(Junoon with Al Gore)
On December 11th, 2007 I experienced a highlight in my performance career. As the drummer for the sufi-rock band, Junoon, I performed at the Nobel Peace Concert in Oslo, Norway, alongside artists such as Alicia Keys, Melissa Etheridge, Earth, Wind & Fire and others. What an experience!
First off, I arrive in Oslo, after riding the plane with Uma Thurman, her kids and an unidentified man-friend, only to have my dhol (North Indian drum) show up on the belt, but absolutely no luggage! I report it missing and am assured that my bag, containing my newly bought threads, my stick bag and dhol sticks, among other stuff a person would travel with, will arrive tomorrow morning (some mistake back in Newark, NJ). Well the next day we’re all invited to the awards ceremony, where Al Gore and Rajendra Pachauria (IPCC) will become the 2007 Nobel Peace Laureates, and still no bag shows up. So I’m essentially floating in there wearing the same cordoroys and black button-down shirt I’ve now been wearing for 2 days straight. I’m not a bit underdressed. I’m completely underdressed! Anyways, after getting past all that, what an experience to be sitting there as Al Gore (by the way, it’s imperative that we all see “An Inconvenient Truth.” I admittedly only saw the movie after returning from Oslo) receives the Peace Prize and dazzles everyone with his oratory talents. Not to mention, I’m sitting across Uma Thurman and trying my damnedness to get a picture of her.
I forgot to mention that the day we arrived we did a sound check on one of the most incredible stages I’ve ever performed on. Just grand in size and split up with 2 separate stages on either side of the Norwegian Orchestra who is placed in a semi-pit. The day of the performance was a big feast/hang with all artists and bands mingling with one another and with our MC’s for the event, Uma Thurman Kevin Spacey. The vibe was relaxed, fun and very, very cool.
Finally, I receive my luggage the day of the show! Just 16 hours before I was to fly back home. Ha! Before we went on, Melissa Etheridge, Alicia Keys and Earth, Wind & Fire had already performed and holy crap were they smoking! I’m not a fan of Etheridge, but she really blew me away. There’s a quality to her voice that is very earthy and majestic. Alicia and her band were ridiculously tight and groovy. What can I say about Earth, Wind & Fire? They played a medley of all their hits and were absolutely on point and the energy was off the chart. I can’t help to mention that Kylie Minogue started off the show and was super lame because she was the only artist who completely played to a track, while four 20-somethings faked on their instrument. I think my parents could’ve beat them all in Guitar Hero. That’s how bad it was. Moving on, it was now our turn. The 20-minute performance with Junoon just flew by so quickly. We went out there in front of 6000 people and we basically rocked out as hard as we could during that time. Samir Chatterjee was on tabla, Chris Tarry on electric bass, Salman Ahmad is the leader, guitarist and vocalist and myself on drums and dhol. One pretty wicked thing about the gig was that I started out our second song playing dhol. The reverberation of this instrument throughout the hall was pretty awesome. Reminded me of the time I played a bucket at Madison Square Garden for this massive Reggaeton concert.
There was an after party, which I ran into the drummer for Alicia Keys, Paul John Jr., whom I had worked with a year ago with Asha Puthli and Dewey Redman at Summerstage in NYC. Also got to chat with Al Gore and many other interesting folks. Chris and I once again hung very late, along with Salman, who incidentally had his birthday hit at the stroke of midnight…good times. I basically got an hour of sleep and had to leave for the airport at 5:30am. All in all, it was a really fantastic time. Watch performance video.