Confab With Sanjoy Karmakar ITabla007 A Tabla Fusionist
Confab With Sanjoy Karmakar ITabla007 A Tabla Fusionist. Sanjoy Karmakar is an American based Tabla player. He started playing tabla when he was 7 years old. It has always been a dream to incorporate tablas into all genres of music. In an interview, Sanjoy Karmakar shares his story behind ITabla007 and his passion for the instrument.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I was 6 years old; my mom wakes me up at 3 am and said get ready let’s go. I asked her, where? And she replied America. I had no clue what America was, but I got ready and fell back asleep. Woke up randomly in an airplane to see my family members waving goodbye through the airplane windows and fell back asleep again. Since then NY has been my home.
Before we got here my mom made sure to pack 2 things. Harmonium & Tabla. She is a singer and her brother is a Tabla player. When we moved here she sat every evening with her harmonium and started singing bhajans. One day she told me to play the Tabla and I told her I don’t know how to play, she said just play whatever, and so I did. Slowly it became routine and I started developing a passion for the instrument so I started taking classes and as the years passed she stopped singing less because of work and daily household chores, but I still wanted to play so I would turn on the cassette player and try to copy what the Tabla player was playing.
I started playing with Rabindranath Tagore songs and bhajans. I basically went through my entire cassette collection and one day I just turned on the radio and Justin Bieber’s – Baby started playing and I started playing kherwa to it and it flowed so smoothly that I recorded it on my phone to show my friends.
All my friends and I to go to a temple near our house and after the temple, we walked to the local KFC to eat some fried chicken, it was a tradition. As we were eating I showed them the video I made and they went crazy saying it was amazing and I should create a YouTube account and upload it and be famous. I asked them what should my name be? At that time Apple was popular and everything started with an “I” so we thought iTabla when I went to create the channel on YouTube it was already taken so the next best option was “007” and so “iTabla007” was born.
From there I started making covers and from a kid just jamming with his mom to developing a passion for the instrument to me having a dream to make this instrument a mainstream percussion instrument all around the world in all genres of music.
Who did you learn to play Tabla from and at what age?
I learned Tabla from my guru ji, Dulal Bhowmick. Used to learn with a group of 5 other students, I went to classes every Saturday for almost a year and then college started and I worked on top of that so unfortunately I had to stop learning but what I did learn I kept at it and perfected it and here we are today. I don’t exactly when I started playing, but I’ve been playing for almost 15 years.
Tabla is such a classic and traditional instrument. What do you find most intriguing about this instrument?
The versatility of the instrument. As you said it’s a classical instrument and that’s the root of the instrument. I don’t want to take away from the instrument and tradition in that sense, but I’ve made covers in Bollywood music, K-pop, Spanish, Hip-hop, Pop, Rap, even to Beethoven’s 5th symphony. It just blends so well with any genre of music and I think that’s the beauty of the instrument. The legendary and my idol Ustad Zakir Hussain said Tabla is the only percussive instrument that can create a tone a resonance, a pitch and through that you can make the Tabla’s sing.
How many hours in a day you practice?
Honestly, not much, not as much as I should. It’s hard balancing a full-time job, physical fitness, a social/personal life and riaaz time. Tabla is a demanding instrument, it’s all muscle memory and finger strength, if you miss one/two days you’re set back a week or two. But I try to at least play 30min-1hour a day every day.
What does a regular day look like for you?
I wake up at 6am. Go to work from 9am to 6pm. Gym until 7:30/8pm. Come home eat, catch up a little on life. And then sit for a few to practice Tabla.
Share a moment with us from a stage performance.
One of my favorite stage performances was performing alongside a DJ, he looked at me and I looked at him and he just gave me a nod, and I knew exactly what he meant. He slowly turned down the music volume and that was my cue to go into a Tabla solo. As I was playing everyone from the audience gathered up near me and some just watched bobbing their head and some even started dancing to it. It was a special moment for me because I think it showed how much people enjoyed my performance and at the same time how this instrument moves people.
Who would you want to collaborate within near future?
I would love to tour with a DJ like Diplo, Calvin Harris, David Guetta, Marshmello, DJ Snake. I feel like a live Tabla performance on top of their sets could be a new wave of DJs and artists working together. Fusion has been so popular these days.
And to bring it back full circle I think working with Justin Bieber would be the most amazing thing ever!
What sort of music did you grew up on?
When I was young I had a heavy influence from Bhajans and Bengali classical music. As I grew older Bollywood was the only genre I listened to. Only the last 6-7 years I really got into American music.
What is motivation for you and where do you get inspiration from?
Inspiration for me is having the opportunity to work and meet so many great artists. It’s crazy the amount of talent that is out in this world just waiting to be discovered. Working with different artists made me learn so much and Tabla is such an amazing instrument and music is so crucial in my life that I want to become better at it each and every day. The motivation for me is my dream to one day see Tabla as popular as the American drums. I want to hear Tabla in every track produced. I am 100% positive that it will happen, over the last couple of years so many talented Tabla players have emerged it’s only a matter of time.