Australian Bebop Ragas ( also known as ABR) was originally formed with Teed Rockwell on the Touchstyle Veena, Stephen Kent on didgeridoo, and Sameer Gupta on drums. It featured original compositions based on Hindustani Ragas that Teed learned from over a hundred classes with Ali Akbar Khan, and from dozens of classes with Sitar Maestros Shahid Parvez and Habib Khan. Teed is the only person in the world to play in this musical tradition on the Touchstyle Veena, a unique customized instrument which has a guitar-like fretboard played by tapping the strings simultaneously with both hands.
The first ABR performance, at the Caffe Trieste in Berkeley, had one of the largest crowds in that venue’s history, with people filling the streets and peering through the windows. There were several KPFA radio hosts in that audience, who later featured ABR on their shows. ABR played numerous concerts across the state and country, including three shows at the Freight & Salvage. They also recorded an album called Snakes and Ladders, which sold thousands of copies through a variety of distributors, has over a hundred listener-created stations on Pandora, and is widely listened to on Spotify.
The members of the original Australian Bebop Ragas have since moved on to a variety of exciting projects. Sameer has moved to New York, and is running the Brooklyn Raga Massive project. Stephen is now working with an Indian Vocalist in the popular dance music group Baraka Moon. Teed’s group Bollywood Gharana combines traditional Hindustani ragas with Bollywood film tunes. He is also working with the world dance music ensemble DyaTribal, which has built up a large following in Sonoma County, and who played at Ashkenaz in Berkeley last March.
Andy Graham, the drummer in DyaTribal, plays drums and didgeridoo simultaneously, using a unique rack mounted system that he designed and built himself. Andy and Teed begin practicing the Australian Bebop Ragas material during DyaTribal rehearsals, and soon realized they could do this material as a duo. Even better, it would now be possible to create a whole new trio format by adding a saxophone, thanks to their discovery of an extraordinary local talent.
“Jesse Sheehan is one of the very few saxophonists trained in the Hindustani musical tradition” says Teed. “He understands that keeping the rules of the raga gives a special kind of freedom that is as powerful, but importantly different from, the freedom of jazz improvisation. I've never played with any melodic instrumentalist who had a better sensitivity to the ABR material.” Jesse has had extensive experience playing saxophone and tabla professionally around the world with artists such as the Violent Femmes, Hot Buttered Rum, Steve Kimock, Melvin Seals, Candelaria and the Ethiopian funk psychedelic group Sun Hop Fat. His interest in Hindustani and Carnatic Classical music led him to India four times to study Tabla with living legend Pandit Nayan Ghosh for years, and also perform with many of India’s finest musicians. While living in Mumbai, Jesse performed frequently with Louiz Banks, who arranged and produced for the great Indo-Jazz fusion guitarist John McLaughlin.
You can hear the original Australian Bebop Ragas album here.
If you want hear the same music re-conceived and transformed by this new collaboration, come to The Back Room on May 12.
Tickets are $12 in advance and $15 at the door. Advance tickets are available at the link below, or you may purchase your tickets at the door the night of the show. Doors open one half hour before show time. We accept cash only at the door (ATMs are nearby).
The Back Room is an all-ages, BYOB (for those 21+) space, dedicated to (mostly) acoustic music of all kinds. You are welcome to bring your own adult beverage with no additional corkage fee. If you need more information or have any questions, please call us: #510-654-3808. Thank you for your support!