A Night of Indian Music


Dan Ripke (Left) plays the electric guitar, John Churchville (Middle Left) plays the tabla, Bidisha Ghosh (Middle Right) sings vocals, Anoop Gopal (Right) plays the violin. As the group began to play the usual hustle and bustle of Crazy Wisdom Tea Room seemed to die down as the audience stared in awe at the group’s talent.

It was a dreary night on Feb. 11, as people bustled in and out of Crazy Wisdom Tea Room. However, at 8:00 p.m. the tea room became noiseless as people stared at the talent they saw before them. A group by the name of Sumkali had begun to start their 104 Indian Music Night. Those who were new to the scene were stunned by the group’s talent — expecting only to get a cup of tea — while veterans of the group’s performances had come that night for the specific purpose of watching them.

John Churchville, the group’s founder who plays the tabla, originally started Sumkali as an Indian drum ensemble in 2003, and within four years, the group had secured a routine gig to play at Crazy Wisdom Tea Room every month. Throughout the duration of those four years the group had disbanded and in a smaller organization played at private parties, weddings, and other private shows. In 2007 the group came back together to form what is now known as Sumkali.  From then on the group has played with over 20 musicians, all of which are considered friends to the Sumkali group.

While the group was performing, long time fan of Sumkali Beth Hickman said that she had been coming to the groups shows for the past few months.

“I think what makes this music so great is that it is a fusion of Indian and Western music using instruments that you don’t hear often,” Hickman said.

As the evening went on, the room only seemed to get more and more crowded. However, the group has collected a wide variety of fans as they have made three full-length albums and has been nominated for two Detroit People’s Choice Awards. During the evening Churchville talked about the musicians that have helped them write songs and have performed with them.

We have had just over 20 musicians that have played with the group. Every one of those musicians is considered a friend and can always come and play with the current line-up pretty much any time they want.” Churchville said.

When watching this group you could see how well they worked with each other. Two of the group’s members, Anoop Gopal, the group’s violinist, and Bidisha Ghosh, the group’s vocalist, worked together in almost perfect harmony, able to speak to each other without the use of their voices.

As John Churchville plays the tabla solo in the song Takadi, the audience cheers him on in amazement. Awestruck the audience could only watch at the speed and accuracy that Churchville was playing at. When Churchville finally finished his solo the crowd had erupted into a flurry of clappter.

“I am most proud of this group in its way to get along,” said Churchville. “Having a group of people that can work and collaborate as well as this group has is a true testament to the character and sense of community that is what this group is all about. That is what makes me most proud.”

Throughout the evening Sumkali tried to impress upon people that music is a language that has no barriers. The group brings people from North and South India and the American Midwest and invites them to join their ensemble.“Through our diversity, we are able to craft music that not only is a fusion between Indian and Western music but goes beyond it to create global appeal.” Dan Ripke the group’s guitarist said.

The group that performed tonight was a collection of people that was able to make others feel at peace and was able to surprise the audience with their skills. As Hickman was gathering her bags preparing to leave she said, “The real reason I love this group so much is because they are inspiring. They are fabulous and I hope I can come here again.”