Arts and Entertainment

The Island Yoga Space presents a concert of Indian classical music

Steve Oda is a renowned sarode musician. The sarode is a fretless lute of 25 strings. Its lack of frets allows for the constant sliding between notes that gives Indian classical music its striking, reverberating sound. - Photo courtesy of Jon Crane
Steve Oda is a renowned sarode musician. The sarode is a fretless lute of 25 strings. Its lack of frets allows for the constant sliding between notes that gives Indian classical music its striking, reverberating sound.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Jon Crane

This month, the Island Yoga Space will be offering a unique experience that promises to be a journey in yogic relaxation for islanders.

Renowned musicians Steve Oda and Niel Golden will be performing a night of Indian classical music at 7:30 p.m. Friday, June 14.

Yoga is the ancient practice of connecting body and spirit. And through sound, Indian classical music does the same. It is sound yoga.

On the sarode, a fretless lute of 25 strings, Oda achieves a tender sound that, combined with Golden on the tabla, becomes three-dimensional.

The music is constructed so that it will resonate healing effects, Oda explained. It starts off quietly, and it develops in a systematic way.

“It is like the petals of a flower slowly opening,” he said.

It gives you the chance to smell its fragrance and fully absorb its beauty, Oda explained.

The age-old tradition derives from an ancient text of 3,000 vedas, or Indian scripture. It is made up of 10 different scales, and within the scales there are 75,000 ragas (pronounced raw-gah) which are like scales with rules or themes.

Ragas are the emotions that the music plays to, like happiness, joy, courage and peace; seasons like autumn and summer; and parts of the day like night and sunrise.

Depending on the chosen raga, the music works to evoke emotions in the listener.

“We want to create an image,” Oda said. “The face of the raga.”

Unlike Western music which contains 12 tones, there are 22 tones in Indian classical music. By this, it has notes exactly in between the notes that most listeners find familiar. It is sound in between sound that creates a vibrating effect.

But even while it’s a classical sound and made with ancient rhythms, Oda explained, it remains contemporary because still 95 percent of it is improvised. It is just within a very strict set of rules, or ragas plus scales.

Oda will be playing the sarode to the ragas. And Golden will be on the tabla playing to talas. While ragas are the basis of melody, talas are the basis of rhythm, and they are superimposed on top of the ragas to create another layer of sound.

“We will do our best to make the idea simple enough so that people can just close their eyes,” Oda said.

As it is the meditation of sound, the music will envelope its listeners in what Oda hopes will be a profound inner-ear experience and bring peace.

All in all, there will be a happy interplay between the two musicians that will build and build over the two hours, Oda said. Toward the end there will be a crescendo of pace and sound.

Golden and Oda have known each other since the ’80s, and recently reconnected over the past few years. They are good friends.

“It should be noted the synergy that happens when music is shared between two people who know each other quite well,” Oda said.

The Island Yoga Space will provide an intimate venue for the concert. Attendees can expect to find a seat or space to sit and let the calming effects of the music flow through them.

Oda and Golden will lead the show and at intermission they will explain a little more in-depth about the instruments and the songs.

Oda has been performing and teaching on the sarode for more than 35 years. He made his start in music as a devout jazz guitarist in the 1960s.

But as a young adult his interest in world music and the kind of sound “that really bares your soul” led him to classical music of India.

In the early ’70s, one acquaintance after another introduced him to a whole new realm of sound and expression. He began visiting California twice a year from his home country, Canada, to study with some of the greats, which eventually landed him as a student of Maestro Ali Akbar Khan, who is considered one of India’s treasures.

In the late ’70s, he began teaching in Canada. And then, at the request of his teacher, in 1996 he moved down to San Francisco to teach as the executive director of Khan’s school, the Ali Akbar College of Music.

“I would never consider myself to be in that category (a guru),” Oda said. “It’s a lifelong pursuit. But what I can do is share my experiences and the beauty.”

Today he teaches privately in San Francisco and as a guest instructor internationally.

Oda will be hosting a workshop the day following the performance to those interested in learning more about the art of sound yoga and Indian classical music.

The workshop is open to musicians and non-musicians alike. Oda will guide participants in singing exercises of one raga.

“At a classical Indian music concert, you will see people in the audience counting on their hands,” said Jon Crane, the organizer of the event and a student of Oda. “They’re right in step with the musician.”

In the workshop, Oda will offer an understanding of the music that will go more in-depth.

“We will focus on the beautiful, peaceful feeling it brings about,” Oda said. “That’s what I want to show through demonstration and hopefully participation.”

The workshop will be from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday, June 15 at the Island Yoga Space. The cost is $20.

The Music of India with Steve Oda and Niel Golden concert will be from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. Friday, June 14.

Tickets can be purchased in advance for $17 at Pegasus Coffee House or online at www.cranedrums.com. Tickets are $20 at the door.

 

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