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Queens Chronicle

Drumming workshop a hit at Flushing Town Hall

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Posted: Thursday, August 14, 2014 10:30 am

The sun set on a beautiful Sunday evening, transitioning from dusk to nighttime as an August supermoon rose, in a celestial occurrence that happens when the moon is closest to the Earth.

Below Luna’s pale gaze, at Flushing Town Hall, a gathering of approximately 20 people willing to expand their cultural knowledge came together to experience an Indian folk music drumming workshop led by master percussionist Babloe Shankar and his students, along with master dancer Abha Roy.

All ages and experience levels were welcomed, as instruments of all shapes, sizes and sounds were provided for every participant.

While the group was led by the tassa drums, all of the attendees were given the opportunity to expand their musical horizons with other instruments.

Basic to learning to play each was learning how to hold it. The tabla, a two-piece instrument, was positioned vertically, while the naal was placed horizontal to the player. These were also part of the tassa drum collection.

Tamborines, garbandi sticks, ghungroo bells, bongos and other simple instruments created a spectacular collection of rhythms and sounds, accompanied by Shankar’s vocals and Roy’s dancing.

“[Typically], the whole village joins in,” Roy said. “One person starts, and then everyone comes together. They love the sound.”

Shankar added, “Traditionally, this group performs at weddings and other special events. The location is different each time, so every song is unique from the last. It’s nice and easy, especially at weddings. People love it.”

Gabrielle Hamilton, director of education and public programs at Flushing Town Hall, was beaming at the sight of different cultures gathered to create this music and experience something new.

“We had a positive response last year with the Korean and Colombian drum workshop — it completely filled up,” she said. “Our main focus was to create a hands-on, interactive, educational and cultural experience. Everyone gets a drum; everyone participates. You aren’t simply watching a drum circle happen. We want to celebrate diversity and traditional dance music, how it was practiced during solstices and different events.”

Toward the end of the workshop, everyone, including Shankar’s students, performed two songs in harmony, and Roy danced with a few younger members of the group.

In their performance together, the eclectic mix of beats and movements created a story of harmony, which captivated attention from outside Town Hall.

Roy’s happiness comes from seeing all the different faces in Queens, forming unity and producing a harmonious feeling. Shankar said music brings happiness, as well as healing to those who are sick.

“The main thing is to introduce instruments, to be hands-on, and go on to learn and get in-depth study. There is no age limit,” he said.

Shankar currently teaches 15 students in both drumming and vocals from his home.

Roy runs a school of 40 students and teaches Indian Kathak and Indian folk dance out of the Srijan Dance Center. Yoga and translation services from English to Hindi and Bengali are also provided at the studio.

Roy’s dance studio group will be performing on Aug. 16 at the Queensboro Hill library branch.

The next Full Moon Drumming Workshop will feature traditional Brazilian music. The Oct. 5 circle will be led by Afro-Brazilian master drummer Dende, followed by a jam session with the entire group under the Harvest Moon.

Space is limited to 20 people. Tickets will be available on Aug. 25 during a Flushing Town Hall press conference, at which the fall calendar will be announced.

Full moon drumming
When: Sunday, Oct. 5, 7 p.m.
Where: Flushing Town Hall, 137-35 Northern Blvd.
Tickets: $25, 20 for members

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