Weaving is a good way to describe the remarkable music created by maestro Ritesh Das and his Toronto Tabla Ensemble. They blend the rhythmic systems of North Indian tabla drumming with practically anything else they find compelling artistically. This doesn’t mean superficial East/West pop fusion though. Thei collaborations feature some of the most innovative non-Indian musicians working around the artistically rich Toronto area. The result is Weaving, an exciting, evocative new voice in world music.
Mixing the sound of tabla drums with jazz, hiphop, Middle-Eastern vocals and even some country-sounding guitar twangs, Weaving is an inspired example of the delight that can come from multicultural fusion. At once it is powerful, fun and sophisticated. The TTE is uniquely revolutionizing Indian music while keeping its roots heritage alive.
Founded in 1991, the members of the Toronto Tabla Ensemble represent a truly unique and Canadian phenomenon. As the country’s communities of Indian immigrants grow, they immerse themselves into the mosaic of different cultures. Similarly, the new artists training in Indian music and tabla, find themselves absorbed into this new and varied environment too. The type of music they play, though based in North Indian rhythmic system, is naturally a hybrid that involves all the influence and experience of living in culturally diverse Toronto.
The music Das conjures with his Ensemble adheres deeply, respectfully to his sense of tradition, but allowing the form to expand in ways that open up new possibility. ‘Accha’ explores the funky rap meter of vocalist Rita di Ghent over an Indian cycle. ‘Nizil Il Mater Fag’a’ fuses the Arabic magic of singer Maryem Tollar with Das’ tabla thunder. While, ‘Nomad’ is an East meets country/jazz exercise with guitarist Levon Ichkhanian. Other tracks demonstrate the ferocious percussive power of the TTE which can feature up to five tablas performing at once, something unheard of prior to the Ensemble.
Artistic leader/composer Ritesh Das is has studied with tabla gurus including Shankar Ghosh in India, Zakir Hussain and most extensively with Swapan Chaudhuri in the Lucknow style. To make ends meet after moving to Canada, he opened a small downtown studio to teach tabla. Ten years of struggling later, the result is a top-notch group of talented and committed tabla disciples instilled with the same passion for creativity as Das. In Canada, numerous popular artists have sought Das’ talent from Loreena McKennitt to Jane Siberry.
The cosmopolitan feel of the recording reflects the diverse artistic community from which the group was borne. Besides being tabla adherents, the members of the TTE are also active in the cultural community as DJs, dancers, freelance musicians and educators.
The TTE released its first independent self-titled first CD in 1996 which was favourably reviewed in Folk/Roots UK (“destined for greatness”), and they have a second independent release in 1998 called ‘Second Palla’. The group already has a large fan base in Canada after years of touring. Their colourful and tight live performances are also the stuff of legends. Twice they’ve been voted “Top 10 Best live act” by the influential NOW Magazine in Toronto.
With their international debut, Ritesh Das & the Toronto Tabla Ensemble have now gone truly global. Wondrous and hypnotic, the TTE weave an enchanting spell on their Naxos World debut.