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Drumming all the way

NEETI SARKAR
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MUSIC Ben Walsh has been touring professionally since he was 18, and during his recent visit to the city, he said he had evolved phenomenally

Loop zero was designed specially for India tourBen Walsh
Loop zero was designed specially for India tourBen Walsh

He has dabbled with dance, drama and music and has earned himself a phenomenal reputation internationally as one of Australia’s most accomplished percussionists and performers. In India on a five-city tour, Ben Walsh performed at the Hard Rock Café, Bangalore on Sunday. Post his sound check, he had a few minutes to chat with us about his gig here, the fun stuff he has coming up and what he’s put together especially for India.

“I’ve heard that Bangaloreans love rock music and are an energetic audience. I usually perform at bars where people can dance so I have an EDM inspired playlist for them. At other times, I perform in theatres, so it’s acoustic and jazz. It’s more flexible here so I will gauge what the audience wants and give them all that and more,” Ben says.

The artiste has been touring professionally as a musician and drummer since the age of 18 and says he’s evolved phenomenally. He narrates: “Initially, I used to just drum in theatres. I was obsessed with it. After some years, I went on to writing music, working on film scores, developing my own electronic sound, composing, picking up and playing other instruments, making my own orchestra and even creating my own instruments. Having pulled off all this, I would like to think of myself as an artiste and not merely a drummer.”

So does the “drummer/percussionist” tag not go down well with him? “Categorising me as a drummer is just a reference point because that’s how I started and a lot of people know that about me. That said, I’m glad I don’t limit myself to a particular genre. I’m a versatile artiste,” Ben says.

The musician is well travelled and has explored percussion in different countries and cultures. He recounts: “I was a part of Japanese taiko drumming group ‘Taikoz’, and worked for six years with Ian Cleworth and master drummer Eitetsu Hayashi; extensively training in the Wadaiko drum form and performing in Japan. I then returned to Sydney and formed the Australian electronic sensation ‘The Bird’ with who I still perform. I’ve made six albums so far over 12 years of performance history.”

After developing four self-directed solo shows and playing at the Sydney Opera House with two of his productions Ben left for Asia, performing in Taipei, Hong Kong and Singapore. He then transitioned into composition and sound design and composed numerous short film and modern dance scores, earning a nomination for Best Score at the prestigious Green Room Awards in Melbourne 2007.

Ben Walsh’s collaborations with artistes range from master percussionist Bobby Singh and Billy Cobham to Ernest Ranglin and Airto Moreira. He states: “It is my Orkestra of the Underground that will always be my favourite.”

Having visited India a good number of times already, the music connoisseur says: “I’m excited about my new show Loop Zero designed especially for India. It is a piece that is conceptually rich and will take audiences between the worlds of multimedia installation and live music performance.”

He adds: “It is an audio-visual explosion exploring humanity, technology and reality. The work is an abstract snapshot of the way we interact as humans and live with machines. Melodic, rhythmic and purely scientific, Loop Zero plays with varying notions of how we shape and are shaped by technology in our world, past and present. It is characterised by primal bass-driven beats among a rich tapestry of visual colours and images triggered seamlessly by a solo body onstage.”

This show is predominantly inspired by the many odd instruments that spring forth from Ben’s imagination and delivers a solid dose of Walsh’s trademark high energy drumming style that has taken him around the globe. Ben performs on instruments of his own creation with technological innovations designed by Machina aka Kim O’Sullivan.

Looking ahead, Ben Walsh is going to be writing new music while he also enjoys the company of the Indian musicians who will be performing with him in Australia.

NEETI SARKAR

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