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Light Shining On Hypnotizing Fingertips

by pinar istek

Arjuna an archer in the Mahabharata, a Hindu epic, succeeded in hitting the eye of a wooden fish that was rotating over a reflective pool of oil. He aimed only by looking at the fish's reflection in the pool and in doing so he awed his spectators. This victory won the peerless archer the hand of his first wife, Draupadi.

Like his namesake, Arjuna the drummer, of Krishna Das, (known by his friends and fans as KD), mesmerizes his audience at the Retreat Center of Blue Spirit, in Nosara. But he does so, with his fingers ceaselessly beating the tabla, an Indian percussion instrument.

Arjuna (also spelled as Arjun), whose given name is Alan Bruggeman, is 34 and from New Jersey. He has been playing tabla with KD for almost six years.

He started as a punk-rock drummer at age 11. He still carries the tattoo of his band on his hand though it was supposed to fade away in four months. He didn’t become familiar with the tabla until age 18.

Arjun, Krishna Das' drummer, plays the tabla.

A drum teacher, who was also a conductor with New Jersey Percussion Ensemble introduced Arjuna to the tabla. “He let me listen to a lot of different types of music. It was the first time I had heard tablaArjun said.

The instrument didn’t enter his life along with the spirituality it brought until he was 22. At the time he was asking questions about life due to suffering, he said “ So India came at me one time from the spiritual side and also from the music side and pretty much took me over.”

Studying with many tabla teachers, he was also a disciple of Ty Burhoe, who was playing with KD at the time. Arjun said, “I used to go see Ty playing. I didn’t care about Krishna Das, I would just sit (and) watch Ty. They played the Hanuman Chalisa, which is a prayer to Hanuman. And that was the first time I heard that. It did something to me. I started paying attention to Krishna Das and not Ty anymore.”

After a couple of years of visits to see his teacher playing with KD, “Ty, my teacher, asked me to play his drums, his tabla, so he could hear what it sounded like. Krishna Das heard me playing. ‘So you sound pretty good.” “Thanks!” “You are from Jersey?” ‘Yea!” Later that same night, Arjun was invited to go to Brazil with KD to tour.

Ty Burhoe’s desire to try something different was increasing while he was still KD’s drummer. That was the signal for the switch between Arjun and Ty.

Since then, Arjun, which means bright, white, shining or silver in Sanskrit, the first liturgical language of Hinduism and Buddhism, has been shining upon his audience while playing along with KD

Even though long travel periods can sometimes be harsh, taking it as a blessing and a service, Arjun enjoys doing what he is doing with KD. He hopes that he will keep playing with him.

Regarding the relationship between him and KD that emerged over the years of traveling and working together, Arjun said “I do look at him as my teacher but he doesn’t come across as my teacher. He knows me pretty well, he can see exactly where I am. He is also sometime like my dad, like a father.”

Today Arjun sweetens KD’s traditional Indian music that is blended with violin, cymbals, sometimes with flute and several guitars.

Dispersing every beat of his tabla into the cracked but somehow still smooth voice of KD, gifted drummer, Arjun, who have never received formal musical education, enriches this holistic music with his profound rhythms.


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