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Posts Tagged ‘Ladakh Confluence’

I was lucky to have traveled with Shahana to Leh, Ladakh in late August ’09. Shahana is a gifted artist. She sketches what she sees around her and they are simply beautiful – while conveying the essence of that moment. She has been kind enough to allow me to post her sketches on my Blog. Enjoy!

pebble stacks

One's soul will rest in the place he/she stacks 7 pebbles..

leh view bw

The Leh View Restaurant offers amazing views of Leh!

market leh bw

Fresh vegetable (grown in season) vendors line up the Leh Market in summer

pigtails bw

Local woman in Leh - in pigtails

steep rides bw

Our ride to Pangong took us up to 17,500 feet! and then came down..

diamox bw

All 7 of us took Diamox enroute Pangong to deal with altitude sickness - some got real scratchy - Be warned!

maggie bw

Simple food - never fails to warm travelers in high altitudes

talvin singh

The reason we got to Ladakh - The Ladakh Confluence '09

rear view

Jayanth had the best seat in the house during the Ladakh Confluence '09

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We were still reeling from our mindblowing visit to Pangong the previous day. We woke up from our Pangong Tso hangover to a rainy day in Ladakh!  Apparently, there is literally no rainfall in this 11,500 ft. desert! And we had to have rain on our final day at Leh. We had planned to spend the entire last day at the Ladakh Confluence but the rain threw all the day time programs out of gear.

Shrinath managed to get Chang – some local brew (made entirely out of barley) through his local contact. But for some obligatory tasting, none of us really were up to it. We ended up having lunch at the Leh View Restaurant and Jayanth and I had to hail a Tata Sumo to bring us back on the 1km short drive to Hotel Lasermo post lunch due to the rain.

The drizzly, cloudy day seemed to continue into the evening. We headed out to Sindhu Ghat in Choglamsar (site of Ladakh Confluence) with some trepidation on whether the evening programs would take place. I was determined to see Rodney Branigan (did not perform on the last day finally :(). We arrived to a light drizzle and the temperatures started dropping. We entered the Film tent (powered only by Solar energy – sadly could not function on the last day) to grab some Confluence Tshirts and those who did not have headgear, got themselves some welcome ear muffs. We found out to our relief that the evening Musical programs were on. The main stage was not usable for whatever reasons on that day and the performances were moved to the smaller “Nyima” Stage.

We started walking towards the venue as we passed the sign board “Please talk to strangers” – a reminder of the spirit of this confluence. All the rain had created enough slush to recreate a mini Woodstock – too bad, there were not that many hippies there to be rolling around the mud with gay abandon. We were carefully navigating towards the stage when we heard the soulful sounds of this wonderful music wafting towards us and it drew us right up to the stage before we knew it. And this is how we discovered Vedanth Bharadwaj, a gifted young musician from Chennai, who was brave enough to get up on stage and belt out soulful Kabir songs before the crowds arrived. The wet weather did not seem to matter anymore as we witnessed 4 songs from Vedanth that totally elevated our spirits through his wonderful, warm music. Vedanth certainly made new fans that day and we hope that he will play in Bangalore soon. Here is one of the videos from his wonderful set –

Post this we had a set from Delhi’s Suchet Malhotra who performed percussion to some club beats that he had assembled himself. He was decent but they let him play for almost an hour and a half. My heart sank as there was to be no Rodney Branigan and we entered the final act of the day – Bauchklang, a beatboxing group from Austria. Beatboxers make all of their music with their vocal chords and there are no instruments. We were treated to a good one hour of one of the best live performances I have seen in a long time. All the slush in front of the stage area got added with people on top of it and we could only see bouncing heads. Bauchklang confessed on stage that since their craft is so lung intensive, they figured they will play for 25 minutes given they are performing at 11, 500 feet – the energy of the crowds got them to cross over an hour! And no one in the crowd was complaining 🙂 They were clearly clutching for air. The below video will give you an idea of what I meant about their craft being lung intensive –

Please find the overall roundup and daily reviews of the Ladakh Confluence from Indiecision here. The overall highlights with some brilliant photos of the Ladakh Confluence can be found on the official site here.

We ended the Ladakh Confluence ’09 on this great high note. Thanks to the organizers for this brilliant concept that drew us to Leh all the way from Bangalore. The vivid memories of this trip will stay with us for a long time to come. Additionally, this blog will continue to remind us of the wonderful time we had in Ladakh and I sincerely hope it inspires others to visit this wonderful land and it’s people. One can rest assured that this will not be the last time we visit Ladakh as I have every intention of visiting again!

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The rafting adventure the previous day took it’s toll. As this day dawned, we realized Vivek was down with a bad case of tummy blues and Fever. Others had various degrees of aches in parts of their bodies. Post breakfast, we decided to make the most of this day and head into the Leh Market – without Vivek!

Cool embroidered Tshirts

Cool embroidered Tshirts

We ambled outside the hotel before noon to a bright sunny day. There are incredible T-Shirt shops (selling embroidered Tshirts) lined along the way outside the hotel. An immediate draw for all especially Jayanth 🙂 They have these incredible T-shirts and assorted wares at extremely afforable prices.

The Leh market had a lot of street vendors and they made for some real interesting portraits –

Street Vendor Portraits

Street Vendor Portraits

Street Vendor Portrait

Street Vendor Portrait

Shahana sharing her sketch

Shahana sharing her sketch

Shahana was at her sketching best and an impromptu sketch with some local street vendors caused much delight to them. Great smiling faces..

Delighted at Shahana's sketch

Delighted at Shahana's sketch

This is what caused the excitement:

Shahana's Sketch

Shahana's Sketch

In spite of how cool it was, Sunitha did not buy this..

In spite of how cool it was, Sunitha did not buy this..

The sun was getting quite hot and Sunitha and I ended up buying caps. Everyone else finished their shopping and we treaded along until we hit a gem of a restaurant called Leh View Restaurant. Two floors above, the terrace offered some spectacular views of Leh. The afternoon sun was gorgeous making for some awesome pictures. We had beer served in kettles and a tasty lunch of egg curry and rice. After a few days in Leh, simple dishes have a lot of culinary value. Here are some pictures from our extended casual lunch

Leh View Restaurant / Beer from a kettle

Leh View Restaurant / Beer from a kettle

Classic Architecture

Classic Architecture

Leh Palace

Leh Palace

Rustic Leh Town

Rustic Leh Town

Leh against the backdrop

Leh against the backdrop

Angry Clouds? Temple at bottom left.

Angry Clouds? Temple at bottom right.

Everchanging Cloud formation against temple and Mountain backdrop

Everchanging Cloud formations against temple and Mountain backdrop

Heavenly

Heavenly

Sun filtering through Netted Green RoofTop making for great natural light!

Sun filtering through Netted Green RoofTop making for great natural light!

Post lunch we headed back to the hotel after getting some dinner from the German/World Peace Cafe. Unfortunately both Sunitha and I were not feeling that great that evening and we decided to stay back at the hotel along with Vivek – the trip to Pangong Tso is early next morning! I grudgingly stayed back in order to be fit for the day long mental assault –  the drive to Pangong Tso and back. Jayanth, Shrinath, Shubra and Shahana attended Day 2 of the Confluence. They had a a whale of a time with the main act – Terrakota from Potugal – a high energy Afro-reggae fusion band known for their brilliant stage outfits and performance. Will try to share some video footage at a later time. The earlier parts of the day apparently had some great music by Rajasthan Roots and Shaa’ir + Func. Read a review about Day 2 of the Confluence at Indiecision here.

Terrakota

Terrakota

I am still beating myself up as the highlight of Day 2 was the Drum circle by Roberto Narain around a bonfire – a ton of people jamming away to beats whether they knew to play or not. I guess not everything is meant to be.

I added a few extra pictures than I wanted to in this post. The biggest difficulty is choosing among the tons of pictures I shot to include the right ones to convey what we experienced at that particular time. A nice problem to have on hand I suppose.

Stay tuned to read about this amazing place called Pangong Tso in the next post.

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Finally – Sunitha joins me in Leh and it is the opening day of the first ever Ladakh Confluence ’09.

Sunitha arrived in the Kingfisher flight at 8AM. After picking her from the airport, we had breakfast with the rest of the crew who were getting ready for a day of adrenaline rush – white water rafting in a place called Chilling. Vivek, Shubra, Shrinath, Jayanth and Shahana headed out for a 30km joyride and came back to tell the tale (and share a lot of relieved laughs) at the end of the day. This being Sunitha’s first day, we gave her no option but to rest. I took this opportunity to chill and organize the tons of pictures I had already taken.

We did miss the inauguration and the day time acts all days in the festival for various reasons (planned to spend the entire last day at the site but it rained 😦 ), but based on the highlights reported, the opening was unique and grand in it’s own way and we missed out on some great daytime music and mingling with similar minded folks who were crazy enough to travel to 11,500 ft above sea level to attend a music/cultural festival.

A few words about the Ladakh Confluence – this event was pure in every sense. Try getting a location like this to pull off a festival (Sindhu Ghat) – Mountains on every side, the Indus flowing by one side and a pristine environment. There was no commercial interpretation and the intent was to have a great cultural experience and they totally pulled it off. Imagine, no sponsorships for a Music festival in 2009! The confluence may have had it’s hiccups and there may not have been huge crowds but then, this is Ladakh! Everyone got something by just getting there! I understand that this event was pulled off by a select few from diverse backgrounds with one passion – Music. I sincerely applaud their efforts and I have no doubt that this event is going to be way bigger in the years to come.  Take a bow organizers!  I am glad I got to to be there during the first year and I hope they are able to maintain the spirit and integrity of this proposition in the future.

The guys got back around 5ish to the hotel and we were itching to head out to the catch the main acts at the Ladakh Confluence ’09 – Talvin Singh accompanied by Rahul Sharma and Chennai’s own Mahesh Vinayakram (the famed Vikkuu Vinayakram’s 3rd son who branched into Carnatic vocals – fusion anyway runs in the family).

Main Acts on Opening Night - Talvin Singh / Rahul Sharma / Mahesh Vinayakram

Main Acts on Opening Night - Talvin Singh / Rahul Sharma / Mahesh Vinaykram

I got Shrinath’s tripod up and got the video camera ready. There was a delay in setup & the concert was delayed by 45 mins at least. Mr. Omar Abdullah, J&K’s young Chief Minister arrived along with his Tourism Minister to inaugurate the Confluence and enjoy the musical evening. The first two sets were with J&K’s own Rahul Sharma (carrying the tradition of his father ShivKumar Sharma and playing Kashmir Valley’s Santoor) and Talvin Singh. I am not sure if it was the location or what, but the music was heavenly. Mahesh Vinayakram joined after this to kick off with “Vaathapi Ganapathim”  and this was truly the highlight of the evening – the rich vocals of Mahesh reverberating against the mountains of Ladakh! The rest of the show was alright as it went into some fusion and some of Talvin’s other numbers – I felt that Talvin did not keep the tempo up as much as I would have liked to have witnessed. A great start however, to the Ladakh Confluence ending the day with some divine music at 11,500 feet above sea level. Mr. Omar too got into the crowd towards the end of the show! I guess, you have to be blessed to have been here 🙂

Here is a short clip of Rahul Sharma and Talvin Singh:

This was the highlight of the evening – “Vaathapi Ganapathim” by Mahesh Vinayakram. Enjoy!

The festival schedule can be found here and a review of Day 1 at the festival by Indiecision here. Saturday, Aug 29 was a slow one as Vivek was unwell – the rafting trip along with the high dosages of Diamox finally got to him :). We walked around in the market and it made for some interesting portraits. More about this day in a post shortly. Stay tuned.

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The Shanti Stupa, a magnificent white edifice, stands atop the Changspa hill, overlooking Leh, as a commemoration to 2500 years of Buddhism and as a symbol for Global Peace and Unity. It was promoted and built in 1983 by a Japanese Buddhist monk, Bhikshu Gyomyo Nakamura who belonged to a group called “Japanese for World Peace”. Little did we know that Guruji Gyomyo is also an accomplished musician – he also partook in the inauguration of the Ladakh Confluence ’09 (we missed the inaugration unfortunately). The Ladakh Confluence website claimed “The Most Venerable Gyomo Nakamura, founder of the famed Shanti Stupa in Leh, revealed his mastery of the electric blues guitar to an audience that never expected to see a Buddhist monk in robes playing soulful blues against a backdrop of mountains.” Too bad, we missed the opening!

Shanti Stupa atop the Changspa hilltop

Shanti Stupa atop the Changspa hilltop

Different Views of the Shanti Stupa

Different Views of the Shanti Stupa

Shanti Stupa

Shanti Stupa

Shanti Stupa

Shanti Stupa

The Shanti Stupa offers amongst the most stunning views of Leh. If you have a half day to yourself (during season), I recommend, you go and sit on the ledge of the Stupa. I noticed many people doing this – sitting for hours on end just ogling at the scenery as it unravels itself. The thing with Leh (especially if you are at a vantage point) is the dynamic nature of the scenery – it is everchanging in that the clouds and the color of the sky seem to make innumerable combinations to the eye.  Get yourself up there to experience what I mean. Here are some shots of Leh –

Panorama of Leh Town

Panorama of Leh Town

Eastern edge of Leh - ensconced by the terrain

Western edge of Leh - ensconced by the terrain

The ledge offers stunning views of Leh!

The ledge offers stunning views of Leh!

Closer View of Leh - Note the Leh Palace on the Left of picture

Closer View of Leh - Note the Leh Palace on the Left of picture

Leh Golf Course as seen from Shanti Stupa

Leh Golf Course as seen from Shanti Stupa

All in all, an amazing day visitng the local sights of Leh. We did cover the Hall of Fame before we visited Shanti Stupa and this will be covered in a later post. The Hall of Fame is a War Memorial dedicated to the Soldiers of India. We closed this day with some hot tea and Maggie Noodles in the Stupa cafeteria (again offers stunning views). The Ladakh Cofluence ’09 begins tomorrow – stay tuned for some awesome Video Coverage and a lot more to come in the coming few days.

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The name Sindhu has more than a historical association with the word Indus (Indus means Sindhu in Sanskrit), from the time the Aryans descended to settle in the Indus Valley. To endorse and celebrate the Sindhu or Indus River as a status for communal harmony and unity in India, the Sindhu Ghat was inaugrated by then Home Minister Shri. L.K. Advani in 1997.  The annual Sindhu Darshan festival is celebrated here every June to honour the brave soldiers of this country for their service – apparently participants from various states bring water from their rivers in earthen pots to mix them in the Sindhu river – the mingling symbolizing the multi faceted cultural identity and diversity of this great country.

It is therefore only fitting that the first ever Ladakh Confuence ’09 should be held in such a symbolical site. An area of open land next to the Indus river surrounded by mountains –  that oozes natural beauty in every direction that you look. It is also no wonder that our excitement led to calmness when we reached this site. On seeing the water, we hurriedly removed our shoes to dip our feet into this icy cold water that originated it’s journey from Tibet near Lake Mansarovar. The lazy, clear afternoon sun, the light breeze, the azure sky, the rolling clouds, the water flowing, the view of the mountains – all made for a heady cocktail for calming one down. The place had this magical effect on all of us and there were happy, smiling faces without a care in the world, sitting and chatting up by the banks of the river for the 30 minutes we spent there. Cherished moments that are to be relished forever and something that cannot be claimed by anyone.

The pictures of this location speak for themselves. Enjoy!

Entrance to Sindhu Ghat/Ladakh Confluence Site

Entrance to Sindhu Ghat/Ladakh Confluence Site

Water, Mountains, Azure skies

Water, Mountains, Azure skies. Notice the moon at 3pm

A sense of accomplishment perhaps? Happy Faces of Jayanth and Shrinath

A sense of accomplishment perhaps? Happy Faces of Jayanth and Shrinath

Water flowing in the Indua

Water flowing in the Indus

Relaxed times - photographing each other - seemed to happen a lot on this trip!

Relaxed times - photographing each other - seemed to happen a lot on this trip!

Water, Mountains, Azure Skies - heady cocktail

Water, Mountains, Azure Skies - heady cocktail

Vivek & Shubra

Vivek & Shubra

Another Happy Face - Shahana

Another Happy Face - Shahana

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