Day 9: Kovalam Beach Rooftop Session Soundcheck

The first alarm sounded at eight but somehow the day started at eleven. 

Down at the beach we had fruit salad and fresh coconut und took the Gopro for a swim, bodysurfing the waves. Immo got washed around while trying not to loose the camera and landed straight on his head and right shoulder, ouch.

After not buying the beach towel, the wooden box or the cigarettes, which we were offered kindly while sitting on the beach, we needed to get out of the sun and ended up at a vegetarian restaurant to have a fresh juice. The waiter came back and told us, that the electricity was off, so no fresh juice. We switched to lime soda and plain rice, Dal, Chili Gobi, Lemon Rice and butter papadam instead. 

Upon heading back to the hotel we explored the upper floors and the roof for our planned recording session. From the roof there is a great 360 degree view over all of Kovalam which is pretty much covered by green palm trees. But: no electricity so we have to wait for it to come back on.

Our modular setup is tricky, different components from different companies, lots of cables and signals and sampling rates… plus the cameras! 

The Sun was sinking quickly and our setup was still not right. We still did some Soundcheck Sessions to know what we had to fix afterwards. It turned pitch-black within a matter of minutes and we moved everything to Immo’s room to fix the setup for tomorrow. 

That took a little while, but the results seemed to be a better situation for tomorrow.

Gigabytes were transferred before we headed down to the beach for dinner, this time at Malabar, our host Charles had recommended the style Kadai, be it veggie lord with fish or seafood. We had a very funny waiter, the Beer was once again served in Tea Cups and named Pop Juice on the bill. 

Day 8 : Kovalam Beach

We woke up around 10 , went to beach, bought 4 red bananas for too much money, bought 2 pairs of flip-flops for too much money, but the first fresh coconut for 50 Rupees to drink and eat afterwards was well worth it.

We jumped into the water and had no further questions.

We had lunch at Ocean Breeze Restaurant, trying to realize where we had landed.

In the evening we went down to the beach to enjoy the sunset and have a few drinks. Charles had told us, that only a few bars have a license to sell alcohol, so the ones that don’t have one sell it too but at a higher price because of the risk of getting caught.

We sat down at Fusion, a good-looking bar, overlooking the beach from the first floor Terrasse, the Kingfisher was cold, the orange juice looked tasty, so we went for a Cocktail called Sundowner, which was served in a fresh coconut. Nice!

The sun went down quickly, hidden behind the fog of evaporating seawater and within 30 minutes it was pitch black. Out there on the see lots of lights appeared, as the fishers were starting to do their thing.

Time for some food, so we visited the Crab Club, and indeed the beer there was served in Tea Cups and the bottles stood under the table. Tasty tea!

Fish in Banana leaf, Shrimp masala and Tiger Prawn curry were a good way the fight the hunger, so we walked down the boulevard in a half coma. 

As all shops were already closing up, we ended up at a tailor shop, looking for more suitable pants for this weather, and we did find some simple cotton pants for 600 Rupees.

We walked around the corner from Lighthouse beach to Kovalam Beach and then tried to go for a shortcut back to our hotel. Well, it still is a labyrinth, especially in the dark. But this way, we were able to see parts of Kovalam we had not seen before and probably will never see again.

So now it was definitely time and reason for another cold drink. 

We had seen a sign saying music cafe before so after finding it again, we sat down and asked, whether they do have music and or if we could play there. 

Turns out it is only the name, no music in Kovalam…

Heading back to the hotel, we stopped at fusion once more, and at 23h all things were coming to an end.

Day 7 : Luni to Kovalam

We got up early to catch breakfast and to say thank you and goodbye to Imran Khan, who left earlier than us with part of the participants for another week of workshops and sightseeing somewhere else.

His brother Irfan took us to the Jodhpur Airport and we arrived so early that the Checkin counter was still closed. Because our luggage was a little too heavy, we put some of the heavy items in our carry on and made some last minute adjustments using the Check in scale.

A Chili roll and a slice of indian pizza later the counter opened, but now we had to get our luggage through the security check at the other end of the hall.

We thought we would not run into problems in a small airport like Jodhpur, but boy were we wrong…

Airport Personnel does not seem to know drum set parts, like foot machine or cymbals, so Johannes von Buttlar had to unpack all kinds of stuff, get his suitcase x-rayed three times until he was good to go. Immo was already standing in line and had to let people pass until the other two could catch up. When it was our turn we should put all three suitcases on the scale and ended up with 74,94 kilos, 60 grams short of the 25kg limit per piece, yes!

We thought we had tricked the system, when Immo was approached by an Air India employee, asking if this was the carry on luggage, he lifted the two pieces up and said he had to check…

Long Story short: 500 Rupies per Kilo overweight, our carry on luggage in total was 14 kilos over so Johannes Haase paid 5000 for 10 Kilos and we could continue, risking the same problem in Delhi.

In Delhi we were supposed to have two hours of time, but when we landed our time window had shrunk to a little less than an hour. We had to leave the domestic sector and walk to international departures, which was weird because we would not leave the country.

After showing our passports and boarding cards for 5-6 times, going through another security check, we finally arrived in the right terminal and boarding had not yet started, so Immo took the opportunity to buy a harddisk, as the SD Cards were all full already.

Waiting at the gate we had to get some food so the healthy stuff from the vending machine had to do, Johannes Haase also bought three bags of different nuts.

The flight to Trivandrum was supposed to take 4,5 hours and a driver from the Vedic Heritage Hotel would be there to pick us up. Well, we landed an hour later than planned and Immo’s suitcase, which was labeled as fragil would not appear on the conveyor belt at the baggage claim. We showed our baggage number to one of the employees and share enough, they had the suitcase set aside behind a door, so it would not be thrown around at the baggage claim.

Our driver was there and took us to Kovalam, where a guide was waiting at the roadside to escort us to the hotel through a labyrinth of small walkways. Luckily it was downhill when we arrived at about 00:30h rolling our luggage to our new home.

Charles, the hotel owner was waiting for us, but only whispered, to not wake up the other guests. No bars or restaurants where open anymore in Kovalam so we called it a night after a cold glass of water.

Day 6: Raaga Taala Retreat Grand Finale

The day started with opening our social media office in front of room 59, the blog entries of the last 4 days had to be shared, while drinking some chai masala.

Today we decided to go for an extended walk to discover the salty river Luni. We walked through the village headed to the right direction and after a few deadends we found the riverbed.

The residents greeted friendly, especially the kids repeated their hellos and bye byes a few times and even came up to shake our hand.

Some young boys were playing cricket in the fields an yelled in our direction to invite us to play.

A bunch of puddles of water surrounded by a white saltcrust were left but no actual waterflow. The bushes were littered with trash of all kinds and some cow corpses were rotting away in the sun. The stomach of one cow was completely filled with plastic bags, but that did not stop a stray dog from chewing on the remaining flesh.

We crossed the riverbed right next to a railway bridge and a honking train passed over it.

We got up on the rails and a crew of about 5 men came in our direction with a sort of draisine to measure the width of the tracks for safety reasons.

On the way back to the Fort we walked along the rails and a young man on a motorcycle stopped to find out where we were from. He told us he was shopping for dinner and had already bought oil and a kilo of garlic, but more importantly asked if we were on Facebook, he handed over his phone so we could find our profile and he could send a friend request. While we were doing that uncle 2 kept calling, he answered and told us that he had to go back to the shop to buy two kilos of chilis. He invited us to come to his house, but we had other plans. His name was Suresh.

There was a railway crossing and cars and motorcycles were waiting for the gate to open, but some riders just limboed under it, so at some point the guard just opened it and everybody got on their way.

Just a few steps from our Fort another man greeted us and offered an Indian cigarette called Beedi. It turned out him and his friend were sugar bakers and they showed us photos of their food on their smartphones while two boys were looking at us with shy interest.

Upon returning to Fort Chanwa preparations for the final evening were well on their way: the big stage was set up again and all the different workshop groups were busy practicing their routines.

At about 20h the program started with Imran Khan and his 7 Sitar students accompanied by flute and tabla, followed by the Tabla players und the singers.

They all presented, what they had learned n the past week, some of them had never touched the instruments before or sang at all.

The singing Guru performed with the Tabla Guru and a Harmonium player, to show some more classical Indian music.

By then Suresh had sent two Photo updates via Facebook Messenger with the food he was preparing to invite us over, but we could not leave…

After that the stage was switched and it was time for the dance performances, a classical one and for the absolute finale: Bollywood Dance!

They made us all join in, so at the end it was a big Bollywood dance party. Who would have known that it is so much fun!

Time was flying, so Dinner started at 23:30h, we cheated a little bit and had a tomato soup earlier.

Chaitanya and Ajush, both participants of the Tabla group, who we had met on our first trip to Jodhpur market, sat down at our table and we got to learn more about the intricate language of the tabla. There is s special syllable for every stroke combination on the tabla, so it depends on your vocabulary how many combinations you can play. Fascinating stuff!

When we were about ready to go to bed we met the Prince again, and he invited us to have another drink with him and his son.

We talked about religion again, and he told us about the history of islam and hinduism in India and how complicated it is to convert Hindus, as they will just incorporate Allah or Jesus with the rest of their gods.

Because his son was into 70s rock music he told us a story about him in his early teens on the beach of Goa, when a VW Van pulled up, a bunch of guys came out and set up their instruments and played for the 25-35 hippie looking people on the beach for about two hours. Then they ended their spontaneous concert with the words he would not forget: Thank you very much , it was a pleasure playing for you, back in our country they call us Led Zeppelin …

We exchanged contacts and he invited us to stay at his home in Jodhpur next time we visit.



Day 5: Royal Palace , Camel Ride and Dinner in the Desert

After yesterday’s concert and the following celebration we missed morning yoga once again. Maybe it is still jetlag?

We grabbed a quick lunch for breakfast and hopped on the bus to Jodhpur. First stop was at the maharaja Palace to have a look at the museum and the garden.

We had already seen it from the big Fortress, as is situated on a rock on the opposite side of Jodhpur.
We had our first safran ice cream, the first impression was like licking soap, but after getting used to it, it was good.
It took another hour to get to Osian, north of Jodhpur, where we jumped on to jeeps and had a bumpy ride to the camels which were waiting on a dune.

Chai was served and we had the chance to take a ride on a camel. It is quite exciting when it gets up, you have to hold on tight, once it is moving and you adjust to it’s rhythm it is a soothing massage.

A traditional band was set up on the dune and played for the group, while a little further down the dune an Indian couple was having a romantic photoshoot in the sunset with a photo team and even pyrotechnics !

We could choose to ride the camel or the jeep ack to camp, where dinner was awaiting.
The same band had already set up next to the campfire and started playing in the dark, as there was no electricity at the time.
Only lit by the fire and oil torches it had a nice atmosphere. Finger food was served around the circle we were sitting in and soon the four female dancers got us all to join their dance around the fire.
The generator started und suddenly the whole place was lit up, changing the vibe, but you could finally see the band again.
About an hour and lots of finger food later, it was announced that dinner was now ready… better not miss yoga tomorrow morning!
We are sitting on the bus now, making our 90 minute return to Luni.
Great Trip, thanks to Imran, Tina and their whole team.

Day 4: Rehearsal and Concert

After a good nights sleep we tried to get breakfast although most of the participants were gone, as we missed the chance to get up at 5 in the morning to witness a concert at sunrise and morning yoga at a local palace. We ended up getting omelette and sandwiches and chai masala.

We wanted to find out where exactly we had been the last two days, as we had not really left the Fort yet, so we went for A walk around the town of Luni, which is actually called Chanwa, as we would later find out.

A lot of cows just roam the streets and chew up whatever they can find, which often is the trash laying around. Two bulls were dueling withers their horns, but we left after the first round of the fight.

Chanwa is a village with some shops on the main street and the residents were doing their thing as we passed by. At night we could frequently hear the trains honking so we wanted to find the railway. Welcome to Luni station. Not much else to see here, so we grabbed three espresso size chai for 20 rupees, which is 0,25€.

We arrived back at the Fort and Imran was already looking for us to start our second rehearsal.
Last night we had already setup in the Poolroom next to the swimming pool and practiced some of the pieces from last years concerts in Leipzig and Bremen, but more work needed to be put in.
Johannes brought a special type of drum set with him, a snare drum case is used as a bass drum and a small snare is attached right to the high at stand. Genius!

We ended our rehearsal at 15h with eight pieces on our set list and moved the equipment to the stage.

A real drumset was brought in and while we installed ourselves on stage the tech crew set up the PA system and mics.

Hanif Khan arrived with his Tablas and we were complete. During soundcheck a few pieces were repeated because Hanif couldn’t be at the two previous rehearsals and the recording setup also had to be installed and checked.

At 19h we were done with all preparation including our cameras, it was dark already and the concert started at about 19:45.

Here is a short livestream clip of Dance in the dunes with a Freestyle verse from Flowin Immo:

The five of us had fun together, the crowd was energetic in their feedback, so after about two hours they were asking for an encore: Confusion!
Or Khanfusion?

A video will follow, but you can check the livestream on Facebook already .

Khanfusion starts at about 24 minutes:

After the show we took everything apart and brought it to our room, when Imran introduced us to the Prince of the Fort. Nice Guy.
To start the after show celebration with a few Kingfisher Premium beers (to be sold in Radjastan only) we went to the bar which is only in service in the evening hours and the very friendly and funny Barkeeper.
We joined a group from England, Switzerland and Germany that we met the night before, sitting around a bowl of fire, and they were still reciting the lyrics of the confusion encore jam.
The Prince also joined us and he told us about the history of the fort and his family as well as the origin of the name Luni. It stems from Lun, local name for salt, because from the nearby desert a river emerges out of nowhere which also disappears into nowhere and its water is salty!
The railway station used to be an important junction on the route from Mumbai to Karachi.
He told us that the Fort was built by a Maharadja from the caste of the Bards, so it seems to make sense to perform music there.
He stated that he does not believe in afterlife and your one chance to be happy is in this reality.
He also generously invited us to drink what he was drinking: Rum with water. That ritual was repeated a few times so now the memories start to blurr…

Day 3 Fort Chanwa to Jodhpur

Well. The alarm rang at 8 and was quickly silenced . At 9 the cleaning personnel knocked, at 10 again. We could not move yet, as the last nights were very short.

When Imran knocked at 13h to check on us for lunch, our sleepy reply was: so room service today please! But after letting us know, what time it was, we finally got up and joined the rest of the group for lunch.

Then it was time for a bus tour to Jodhpur! Two big busses hauled the group to the train station, where we switched to Horse carriages, because the roads to the inner city are too narrow for the bus.

Just outside of a big market out trip ended and we continued on foot. The three of us walked up to the Fortress to see the Blue City front above. Very impressive.

On the way down we had a chai on the rooftop of Blue Bird restaurant and realised: yes, we actually are in India right now!

We walked back down the hill, taking a different route and came by a large hole with some dark but clear water on the bottom. It looked like some kind of bath or place of worship. Afterwards we found out that it was a well for drinking water from centuries ago.

The constant honking had returned and the street life was getting busier as we were about to reach the market again.

We met the rest of the group and Imran invited us to have a tasty samosa before we hopped on the horse carriages to get back to the busses.

At Fort Chanwa dinner awaits and another concert right after. But even after that we are not done, as we wi have rehearsal for our concert tomorrow with ScyllaLayaKhan !

After returning to the Fort we enjoyed a dual Tabla concert with intricate compositions and another tasty dinner.

Day 2 from Delhi to Fort Chanwa in Luni

We woke up after 3 hours of sleep in our hotelroom, had breakfast in the lobby, consisting of bananas, fried bread, some kind of spicy curry soup and mostly exploded boiled eggs. The Chai machine was not working all the time, as there was a combat sports team of some kind having breakfast at the same time.

We took a taxi to the airport, begging kids at the first intersection came up to the window, and us not having rupies yet, Immo decided go give away a bottle of water. Sure enough the young girl took it. But even before we could leave the traffic jam, we could see her swirl it around and the water fell to the ground like rain.

On to the airport. Check in with our heavy suitcases, close to 30 kilos each, which gladly made it with us, as they were strapped to the roof of the car with rubber bands.

We had to pay 500 rupies for 5 kg overweight, which was fair, as it actually was more than that. At the security check the lighter was confiscated, and Johannes Cymbal and footmachine had to be examined and explained.

We still had time for a coffee and there was a smoking room right next to it. To light your cigarette you had to push a button and let the machine on the wall heat up.

The flight to jodhpur took about an hour but before we could take of, we sat on the runway for about 25 minutes as about 5 planes flew by and landed somewhere in the Delhi fog.

Jodhpur has a beautiful little airport and we were picked up by the Tabla Master Hanif Khan and Imran`s brother Irfan.

We were a little hungry, so they kindly organised Sandwiches on the way and at that stop a lot more Khan family members got on the bus. They started rehearsing vocally for the concert which was scheduled for the evening.

13 members of one family playing five Sitar, 4 Sarangi, 2 Tabla, 1 Dhol and 6 Vocals.

Great stuff!

We met Imran right after arriving at Fort Chanwa in Luni, who had invited us to come and play with them at the Raaga Taala Retreat which he organises with his partner Tina and their company called creative karma.

He had requested Immo to be the sound engineer for the show, and sure enough Immo accepted the challenge.

So Soundcheck was next, and after 2 hours of setup and checking, the concert could begin.

The electricity dropped about five times during the concert for unknown reasons but luckily came back after a few scary seconds each time.

Although we are in India, and during the day the temperatures are in the mid-twenties, it started to rapidly cool of, so we could see the players rubbing their hands to keep them warm.

After about two hours of a great concert we sat down to have some late night dinner and hit the bed shortly after, thinking about getting up at 8 for morning yoga.

Let the snoring begin!

Day 1: Germany to Delhi

We started from Bremen and Leipzig this morning and met in Frankfurt to board the A-380 to Delhi.

After about seven hours of flight we touched down at Indira Ghandi Airport and took a taxi to the prebooked Hotel which was nowhere to be found.

Great! The first adventure in India!

Walking with our luggage of 35 Kilos each on the road while being honked at.

Finally we ended up at a Hotel called Airport Inn and got a room for us three. Plus 3 bottles of water, 3 bottles of Beer and a bag of chips.

Tomorrow morning we will fly from Delhi to Jodhpur.

Good night!