Last week after the Rhythm & Culture CD release party at Eighteenth Street Lounge, Frank Mitchell and I were chatting. He leaned over to me and said, “Hey man, at the end of the day, music chooses you.” My friend Chauncey from high school recently said the same thing to me. I’ve come to learn it’s very true.
The “September High” continues. Last week I played 4 of the best shows I’ve played all summer. They were awesome. On Friday was the long awaited Beautiful Minds Festival in the Southeast Navy Yard hosted by ArtWhino. It was awesome to be both the music coordinator and a performer for the event. I was invited to play with both Second Sky and with Federico Aubele. This was a huge huge opportunity for me despite the fact that I acted cool, calm and collected about being invited to play with both of them. You see, just a few months ago, I was in Hong Kong hiking on the highest peaks, listening to their albums on my iPod. I was playing their respective CDs in my family’s car and blasting “Too Far” when my family would host private events, parties and bbq’s at our home. I would be playing their tracks in my thick Vic Firth headphones and jamming out the conga or bongo rhythms in my room. It was huge to get to play with them. A privilege to be asked, and it felt good to play these tracks and deliver some good rhythms.
It was fun to perform for a crowd that got into it. The audience was mixed: couples, families, different generations etc. It was fun to make eye contact with the audience, connect, and give them energy from the stage. It felt good to ROCK!!!!!!!
Early the next morning, Saturday Sept 11th, I rolled out of bed, showered and got ready for my gig at the Kennedy Center. During the weeks before, I had been practicing twice a week with Duff Davis, a talented acoustic guitar player and Raycurt Johnson, a DC legend known as “The Fiddla.” He plays both viola and violin and I was invited to play my triongo, tablas and some of the gongs I brought back from Hong Kong. We were invited to play at the Kennedy Center’s open house that day and it was a huge opportunity. We arrived around 10am and were greeted by two Irish women who had actually been assigned to us for the day.Can you believe it? Artist hospitality to the max! They helped us set up, get organized, brought us snacks and coffee and we got to hang out in the green room for a bit before starting up the set.
(There I actually ran into Leon Sheopard, a barback and sick dancer from ESL, who was performing with his hip-hop group. I also ran into some of the ladies from Batala, the huge all-women’s drumming group and some of the members of Farafina Kan. I love that the music community is just like a big family here…but still just big enough that you can continue to meet new artists on a regular basis. It’s a great size for someone who is just starting out but adventurous enough to get out there and continue to meet explore new pockets of talent.)
The gig was nice. It was a beautiful, sunny afternoon, and many people assembled around our stage outside to listen and relax to our music. It was exciting for me to play with this sort of trio as I have never played classical music in my life. Raycurt, the leader of the trio, is very disciplined and requires that we practiced several times a week even though I felt like we knew the songs just fine. He had me playing songs in time signatures of 3, 4, 5 and 6. I love when gigs pull me out of my comfort zone and get me doing things I have never done before. And I had to be confident too counting in 5! I had to be the one to hold it down! So it felt good to do so. And our set was strong. People were sad to see it over. There is a video of the set being released soon that I will post here once I have it.
From there I headed to the practice space in Georgetown to rehearse for my huge gig in NYC the next day. I was nervous as hell. I was going to be opening for Kim Thompson. She is a sick jazz/pop drummer based in NYC and is cool as hell. Like. Coolest, baddest woman. Wow. Ya! She’s so damn cool! And she tours with Beyonce. Rocks with Beyonce. Makes all these funny videos with her friends when she’s on tour and posts them on Facebook etc. I love it. She’s the bomb.
Right. So I had to open for her, at the Cake Shop in New York, for Tom Tom Magazine’s Issue 4 release party, for a crowd of people I didn’t know. And I wanted to do it, and rock it and enjoy it! I had never really done a drum solo before, for a 20-30 minute period, so I really had to sit down and figure out how to showcase many of my favorite rhythms and figure out how to string them together. I also had to get my math homework done for that night. I worked on the proofs for three hours, and then reserved the night for practicing for Sunday. I ended up coming up with a few cool pieces that include cowbells with my left foot, gongs and water, wood blocks, and straight up rock rhythms. Funky shit. I wasn’t going to be able to work on this stuff on Sunday morning because I had to coach squash all day at the Sports Club/ LA and then head straight to the airport.
My flight was late getting in to NYC, but Mindy, the Editor in Chief and the brains behind Tom Tom Magazine was chill. I pulled up to Cake Shop, late for my own gig, about 30 minutes before I was supposed to go on. I met Kim Thompson right in the front. She was there in front of the building smoking a cigarette and was like…ya….chill. Have a drink. It’s good. Hey.
I reunited with Frank Molina there. He was my first drumming instructor growing up in NYC and I had made a strong effort to connect with him for this gig. I wanted him to be there to see me rocking 6 years later!!! And he was there!!! He’s such a funny, emotional, bizarre musician who talks about life and bigger things and dreams all the time that you have to stop him and bring him back down to earth. Totally my kind of guy…because I don’t really like being brought down to earth. I just would run with him with him when he’d get on these tangents. I was reminiscing with him about how I would be late to our drum lessons because I would be coming back from a bat mitzvah (ha!) or would play him the worst Creed songs from the radio that I really really wanted to learn. And he would put up with all my crap. So funny. So good to see him.
The drum set was a bit tough to navigate. I couldn’t figure out how to mount some of my cowbells etc but eventually made it work and by 8:40 ish I was ready to rock. Let’s see what the fuck happens, I thought. “Hi, I’m Kiran, NYC…Georgetown…Student….Tom Tom Mag….Here to rock with you…Hong Kong…gongs…etc etc….life is good…Kim Thompson is my hero….etc etc”
I gazed out into the crowd of hipsters, and I felt like kind of this math dork for a minute, you know! Like, I’m kind of the hipster one on Georgetown’s campus and then I come here and I’m totally the one dressed seemingly normally. Which is when I had this realization that New York is my fuckin hometown and no one can take that away from me. Like how nothing is ever normal or the same or mainstream in these little clubs and pockets of artistry. It was just so awesome. Everyone had the best outfits, good networking, there was a bit of this gay vibe that felt like the norm as opposed to being “alternative” that it would be considered in DC or Georgetown especially, and I just loved that it was normal here to be creative and awesome and carry onesself like a rock star. So I started playing.
I played very fast and pushed the tempo high. I was able to play all the rhythms and all the three solos that I had intended too fairly strongly. Nothing went wrong really and I didn’t make mistakes. I just would say that I orgasmed too soon…ha! Like, playing my best shit up front and playing it all pretty fast and pretty loudly. People were into it though. The non-drummers that is. Because it was very showy.
People were into it and that made me happy. Mindy thought the whole night was a huge success which made me happy because I wanted her night to rock and her project to feel like it was going somewhere. Because I totally subscribe to everything the magazine is trying to embody…fashion, drumming, explosive creativity, and very very subtle undertones of feminism instead of forcing it down your throat like many female-oriented projects tend to do. The magazine is hot.
Kim Thompson played with her jazz band but my favorite is when she played drums with DJ Val Inc. Holy shit. That set changed my life!! Really it did. She and Val played for an hour almost non-stop and it was this flow of sick, bizarre sounds. Musical shapes. Messing up the tempo. Experimenting with changes. Playing with the tones of the drums. The volume of everything. Sparse vs heavy. Oh my god it was so cool. As a drummer, I could see the huge difference between a mature drummer and someone who is still starting out. Kim is so controlled. She plays like butter. Her eyes and body language show you how connected she is to the rhythms and how she is locked in to what Val is spinning. Her timing is like a metronome. Oh my god it turned me on!!! Her drumming was sexy as hell!!!!
It changed my life like this. After hearing her play, all I wanted to do was get into a room and practice rudiments for like 6 hours at a time. With a metronome. Repeating the same simple rhythms and improving my technique, volume and control. It made me not want to play a single show in October, November and December, and I think I’m not going to. Because of school too. Ya that whole thing.
So the rest of the night was fun. We all hung out, and I got to chat with Kim for a bit. She told me to chill too. It was good to have feedback and chat for a minute with someone that I think is awesome. No one really intimidates me ever. But I think when you want to be like someone or you really see yourself in them, those are the people that intimidate you most. She was like, I want to do a session and put you on a creative path. She analyzed my sign too as a Pisces too…always creative…always swimming…need to slow down. Astrology has a lot of truth at the end of the day.
The next morning I visited Chapin and it was one of the best days I’ve had in a while. It was good to be home. It felt like I was coming home to a family. I knew most people I saw and it felt so good to see them and hug everyone and catch up. Wow it just felt so good. To eat that food, to see similar routines, to hang out with everyone again in the Gordon Room. I think because I was so blessed to have the Chapin experience, Georgetown never really could compare. And I think that’s karmically fair!
Last thing I want to write about before ending this long thought bloggery. Thursday September 16th, just a few days after the NYC event, was the Rhythm & Culture CD release party at Eighteenth Street Lounge. Second Sky killed it. We had a great audience, people were dancing and got into it and we sold many CDs. I loved the music, the sound was great, and honestly, it was a real privilege to play on that stage in my own right in the Gold Room. And Javier, Frank and Salem were in the audience. See-I Massive. You know? It just was so cool to be on that stage after so many Wednesdays of rocking with them in reversed roles. Music is such a privilege. Really, you have no idea. Or maybe you do. I suppose the purpose of me taking the time to write all this is so that I can convey to you how privileged I feel that music has chosen me.
Between this Thursday and Sunday I am playing 5 shows back to back. Thursday I am playing with the Young Women’s Drumming Empowerment Project at the Marriot Hotel, and then at PhaseFest in Eastern Market with my newest all-female band called Jenny Grind. On Friday I am opening for Arrington di Malayikat, an Indonesian Electro Throat Band, at Comet Pingpong, on Saturday I am working for Thievery all day at V-Fest at Merriweather Post Pavilion and then playing a show at Eden that night, and then of course it’s Sunday Funday at ESL. I might be playing Monday night since Co-Co Sala enjoyed my set last Saturday and might invite me back to do another private event. I love playing. There’s nothing like it. I meet the best people. I practice. I learn. It’s my meditation because I am forced to stay in one place, not move too much, and focus on one task at hand. You have to understand that I never do that otherwise. I want to be disciplined though, and not play any shows in October, November and December because I do want to bring in those A’s. I do want to increase my GPA in my last semester. I do want to practice drums more so that I can come back next spring and be even better.
The problem is that I just got asked to play a show at the 9:30 Club backbar on October 2nd. What a sick
opportunity. It always is. Does October 2nd still being part of September? Damn. How do you say no!!???
MUSIC CHOOSES YOU.