What do a tabla and an apple MAC have in common? Absolutely nothing until Subhash Dhunoohchand walks into the room. The virtuoso percussionist, also known by stage name, ‘Tablatronic’ has music lovers rather in awe every time he performs – serving up a sync rhythm of percussion beats and electronica. Of course, it isn’t as easy as it looks. A Mauritian-born Subhash says proudly, “I make each electronic track from scratch.” No doubt, there’s a lot of prep work before he hits the stage. In Chennai as part of a three-city Indian tour, the musician reveals his digital compositions stem from instruments all over the world. “When I go to a concert, I don’t just perform or listen,” he tells us. “I record sounds that catch my attention on my I phone.” Whether the ghatam or tambura from India or the pitter patter of rain, while waiting at the airport en route to his next concert, this music maker always has his ears seeking out a melody.
Incidentally, his latest influence comes from a kathak scene in Vishwaroopam! Subhash has a big smile on his face. “I haven’t even seen the movie,” he shares. “But somebody sent me a link of the video on Youtube and I’ve been working on composing a tarana (fast tempo piece) meshed with speedy tabla syllables ever since.” The plan, he lets on, is to perform this kathak-inspired piece at his home on Reunion Island for Tamil New Year when he gets back.
It all sounds very exciting and innovative. But one has to wonder how in the world, a 48-year-old tabla player got acquainted with digital electronica in the first place? Subhash respond, “It was a fan’s suggestion. A foreigner came up to me after a concert in UK and said it would be fun if I combine the two.” And, he makes it a point to add – the idea didn’t come to life overnight. “It took me an entire year to pull off this new sound,” he recalls. But it turns out, the effort was well worth it. In fact, after his performance as part of the Isai festival last week, curious music buffs who hadn’t made the show (but heard about this ‘Tablatronic’ guy) had requested organisers for a second date to catch him in action again. “For me, it’s really about the audience at the end of the day,” Subhash smiles. And breathless or not, after rattling off fast percussion beats – he always make time to save a few minutes for a message of peace and non-violence. “That’s what my music is about,” he smiles.