Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Sitar Has It

Thank you everyone who submitted entries to this month's DC Rocks/ 9:30 Club Thievery Corporation ticket contest. Competition was really tough this time, but an independent panel of randomly picked judges went for this auspicious and pertinent tale by local musician Peter Fox:

My story is about Thievery Corporation and their talented guitarist and sitar player, Rob Myers. Rob and I have several friends in common, and both spent formative time hanging and playing music at the Betapunks warehouse on Blagden Alley in the early 1990's.
 I spent three months in India in 1996, and a large part of that time was devoted to studying Sitar. I arrived with a vague notion of finding a teacher, but didn't have anything set up until I met a rickshaw driver named Mongol in Varanasi. When I asked about a sitar teacher, he immediately took me to the house of Dr. Raj Bahn Singh, recently retired head of the music program at the local University and a renowned master of the sitar. A brief introduction was made, and Dr. Singh welcomed me into his living room. He grilled me about my musical background and level of commitment. I assured him that I was a pro and was serious, but he finally agreed to teach me by saying "You came on an auspicious day".

 I spent the next 45 days learning from him in the traditional manner. I sat at his feet and learned by repeating what he did. I eventually reached the point where I could do a few very basic things with the instrument.

After I returned to DC, I formed a jazz quartet that had a weekly gig at Twins Lounge. Rob used to come to see us play, and one night we were talking about India and sitar and his desire to learn the instrument. I told him about my experience with Dr. Singh, and encouraged him to go there and look him up. To my surprise he did so. Unlike me, he became a great sitar player, and his playing is featured on many Thievery Corporation tracks. Whenever I hear his playing I remember my small part in the chain of events that helped nurture it.

Please stay tuned for the runner up's story which came in a very close second in tomorrow's edition of DC ROCKS.

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