Daka-deemi, daka-deemi, daka-deemi, dak.
Sandip Burman spit out these solfege-like syllables as his hands and fingers became a blur, pounding out the same rhythm he sang on the tablas, traditional Indian hand drums with a goatskin head.
Burman, a Calcutta, India, native who is anything but a traditional in his approach to the tablas, met with sixth through 12th grade percussionists and members of the Mohonasen stage band in the Mohonasen High School band room on Thursday, March 27.
Turning to his sister, Sumi Burman, with whom he has performed for more than 25 years, the drummer mouthed a few words in his native language and the pair commenced with a rousing improvisation.
Sumi played the harmonium, a small reed organ and sang rhythmic solfege-syllables while her brother, as though possessed, smiled brightly at her, and began gyrating his head and torso for a distinguished performance that allowed the young listeners to immediately understand why Burman has been a constant sideman to some of the most noteworthy names in both Indian and American jazz and fusion music.
Burman has performed with classical Indian musicians like bansuri virtuoso Hariprasad Cahurasia and legendary sitar player Ravi Shankar. In America, Burman has shared the stage with Bela Fleck, Victor Wooten, and a number of sidemen from 70s fusion powerhouses like Weather Report and The Mahavishnu Orchestra.
Most recently, Burman toured with Randy Brecker, of Brecker Brothers fame, as part of his "East Meets Jazz" project.
Burman said traditional Indian music appeals to jazz musicians because of the heavy emphasis on improvisation and rhythm.
"Duke Ellington, (guitarist) John McLaughlin, Miles Davis and many others came to Indian music because it was a new, intricate way to improve improvisational skills," Burman told the students of Mohonasen.
Practice, he said, is key, and the skills won't develop overnight.