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Q & A with Tarun Nayar

We asked Vancouver-based students of Zakir Hussain to talk about their experiences with the tabla master. First up is Tarun Nayar.

Tarun ‘Tspoon’ Nayar is a DJ/producer and tabla player obsessed with fusing Asian music and electronica. He tours the world with his band Delhi 2 Dublin, is a founding member of Vancouver’s Beats Without Boarders collective, and is co-founder of the influential Asian electronica label and blog Chaiwalla’s Boombox.

What was it about tabla music that drew you in? What do you love about it?

TN: My father is Punjabi, I started learning as a small child. For me, it was more the relationship with my guru than anything else that excited me. He became a father figure for me. As I grew up I began to appreciate the depth of the world of tabla. Once you’re hooked, you’re in for life.


How did you come to know Zakir Hussain? How has he inspired you or influenced your own music?

TN: My guru comes from the same lineage as Zakir Hussain. When I was 25 I traveled to Bombay for 6 months to learn at Zakir Ji’s family’s school. It changed my life. For one week, Zakir Ji himself led classes. I have never had a teacher so intuitive or supportive as he is. His mastery is so deep that he can truly reach inside you and make you a better player. I’ve been learning with him ever since.


You, like Ustad Hussain, have drawn connections between tabla and the Celtic musical tradition. Can you talk about your group Delhi 2 Dublin and how you have integrated tabla into your music and performances?

TN: Delhi 2 Dublin grew out of a happy accident – a collaboration at a festival that worked out really well. I’ve only heard a couple of snippets from Zakir Ji’s new project, but it sounds a lot more intricate and calculated! There’s a very easy connection between the music of India and the music of the Celts, and some say an actual historical connection that explains this fluidity. Tabla fits nicely and can ‘sub’ in for where the bodhran might traditionally be played.


Can you share your favourite lesson or revelation that came from studying under Ustad Hussain?  

TN: More than a specific lesson, Zakir Ji has taught me what it is to be a good teacher. What mastery looks like, and how it never comes with ego, but always with an openness and childlike ‘beginner’ mind. He has taught me the meaning of inspiration – he literally breathes creativity into his students. I feel very blessed to learn with him.

Mon Mar 9, 2015