This is what happens when your GCSE music teacher hasn't even heard of the Tabla... We first met Dalbir Singh Rattan at the Outsideleft Night Out with Millicent Chapanda when Dal, the Tabla Jedi, spontaneously joined Millicent for her performance. Oh wow. After that we tried to book his duo, Dal frequently works with Aziz Ibrahim - perhaps better known as a bandmate of Ian Brown, Stone Roses and Simply Red... But... the pandemic.
Dal is a world class Tabla player, having with Ustad Sukhvinder Singh 'Pinky', receiving a rigorous training in Indian Classical Music. It's kind of exciting then, to find the Tabla Jedia living just down the street. He featured to large audiences at the Commonwealth Games Cultural Festival, and his band Karma Boy has a new track available in October 10th, 2022. Dal took some time to talk about the tabla, rising...
Outsideleft: You do so many great things, somehow I always regard you as a kind of solo artist in your own right, but I saw you playing in Victoria Square in Birmingham with a whole live band… Is that your direction of travel now?
Tabla Jedi: I’ve always been a part of a Band…But now I’ve got my own band! I can write & play my own music. I love that!
OL: You always seem to be investigating and stretching as far as it will go, a distinct East-West amalgam and it’s very exciting to hear?
TJ: I’m foremost a British musician but I’ve been extremely fortunate to travel, learn, experience and soak up phenomenal music from around the world! I’ll stretch it and take it wherever it takes me…
OL: Globally, Are there regional ticks to Tabla playing styles?
TJ: Yes…There are schools all over india & globally. I belong to the Benaras Style of playing. I’m a student of the world renowned tabla guru, Sukhvinder Singh ‘Pinky’ who learnt from The God Father of Tabla, Pandit Kishan Maharaj! So it’s passed down traditionally from teacher to students.
OL: Although I know nothing about music... just for shits and giggles as we should not say in California, what’s the most mind boggling time signature you’ve been asked to play?
TJ: 9.5 Beats
OL: And a couple of years ago now, you jumped up and played with mbira superstar! Millicent Chapanda at the final Outsideleft Night Out before the lockdown, it was so exciting, and then you and Aziz (Ibrahim), had agreed to play at our foodbank fundraiser all-dayer before the lockdown put paid to that and everything else it seems like. I feel things are incontrovertibly altered, at least for me. You made it through so far, how did you do that?
TJ: With a lot of struggle! Almost all my gigs/workshops/festivals came to an end during covid! I had to transition to teaching online which kept me afloat just, I guess! But it wasn’t the same
OL: The tabla is of course front and centre or maybe for me that’s what I hear the most when I see your live performances. If I wasn’t listening to you, and maybe I was looking for something to sample! What are the all time great predominantly tabla records I should check out?
TJ: Planet Drum (Zakir Hussain/Micky Hart) / Talvin Singh (Anokha)/ TablaTronica
OL: Was there a lot of music in your house when you were a kid?
TJ: All around me! My grandfather used to sing on Radio in East Africa whilst he worked for British Rail. He moved to Leeds in 1952 and continued singing and playing his harmonium in the local Sikh temple and played on Radio Leeds Live in concert! He was a beautiful singer and soul! He’s the reason I am doing what I’m doing.
OL: Of all the instruments in the world, for you, why and how, the Tabla?
TJ: My Grandad wanted me to sing…and I sing a bit - but was always drawn to the sound of the Tabla. It excites me and Uplifts my senses every time I hear and play. I guess it all happened accidentally. I never chose it, it chose me!
OL: You’re doing a lot of community things and teaching… C’mon… Can you tell me, this is an adult magazine! Kids under 40 don’t read here, do you encounter children with absolutely no sense of rhythm… Are they going to grow up to be bad dancers? Can they be helped? Maybe with your early intervention?
TJ: Whatever you do or play, rhythm is paramount and key. So yes I think early intervention to help the youth understand it and feel it is key!
OL: Finally… Yorkshire, I think you’re from Yorkshire? Is Yorkshire County Cricket Club the most racist or just the most racist one that got caught? And… Since people will be reading this all over the world, and the pound is weak as water, will consider the UK a travel bargain. What’s unmissable in Yorkshire?
TJ: Not the most racist, but They got caught out & then dragged through mud! They deserved it! I Hate the closet racist, wherever he/she is from! Oh and the Yorkshire Dales are very beautiful.
Karmaboy website is here