Jazz Fest (New Orleans)!

May 2017

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It had been a long time coming…

For years, I had been wanting to go to Jazz Fest in New Orleans.  I had heard many great things about it and since I’d visited New Orleans once, I knew it was a place I had to return to.  It just has a soul and a style different from any other place I have visited in my life.

Finally, this year I told myself I was not going to miss this festival.  While most of my friends are into the more trendy festivals- Coachella, Burning Man, etc., I wanted the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Music Festival to be my first one.

Although I’m a singer perform live regularly,  I was a little daunted by the idea of listening to music all day in the open air for three days in a row, so I opted to go to the first weekend for two days.  It was a nice happy medium.

It was a long journey to New Orleans.  My flight was delayed by an hour and a half, which led me to miss my connection, and have to catch the next flight.  Luckily, I came in time to experience a little night life with my man before heading to the fest the next day.  (In New Orleans, the night life lasts until 5 or 6 in the morning!)

The street bands and live music on Frenchmen’s street served as a nice precursor for what was going to be a weekend full of music!  It was also good to connect with my cousin and his wife, who were also in town for Jazz Fest.

Then the day finally came, Jazz Fest day 1 (well technically day two out of three, but day one for me.)  After a quick hotel breakfast, and a fifteen minute Uber drive, my man and I joined the masses to get through one of the many entrances to the Race Track and Fairgrounds where the outdoor event was held.

Before even entering the fair grounds, people were selling food and drink , including lots of water bottles, as it was a warm day.  Also, the line to the fairgrounds went pretty quickly -a swift bag check and two scans of our tickets, and we were in!

Day 1, first stop:  The Gospel Tent.  What a way to embark on our musical journey, by listening to roaring and uplifting, gospel music!  We clapped our hands, responded to the calls, and continued on to the next tent -The Blues Tent.

This is where the authenticity of New Orleans music began to be revealed and true music-lovers gathered.  People weren’t in the audience chatting or distracted, they were up on their feet dancing to every tune.  To me, it felt like home.

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As the day continued, we made our way through the maze of venues, from small outdoor stages, to tents, to big stages where headliners, including the Alabama Shakes and Usher performed.  As much as I enjoy these artists, my favorites were the local bands.  They simply keep the soul of New Orleans alive.  They danced while they played, some dressed in decorative costumes, and kept people elevated!

Another thing that exudes the spirit of NoLa is the food and people!  As we left the racetrack for the day, the music and fun continued.  While we walked to find a place to catch a cab to our hotel a few friendly party goers, invited us to have crawfish and drinks.  I’d never had boiled crawfish before or knew how to eat it, so they taught us how to.  It was a lot of fun!

We continued to enjoy the music scene in French quarter that evening, found more good eats, then called it a night-  as we had one more music-filled day to go!

Day 2:  Rain!  That’s right, it was raining and we received the notification on the Internet that “the Jazz Fest is closed until further notice.”  Did we really travel from far and purchase non-refundable tickets, to not be able to attend this long-awaited music festival?  I felt terrible… until about 1pm, when it opened up again!  By then we had purchased some gear to weather the rain, including waterproof shoes and umbrella.  The racetrack was muddy, but it didn’t stop us from enjoying what was left of the fest.  Lorde was great on stage and it was exciting to catch a live show of Tom Petty!  Although my favorite again, were the local performers. This was the day the New Orleans marching band paraded through the track.  Come rain or shine, the music played on!

This spirit  that comes from the soulful and uplifting from music, people, and food are what I love about New Orleans and while things didn’t go quite as expected, I was so happy to be there and share the time with my family and partner.

My hope now is that I will one day perform at this awesome festival!  (Can you visualize it? 😉 )IMG_3932

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Gigs and NAMM!

January 22, 2017

It’s been another productive and exciting week in music for me!

This week I performed at the Vampire Lounge in Beverly hills -a cozy little wine bar, with a plush, vintage look to it.  It had been a while since I’d performed long acoustic sets, so I was a little nervous.  Luckily, I sang alongside a very talented musician and guitarist, David Sampson.  At the last minute, we came together to run through a diverse set of songs, spanning from pop, to jazz, to soul, and we made it work!  People loved it.

It was also wonderful to see many of my friends come out and support, as well as meet new faces.  It made it that much more comfortable and fun.  One woman named Mona asked me if I loved doing this and of course I responded “yes.”  She then said, “it really shows when you perform.  The audience can feel it.”  That was a sweet compliment and a good night.

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(Friends, Dave, and I tucked in there -Vampire Lounge)

If you’re connected to facebook, feel free to check out our rendition of “Bridge Over Troubled Waters” here:  https://www.facebook.com/ShaliniSings/videos/1080168188776277/?pnref=story

Later in the week, I had to make a game-time decision on how to spend my Saturday:  Women’s March or NAMM.  It was a tough call considering how much I believe in women’s rights and equality and what a crucial time we’re in, but I went with the latter, as I had never been to a large music conference.  It was also an opportunity to meet fellow musicians and industry professionals, which I don’t do often considering my day-job is in a completely different field.

Once I arrived in Anaheim where the convention took place, I began to regret my decision.  Parking was nowhere to be found.  I circled for about an hour and then came up with the “bright idea” to park at my friend’s parents home about two miles away then take an Uber.

It was just in the nick of time, as shortly thereafter I was on stage with Bollywood musical legend, Bappi Lahiri.  No, I had not planned this at all.  It just happened!

Mark Nguyen of Planet LA records, my friend who helped me get in to the event, asked if I would sing backups with Mr. Lahiri and I couldn’t say no (even though I didn’t know the songs), so yes is what I said!  Yes, I did it and it was great to share the stage with one of India’s beloved musicians and artists.

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(Bappi Lahiri and I singing together in the Gibson Room at NAMM)

We all took a short coffee break in the Gibson VIP room, where I sat down with Mr. Lahiri and his son Bappa.  We had a nice chat and then Bappi took the opportunity to offer advice to me:  “You just need to tell yourself that you are going to be an established singer.”  I think he was right.

Later we took a walk down the exhibition hall.  It was huge; there were hundreds of vendors selling instruments and many musicians trying them out.  I felt like a kid in a candy store.

As a salesperson for scientific instrumentation, it reminded me of vendor shows I’ve worked, but this was a completely different vibe -music was everywhere and potential customers were incredibly enthused to try new gear!

I stopped at the Blu booth, where they had a live DJ playing throwback R&B and hip-hop hits, with microphones and headsets to try.  I came to the conclusion that my favorite microphone (especially for my higher register) is the Spark.  I will keep this in mind for future recordings.  🙂

As we continued outside of the convention center, a drum circle commenced. About seventy people took a hold of difference percussion instruments, while the director stood in the center to queue each part, with such vigor and enthusiasm.  It was awesome.  It felt tribal in a way.

At the main stage outside, one of the original members of the Ronnettes performed.  I didn’t see her up close, but noticed her voice still had that same signature Ronnette sound -decades later.

Before the after-party, which took place in Mark’s room at the Marriott hotel, I had a brief celebrity sighting of none other than Stevie Wonder!  He came out of his vehicle with his entourage, so there was no opportunity for a photo, but it was neat to stand so close to greatness.  Apparently, he performs at NAMM every year -who knew?

The after-party was fun -about fifty people squeezed into Mark’s room and we mingled and sang and simply had a good time.

That was my Saturday and needless to say, the commute and seemingly endless search for parking was worth it.

It was also great to get back on stage as a solo artist and perform a live set with Dave earlier in the week.  Maybe I’m right on my way to being an established singer, as Mr. Lahiri said!

Next up:  I’m performing in a tribute concert for George Michael, January 31.  Mark your calendars and have a great week!

Best,

Shalini