Category Archives: Music et al

Maya Kulkarni Chadda

Maya Kulkarni Chadda

Maya Kulkarni Chadda

Maya Kulkarni Chadda excels in three areas: that of dancing, that of playing the tanpura, and that of being an academic.

Dancing

Maya Kulkarni Chadda

A September 19, 1966 Clive Barnes article in the New York Times wrote of Maya Kulkarni, “In acting and dancing, Miss Kulkarni was delightful. Her rhythmic sense is strong (and this is difficult to sustain with the mental monotony of recorded sound, which permits not immediate response)….

Maya Kulkarni Chadda

Woodstock

Maya Kulkarni Chadda

Three years later, Maya was a 22-year-old postgraduate student when she serendipitously became part of Ravi Shankar’s tour, replacing an ill tanpura player. She joined the Pandit Shankar and the celebrated tabla player Ustad Alla Rakha Khan.

I know little about Indian music and perhaps the tanpura (or tampura) can be a lead instrument, but  at Woodstock, it appears that Maya was simply a background musician to Shankar and Khan.

According to a 2012 article by Somya Lakhani for the Indian Express, “Woodstock was not Chadda’s introduction to Shankar or his sitar notes. As a young child, she used to be a regular at Bhulabhai Desai Institute in Mumbai, where she learnt Bharatnatyam. ‘Raviji used the institute to work on his own productions. I also worked on one, a dance-drama called Chandalika, written by Rabindranath Tagore, to which he gave music. Vyjayantimala Bali had choreographed the piece and I was her chief assistant. Raviji and I developed a strong bond of affection, and he would invite me to all his performances and to his home.”

Maya Kulkarni Chadda

Hendrix

In the same article, Chadda relates an unusual story. ““Once, we were to share a helicopter with a rock band, and I saw a man chasing a chicken around the farm while we were waiting for the helicopter. Later, during the ride, he sat in the cabin pulling hair from of his chest with studied concentration. While I sat frozen in embarrassment, Raviji kept smiling away at his antics. Later, I found out he was Jimi Hendrix,” 

Maya Kulkarni Chadda

Incredible Thread

In a 2012 liveMINT article, Chadda related how the Woodstock experience was one of a kind: ““The distinctions between artist and audience collapsed—not physically, but there was an incredible thread stretching between us,” she notes. “It’s a spontaneity that I have never encountered since then.”

Maya Kulkarni Chadda

Choices

Though her live for music and dance remained, her career choice became academia. Dr Chadda is on the staff of William Paterson University (Wayne, NJ) and according the staff site she holds an M.A. in Government from NYU and a Ph. D. From the Graduate Faculty, The New School of Social Research and is a research fellow at the Southern Asian Institute, Columbia University.

Her publications include Indo-Soviet Relations (Bombay, Vora & Co.); Paradox of Power: The United States Policy in Southwest Asia (Santa Barbara, California, Clio Press);Ethnicity Security and Separatism in South Asia ( New York, Columbia University Press/Oxford University Press) and Building Democracy in South Asia: Pakistan, Nepal and India (Lynne Rienner Publishers, March 2000). Maya Chadda has worked as a consultant to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the United Nations Family Planning Agency (UNFPA).

In 1998 she was appointed as the Director of Undergraduate Research for William Paterson University responsible for setting up a grant and scholarship program and served on the review board of the United States Institute of Peace, a prestigious think tank in Washington D. C.

Chadda is a recipient of many grants, the most recent among these is the Rockefeller Residency Fellowship at Bellagio, Italy. In 1998 she was given the Excelsior award for excellence in academic achievement by the Association of Indians in America and the Network of Indian Professionals.

Maya Kulkarni Chadda

Dancing Feet

Writer Lavina Melwani was walking in New York City, she came upon the Anamika Navatman Studios and a production called Bhinna Pravaaha: Memories of a Performing Artist – Maya Kulkarni.

Melwani found the experience “a rare treat.” In a 2017 blog piece, she described the early life of Maya.

Her father, Gopalrao Kulkarni, was a writer and editor of Harijan, a newspaper published by Gandhi. Her mother, Nalini, was a political activist who also briefly served in the Indian Parliament after Independence. Her parents spent many months in jail during the freedom struggle, and were part of every satyagraha from Dandi March to the Quit India movement. Their lives were tied to Gandhi and they lived with him, and two of their sons were born in the ashram.

Melwani continued.

Ask her about the greatest joy that she has got from performing and she says, “I live for that moment when movement, music and emotions all blend to elevate the self beyond bodily existence. The dancer simply melts away and what remains is that indescribable state of being. Unfortunately not every time one dances one experiences it. But if one had, then you live for it. I have many times, but not often enough for me. To me that is nirvana.”

Maya Kulkarni Chadda
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Richard Rich Joffe Esq

Richard Rich Joffe Esq

Rich Joffe grew up in Maplewood, NJ and entered Columbia University in the fall of 1968. High school had not been the most enjoyable of years, he was more into folk at a time when rock had become king. Folk’s dominance had slowly faded since its early 60s-Hang-Down-Your-Head-Tom-Dooley-Kingston-Trio-Hootenanny  high point.  Many booed in 1965 when Dylan went electric at the Newport Folk Festival . Folk-rock emerged.

Richard Rich Joffe Esq

Kingston Trio to Kingsmen

Joffe had joined Columbia University’s a cappella group, the Kingsmen. Their repertoire was limited to standard pop songs, but an opportunity to record pushed them to expand that repertoire.  They didn’t have far to look: doo wop only needed a bit of dusting off and was a music that emphasized harmonies.

A 1978 Harvard Crimson article wrote how George Leonard, the brother of Kingsmen Robert Leonard, arranged a “nostalgia” show and suggested that the group dress in a ’50s style.

Before the show, George also distributed a flyer that read: “So you think you’re an Ivy Leaguer? Bullshit. Underneath your button-down shirt is the eighth grade greaser standing on the corner, whistling ‘Duke of Earl’ to yourself and watching the girls go by. Come down to Ferris Booth Hall where the Kingsmen will be reliving the old days. Come dressed up.”

Joffe remembers: A big crowd came to hear us. We dressed up in what we thought were greasy clothes at the time–white shirts and turtlenecks. And this bunch of about 20 or 30 jocks were sitting in the corner, basically being rowdy during the first part of our show when we were singing all our usual corny stuff.

“When we did the five Oldies, these people went berserk. From then on, it was simply pandemonium.”

The group used that night’s energy to develop their act and costumes.

Richard Rich Joffe Esq

Kingsmen to Sha Na Na

Their local popularity grew, but their international fame came out of Woodstock. And their appeal crossed both sides of the political aisle. Hippies loved the nostalgia; older greasers loved the affirmations.

He remained a student and included study on Sha Na Na road trips. And while the band’s appeal may have originally crossed the aisle, they gravitated toward peace activism. On August 8, 1970 they appeared on the bill of a peace concert at Shea Stadium in New York City sharing the bill with Dionne Warwick, Al Cooper, the cast of “Hair,” Richie Havens. Poco, Ten Wheel Drive,  Paul Butterfield and Big Brother, Creedence Clearwater, Miles Davis, the Rascals, Paul Simon, and Steppenwolf.

Richard Rich Joffe Esq

Law

Rihard Rich Joffe Esq

After most of the members graduated, each faced a choice: continue as a commercial entity or leave and get (back?) on their intended career path. Most chose the latter. Joffee was one of them, but at the same time he and some others felt that as founders of the band the commercial entity “Sha Na Na” owed them money for the band’s ownership rights.

The suit was settled out of court. Joffe went to Harvard but took Woodstock with him. He And would take off semesters and go to auto mechanic’s and welding school. He worked as a delivery boy and a police reporter.

Richard Joffe is currently a class-action litigator with offices in Sacramento, New York City and Houston. His site describes the practice as “He represents  practitioners, clinics, companies and health related organizations in complex health care regulatory matters throughout the United States, especially legal cases and investigations brought by federal and state government agencies. He has extensive experience in FDA matters, including clinical trials and new drug issues, Medicare and insurance fraud, professional licensure and criminal and civil scheduled drug prescribing problems.”

Rihard Rich Joffe Esq

In 2008, Thumbs Up published his Galileo’s Lawyer book. It is “an insider’s view of the Alternative Health field based on the legal battles between medical mavericks,their patients, and the government and the church of medical orthodoxy. The book relates courtroom dramas such as the government’s fourteen year battle against the Burzynski Cancer Clinic in Houston.”

Richard Rich Joffe Esq

Endocannabinoid System

And sometimes that area of law brings him full circle to the haze over Woodstock.  He wrote in his blog“In July [2018], I tried a California medical board case for a doctor who recommended medical marijuana to five-year-old who was having severe mood disorder problems at home and school.”

It’s an interesting read and another example of the many roads that led from Woodstock.

Richard Rich Joffe Esq
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Robert Leonard Singing Linguist

Robert Leonard Singing Linguist

 

Chances are you won’t need the services of Robert Leonard Associates. It “consults with law firms, government and law enforcement agencies, and individuals in situations where language analysis may be helpful. We research, analyze, consult, write reports and testify in both civil and criminal cases.

See what I mean?

Robert Leonard Singing Linguist

Woodstock

Of course I’m not doing this piece on Dr Leonard because I somehow found myself in such dire straights. The situation I found myself in was Bethel, New York in August 1969. I was there for Woodstock’s  22 hour Saturday show and only the Joe Cocker opening on Sunday.

After Joe was the downpour and a few hundred thousand of us gradually left and went home.  That’s why we few hundred thousand were not around for Jimi Hendrix on Monday morning. Likely he was one of the performers, if not THE performer we had looked forward to seeing, but Mother Nature and Father Time threw some mud on that plan

Robert Leonard Singing Linguist

Sha Na Na

That meant we also missed Sha Na Na. Perhaps we’d heard of them, but likely not. We probably had heard their songs. We were familiar with our older siblings’ doo-wop musical tastes: the Diamonds, the Silhouettes,  Danny and the Juniors, the Monotones, and others.

Sha Na Na? Sha Na Na was a doo wop line form the Silhouettes “Get a Job.” And it turned out to be the name of a dozen guys from Columbia University who were in the right place  at the right time and got an invite to the most famous music festival of all time.

Robert Leonard was one of those Columbia students. They were part of the school’s a capella group who had some fun doing doo wop. That fun became a one-off. That one-off became some gigs and the famed Steve Paul‘s Scene.

The right people were hanging out there to attract others. Others like two guys who were putting on a music festival in that same Bethel, NY.

Robert Leonard Singing Linguist

Fifties Invented

Elizabeth E. Guffey, a Stanford Ph.D. and associate professor at SUNY Purchase, published Retro: The Culture of Revival. In that book Guffy wrote, ““On the fourth day of the Woodstock Festival of 1969, just before Jimi Hendrix’s celebrated finale, the stage was held by a group of unknown undergraduates from Columbia University … The rock-’n’-roll revivalist group Sha Na Na bombarded the audience with tightly choreographed 1950s classics like ‘Teen Angel’ and ‘At the Hop.’ The festival’s unlikely scene stealers sported dated looks, including greased ducktails, white socks and cigarettes rolled into T-shirt sleeves. Sha Na Na’s impossibly upbeat and exuberant version of the 1950s seemed the opposite of the arty psychedelica and hard rock that characterized Woodstock.”

Though not in the band itself, Robert Leonard’s brother George was integral in its genesis.  Guffey relates how George described himself as a ‘22-year-old Susan Sontag buff…(with) a vision of a group that would sing only ’50s rock and perform dances like the Busby Berkeley films that he ‘learned to love in college readings on Camp’ ”

The source of the quotes above is from a 2008 Columbia College Today article by brothers George and Robert. In it they discuss how Sha Na Na invented the “Fifties” as we think of them today. It is an interesting read, but beyond the scope of this piece.

Robert Leonard Singing Linguist

Higher Education

Robert Leonard Singing Linguist
slide from a 2016 presentation

As bright as a spot as Woodstock would be on anyone’s resume, like most of his  fellow band mates, Sha Na Na was never planned to be a career. Only two of the Woodstock dozen are in the latest Sha Na Na line-up: Donny York and John Marcellino.

Leonard left the band in 1970 for a Fulbright Fellowship (that he did at the University of Nairobi, Kenya) and earned his PhD at Columbia.

Today he is the Professor of Linguistics, Director of the Graduate Program in Forensic Linguistics, and Director of the Institute for Forensic Linguistics, Threat Assessment and Strategic Analysis at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York.

Robert Leonard Singing Linguist

Amazing list

Hofstra’s site on Leonard has an astounding list. He has:

  •  been qualified as a Forensic Expert Witness in Linguistics and Language in a number of state and Federal courts. As a forensic linguist, Leonard has provided expert opinions to clients that include Apple, Inc., the Prime Minister of Canada, the NYPD Hate Crimes Task Force, and the U.S. Department of Justice, in cases dealing with a wide range of forensic linguistic issues.
  • trained British law enforcement agencies
  • linguistically traced bomb-threat voice calls to the Nassau County, New York courthouse.
  • authored and co-authored both technical and popular articles in the field of linguistics and has lectured worldwide on linguistics—on theoretical advances in linguistic theory and the application of the science of linguistics to investigative law enforcement and counter-terrorism techniques.

And here’s a 2012 New Yorker article on a murder that Leonard was an integral witness for the prosecution.

Well done, Dr Leonard.

As he says at the beginning of this conference, “I am one of the very few people in the world who has worked with both the FBI and the Grateful Dead.

Robert Leonard Singing Linguist
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