or entrepreneur. My networks have drastically opened up and options made available to me that I never thought were possible. For example, I have a much wider list of key players to draw upon whether it is for a specific music/teaching project, careers advice or just a coffee catch up! The great part is that most of these courses are FREE. All it costs is your time and drive to change which can sometimes be more expensive than paying for the course itself!

One of my goals has always been to give back and empower the next generation of creative’s. By attending these courses and spending time with the inspirational individuals who ran them, I have been injected with empowering fuel and belief to do this and keep raising the bar in my own art form!

Is it worth it?

Yes! If you ever attend a workshop always go in with an open mind because there will always be something positive to take away.  Sometimes you might not get the answer you were looking for, but when you later reflect you will have lots of ‘AHA’ moments! The picture below is with my wonderful colleagues/friends from Performing Arts Leicester.

All the best and always ask yourself, how can I be of better service to the world?

Rishii

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YO-Tabla!

YoTabla! was a concept that came to me in 2011. Being an Indian musician you can spend up to many hours sat on the floor. Playing the tabla requires immense strength and dexterity. This is why I teach yoga exercises to my students so they maintain flexibility and core strength.  Also as music students, we process a lot of information so being sharp in our minds is just as important. We practice meditation and breathing techniques so that we feel calm and prepared for the class. There is a huge amount of research to show the correlation between arts participation and its positive impact on wellbeing.  I will need to do a separate blog post just on this subject alone!

The rate at which I have seen tabla student’s progress has been wonderful. The positive attitude and love they show towards their learning is really encouraging. The yoga techniques they learn are not only applicable to music but to their everyday lives. Many of the students I teach are young, so it knocks off a few years of my age as well! Some of the students have already had the experience of performing and accompanying instrumentalists which is a testament to their hard work and encouragement by the wonderful parents. I am looking forward to seeing them further develop and most importantly be good role models. We have a spring retreat in April which will be fairly intense, so the current students will get the chance to ‘turbo’ their development. However we will be having lots of fun as well. I’m hoping the weather is great, so that we can do yoga outside and of course play football in the park!  

From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank all the supporters of Yo-Tabla! It is going from strength to strength only because of the positive energy that students, parents, music teachers and admirers have shown towards it.

Here is a small video of our Yo-Tabla classes.

Imagehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8DeMqnNzQNA&list=UUSHh533LLys80rEZYrpRPAg

 

God Bless.

Rishii