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Yo-Yo Ma and World Culture

It was my first time playing with the Silk Road Ensemble and members of the New York Philharmonic for four World Premiere Concerts. Year… probably 1998!

At the end of one of the shows, Yo-Yo was throwing a dinner for all of us. (One of the Gazillion times that he has fed us poor musicians!)

As I was about to leave for the restaurant I bumped into Yo-Yo. Looking at me he, asked if I could wait for a few minutes, then we could walk there together. I waited for a few minutes, and then we were ready to leave. He had his Cello on his back and his concert clothes in his hand. I had my Tabla case, my spare tabla in a backpack, and my concert clothes in my hand.

One look at me and before I could realize what he had in mind (Not that anyone can ever guess what he has on his mind!), he was carrying my Tabla case and walking down the streets of Manhattan!

I was aghast at what followed! People were, of course, recognizing him on the street and wanted to get clicked and take his autograph… and here was this man carrying my Tablas! I ran after him and kept asking him to give back my Tabla case. But would he listen? No!

Here I was from India, who could never imagine someone my senior in music and age carrying something for me, and there he was, one of the most well known artists of the world, carrying “MY” Tabla case!

Oh, God!

Every moment shared is a learning experience with this man!

On hearing me pleading for the millionth time, He suddenly stopped and asked with one of his innocent yet naughty looks, “What is the problem?”

I was glad, I was sure he would understand what I was trying to say and give me back my Tablas.

So I blurted, “Actually where I come from, I cannot imagine someone senior to me carrying something for me…so please let me carry my Tablas.”

He smiled and said, “Oh, great! That’s a lovely tradition and I really respect it…but the tradition where I come from is not to let our youngsters carry anything!”

Lo and Behold…before I could realize what hit me, he was off with my Tabla case.

He put it down only after we had reached the Restaurant where everyone, including the big shots of the Lincoln Center and the New York Philharmonic, were waiting to greet him!

I did not realize then, that this was just the beginning of the many times I would see and learn why he is one of the GREATEST human beings I would ever meet.


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