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Sunset at Ganga Bank, Varanasi

16 Mar

View from Ganga Bank Guesthouse, Varanasi © Erin Lau 2010

It was Holi, the Hindu festival of colors, known for its raucous misadventures in covering people in liquid and powder color, but I had been spared. I had pretty much stayed in my room all day, because the people at the academy warned of such horrid misbehavior by drunk or drugged men (its mostly men out there) so it was pretty easy to avoid the color snipers on the roof and the ground color grenade throwers. At the same time, I kind of feel like I missed out on a really potentially fun festival. Nevertheless, I decided to go to the roof of the nearby Ganga Bank Guesthouse to soak up the colors of the evening sunset, and watch the city, sleepy from the daytime celebration, fall into shadow as the sun sank behind the temples and mosques.

Pat & Matt, Varanasi

16 Mar

My friends at the academy, Pat and Matt often both practiced on the roof. They were both studying sitar, but Matt also plays guitar, so they were playing around with a Raag they had learned. Interestingly, they are both from the Pacific Northwest, where I call home, and they were taking off from college to study in India. When they return they will be studying jazz, Pat on saxophone and Matt on guitar.

Saraswati Goddess of Arts and Knowledge

16 Mar

Saraswati, Goddess of Music and Learning © Erin Lau 2010

Saraswati is the Hindu goddess of the Creative Arts and Knowledge, plays the Vina, a South Indian instrument that predates the Sitar. The Vina symbolizes her perfection of all arts and sciences. She often is depicted seated on a lotus and accompanied by a swan or peacock.

Rooftop Scene, Varanasi

16 Mar

Rooftop Scene, Varanasi © Erin Lau 2010

Bijilli hai!” Every evening a family across the way from the academy attaches two wires to the power lines running down the alley way, and thats how they get their power (bijilli) for the night.

Sangeetkar (Musicians), Varanasi

16 Mar

Another performance by the Mishra family at the academy. Debu (Deobrat) often sings when he plays, especially folk songs. His family is known for their vocalists, yet his father was the first to play sitar, and he has infused a singing style in his sitar playing. Debu blends the two styles with great agility, one of few musicians to do both at the same time.

Deobrat Mishra, Varanasi

16 Mar

Deobrat Mishra is the director of the Academy of Indian Classical Music in Varanasi, the school I attended. He is a sitar virtuoso and often plays alongside his father, Pandit Shivnath Mishra, who is one of the top sitar players in India. This concert was given at the academy, and Deobratji was playing next to his father, along with Bitu, their nephew who is an amazing tabla player. I tried to draw both Guruji (Shivnath) and Deobratji but Guruji’s head was hidden behind his sitar, so it was not a good composition. In any case, the concert was entrancing, and we were able to witness the musical chemistry between the father and son duo.

Indian Woman

13 Mar

I based this sketch on a young woman I had seen in Varanasi, a mixture of two different women actually. Since I wasn’t able to do a proper portrait with her sitting still, I just went from memory. I had been trying to draw faces that were recognizably Indian for a while, and this woman seems to be the most convincing. In fact, when I showed my sketchbook to some Indian guys they separately said “ooh beautiful, who is she?” as if they wanted to be introduced to her. Sorry guys, she only exists on paper.

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