I want to push my boundaries: Talvin Singh

Talvin Singh will complete 25 years in the music industry in the coming year. But if you thought the London-born percussionist, composer and producer wants to rest on his laurels, you are mistaken. The electronica and tabla virtuoso tells Deepali Dhingra how fresh ideas inspire him each day and why he now wants to compose for Hindi movies

A couple of days ago, when Talvin Singh was discussing some ideas with his manager, it suddenly dawned on him that he will complete 25 years in the music industry in 2015. “I didn’t realise this milestone is approaching. I feel fresher than ever,” says the tabla player, producer and composer. Earlier this year, Singh was conferred the Order of the British Empire (OBE) by the Queen of England for his contribution to music. “I appreciate all the blessings and love I’ve received from people and fellow musicians all over the world. That’s what keep me going,” he says.

Talvin Singh
Talvin Singh has planned an India tour in 2015. Pic/Sayyed Sameer Abedi

Singh, who stays in Suffolk, a one-and-a-half hour drive away from London, was in Kerala last week for the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, where he performed in front of a congregation of art lovers, thinkers and believers. “It’s been extremely challenging to use Indian instruments and music and play with it so it sounds more contemporary, and celebrates a futuristic music style. It was great to play in front of all these artistes who appreciate that. Everyone was out dancing in the rain. In India, everyone loves to do that. Back home in England, the rain is a misery,” he laughs.

Seeking inspiration
Known for creating an innovative blend between Indian classical music and electronica, the London-born musician, began playing the tabla at the age of 16. He isn’t too comfortable with the idea of terming his music as fusion. “My perspective is to look at Indian music and try to push it in different media and demystify it. When I play my music in clubs, young people love it. They think it’s so cool. Then they get interested and want to learn more about it,” he adds. His synthesis of electronic music and eastern aesthetic is often referred to as Asian Underground. But the tabla maestro reveals that these days, he prefers exposing himself to new genres of music. “I don’t listen to Asian Underground so much because I want to push my boundaries. I’m always trying to find things that inspire me,” he says.

Indian musings
A huge fan of Sachin Tendulkar,  Singh recently had the opportunity to compose music for a cricket documentary called The Little Master for ESPN. He’s also excited about starting work on a BBC radio project called Portraits of  India, a series on some of the icons of the country, including Meeabai, Gautam Buddha and Amir Khusro among others. “I’ve been asked to do the background score. I want to create quite a futuristic sound, because we’re talking of the past, I’m today’s musician, and my music should look into the future, yet, sound very Indian. That’s the challenge,” he adds.

An India tour is on the cards as well next year. And while we’re talking of India and music, how can we forget Hindi cinema? “I’m in talks with some filmmakers. As a composer, I like to work closely with everyone. I want to sit and speak to the musicians, the lyricist, and shape and mould the music. And for that, you need to build a relationship with those you’re working with. But yes, I’d love to compose music for Hindi films,” the musician signs off. Like we said, Singh’s raring to go!

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