Multi percussionists Pete Lockett and Bickram Ghosh get together to drum out an entirely rhythm-driven album
When the kings of rhythm get together, the “Kingdom of Rhythm” is born. Multi-percussionists Pete Lockett and Bickram Ghosh put together their ideas, and an enormous number drums — from the most primal to modern-day electronica — to come up with this eclectic rhythm album.
“It’s an out-and-out rhythm album,” says the Indophile Pete Lockett over phone from Kolkata, while Bickram catches up on lunch. “It’s a mixture of eclectic north and south Indian music, Japanese and African drums, Latin American, electronica…across the spectrum,” says London-based Pete, who gives James Bond his groove. Yes, he’s the man who has arranged and recorded the ethnic percussion for “Quantum of Solace” and “Casino Royale”, and earlier Bond movies.
Pete believes that multi-ethnic and multi-cultural collaborations are a natural consequence of people from different cultures working together. “London is probably the most multicultural city in the world, where you can learn anything, so inculcating all that in your work in only natural. With Bickram and me, there is already a syntax in place. We both know each other’s language.” The tabla, mridangam, kanjira, ghatam, and dhol are among the Indian instruments that Pete plays.
Both Bickram and Pete are celebrated for being able to bring instruments out of their cultural context and place it in a new perspective. But why is that necessary? Bickram candidly says: “I went to elite schools like La Martiniere and St. Xavier’s and realised that none of my school buddies ever came to my classical tabla concerts. They said it was too heavy and they can’t understand it. In my 12 years of tabla playing, I figured I could attempt a form that didn’t compromise on the content of classical and was in a form acceptable to all. I realised there was a whole new generation that couldn’t count the ‘taala’ but listened to it as a groove — I simply break it down so that it becomes easy to identify.”
Indian music didn’t offer a sub-woofer sound, so he started using the HandSonic (an electronic percussion pad that gives a low bass guitar tone) and got a punchy lower end to his range of sounds. With the tabla as his centrepiece, Bickram is surrounded by the djembe, tambourine, and other instruments. “It’s ironic that now my friends come to my concerts. The attitude has been added and it creates a comfort zone.”
In an age of specialisation, being the Jack of all instruments seems anomalous. “But that becomes the speciality,” says Pete. “As a multi-percussionist I’m lucky. I’ve got a lot of instruments at my fingertips and draw upon all these to construct layers of sound. This is what I’m about.” So whether it’s James Bond or a fusion album, he treats each as a situation or task with specific needs. “And in a city like London, for a professional to make a living just as a drum set player is impossible…this way the opportunities are more.”
The album features around 250 varieties of drums, says Bickram. These include the tabla, drum kit, bongos, congas, darboukka, Arabic dholla, djembe, Japanese kane and chappa, davul, Chinese hanging drum, Thai drums, udu, req, kanjira, konnakol, ghatam. The list also includes “kitchen utensils” and “Bickram’s cheeks” as instruments! “The album is for the connoisseur who’ll say ‘Wah!’ and for the man on the street who’ll say ‘Hey I like that sound’. We are looking at people not necessarily concerned with the idiom of rhythm. We don’t want to alienate anybody,” says Bickram.
The universality of percussion comes from the fact that all people are moved by it, says Pete.
“We’ve all got our heartbeat and every one has a rhythm in them. But the challenge in making valid music is that what you do has to be so much better without the support of melody. How do you have momentum and continuity? That’s what the audience enjoys.”
Interestingly “Kingdom of Rhythm” took shape over the Internet, with music being made in studios in Kolkata, London and San Francisco (and produced by Saregama India).
After playing live together in Kolkata Pete went back to London and their bass player recorded in San Francisco and the music kept going back and forth over the Internet and was recorded in layers.
For the first time they’ve also attempted a music video titled “Primal” based purely on the percussion (catch it in on YouTube).BHUMIKA K