|Blessed are those people who realise their calling in early years of life. In addition to that, having a family support around them could work as an added bonus to help make their dreams come true.
Our feature guest for this month is one of those lucky ones. He had his path defined when he was not even seven years old. In order to pursue his dreams, he would skip school, avoid play grounds and try to find places where he could sit for hours by himself and practice. He knew that he was born to be a musician.
Music lovers would know this upcoming name in the world of fusion music in Australia. Bobby Singh, famous Tabla player, whose concerts and gigs have had standing ovations all across Australia, is our feature guest for this month. Bobby is very well recognised in the world of contemporary fusion music. Australians have embraced his skills much quicker than local Indians. Bobby has been interviewed by SBS, Sydney Morning Herald and other well known prestigious Australian media.
Born in Wolverhampton, England, to a Sikh family, Bobby was introduced to Tabla during their family visits to local Gurudwara. Bobby's infatuation to Tabla grew to the extent that he simply refused to waste his time going back to mundane routine of school classes. He would pack his tabla in his school bag and go to secluded places, such as, cemeteries, to focus and practice.
It was January 1981 when his parents finally realised that their son should be provided a formal training to polish his god gifted talent. He was then sent to Mumbai to learn the 'etiquette of music' under none other than the maestro himself, Pandit Nikhil Ghoshji. He continued his education in Tabla in Mumbai for five years and went back to England. By the age of 15, he was well trained to play with the senior musicians who would go around the world playing in various Gurudwaras. Bobby got his parents' permission to travel with those 'Ragis' for a one year trip to Canada and United States of America.
In 1991, his parents moved to Australia due to his father's job. Bobby came to Melbourne with them and started teaching tabla to local students.
Bobby met Ashok Roy, one of the legendry Sarod players, here in Sydney, who then
introduced Bobby to Aneesh Pradhan, well known Tabla master living in Mumbai and also the main disciple of Pt Nikhil Ghosh.. That meeting inspired Bobby to go back to Mumbai to spend some more time with the legends of Indian classical music.
Destiny is designed with the tool of persistence. When Bobby came back to Australia, he met Ben Walsh, a well-known drummer in Sydney. Bobby and Ben hit it off instantly and the famous duo in the world of fusion music was created. Today, these two names are inseparable and since then, together they have introduced group themes like "Dha', 'Circle of Rhythm' & 'The Bird'. There is tremendous energy flow on the stage when these two play together and most of their gigs receive standing ovations. Bobby has received numerous awards and accolades and has performed with some of the finest musicians in Australia and overseas including Slava Grigoriyan, Greg Sheehan, Ben Walsh, David Hirschfelder, John Butler, Sandy Evans, Pandit Ashok Roy, Aneesh Pradhan, Shuba Mudgal, Joseph Tawardros, Kim Sanders, Ian Dixon, Charlie McMahon, Jeremy Allsop, Sandipan Samajpati, Partho Sarathy, Tony Gorman and Adrian McNeil amongst many others. He has performed at many festivals including Womadelaide, Wood ford Folk Festival, Bellingen Global Carnival, Sydney Festival, Hyde Park Festival, Worlds Fair Bonn, Livid, Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony Melbourne, Perth International Arts Festival, Singapore Arts Festival and Arts on the Move, amongst many others.
Lets talk to Bobby and find out from him about his aspirations and future plans.
RN: How do you differentiate Tabla to drums as an instrument?
BS: Tabla is a tuned instrument, meaning it can be played with various rhythms and instruments depending upon its special design. It goes very well with Western and / or Indian instruments. Smoothest combination is with percussion and Darrabuka, Turkish drum. Also, Tabla has a tradition which goes way back to Indian ancient time.
RN: How do you define your music? Your music seems to be impromptu on stage, right?
BS: Our music is mainly fusion based music. Our approach is to go across cultural boundaries by creating music out of a combination of various musical instruments all across the boarders. I have played Tabla with Western, European and Indian instruments. Music has a universal language and we have been trying to combine the best of it however our musical roots are still classical. We practice classical however we perform a fusion based upon classical.
We perform 'Jugal bandi'. One instrument is played in a 'question form' and the second instrument is played in an 'answer form'. We don't practice together however we perform together by responding to each other's beats or notations.
RN: Tell us about your future aspirations and a few upcoming projects.
BS: Well I am working towards getting more people interested in Indian Classical music and hope fully one day with the support of various organisation's we can have a festival of Indian Music with good local musicians. We have just finished the latest Circle of Rhythm album which will be coming out in the next few months, then I am off to NZ for some classical music concerts with a sitar player called Purbayan Chaterjee.and so on it goes till the end of the
RN: Any particular message you would like to convey to the youth of today aspiring to be a musician?
I would say find a good teacher and learn as much as possible, and practice practice practice…..There are many teachers out there with a lot of knowledge and usually they are not the famous ones, so don't get caught in the thought that if you learn with some one who is well known you will learn more, usually it is the opposite.
"Bobby Singh's percussion provided the fundament for the whole musical endeavor…" Frankfurter
Rundschau, Germany "The vocalists were supported and carried by the tabla playing of Tarlochan (Bobby) Singh. The
instrumentalist demonstrated in his solo improvisation a transparent virtuosity and a vast and inexhaustible capability of rhythmic variations." Wetterauer
Zeitung, Germany"Tarlochan Singh demonstrated his virtuosity in a brilliant solo."
Mittelhessische Presse, Germany
"Bobby Singh simply blew everyone away with his masterful playing…" Revolver, Sydney, Michael Smith.
"In Singh's hands the tabla was capable of an almost contrapuntal effect….."
Sydney Morning Herald, John Shand
Singh has built a solid reputation as a diversely interested musician who quite obviously gets his thrills messing with musical play dough. Who better to present an evening of world beats promising its audience a journey so geographically diverse that whiplash is not so much a risk as an inevitable?
This show was a masterpiece. This was fantastic. The fusion of old and new in such an original way. Bobby Singh is such an extraordinary tabla player, beyond belief.
The Bird: Birdville Sessions, on Valve records.
Ishq, Circle of Rhythm, on Groove lands records.
Ruhani, Duet with Joseph Tawardros, on ABC classics.
Random Factors, remix with Bill Laswell, on Sonic Arcana.
Penguin Suit, with Slava Grigoriyan and Nigel Westlake, on ABC Classics.