Growing up in Jaipur, Ilyas Raphael Khan was exposed to traditional tabla playing through his grandfather, and started learning at the age of five. When he was 10, he heard the contemporary vocal percussion form of beatboxing. The tabla player decided to blend the two, and began giving shows under the stage name Tablaboxing (Ilyas Raphael Khan). “I wanted to combine the old art with the new form to create something unique,” he says.
Khan is one of the performers at the RagaMoon 2020 music festival to be held in Gorai over the weekend. Other artistes in the line-up are German fusion multi-instrumentalist Prem Joshua, fusion act Vasu Dixit Collective, sitar player Mehtab Ali Niazi and Harpreet Singh, who composes tunes out of works of well-known poets.
The festival attracts a small community of music lovers who come together to celebrate music in natural surroundings. It is held over a 24-hour period in which performances are interspersed with workshops.
For his part, Khan will do a solo set with beatboxing, tabla and loops. “I will be doing my own compositions besides some well-known pieces. Instead of using traditional tabla bols, I use new syllables or beatboxing to illustrate rhythms,” he says. The family of Khan’s father, Hameed Kawa Khan has seen seven generations of musicians.
He says, “I come from a mixed background, with a French mother. As I was trained in traditional music, I initially didn't tell my father about my love for beatboxing. I did my first tablaboxing show at the age of 12, and when my father saw it to my surprise he was actually happy.”
Khan first discovered the musical form when he heard Jason Singh from the UK. He recalls, “I taught myself through YouTube videos and later learnt from my idol Alem, world champion in beatboxing. I was fortunate to perform with him on many occasions,” he says. Besides Alem, Khan’s other big influence has been tabla maestro Ustad Zakir Hussain. “I am inspired by the way they live their lives, and their philosophy. Musically, I don’t focus on any genre. I listen to everything from Indian folk to world music forms like Celtic and Arabic music, western classical, dubstep, hip-hop and Bollywood,” smiles Khan.
Besides recording a tablaboxing EP, Khan has shot many music videos and collaborated with global artistes. He says, “The response to my shows abroad has been great, and I am happy to represent Indian music and culture.”
Khan believes it is important to evolve, while giving due respect to music’s traditional roots. “This way we don’t lose our heritage and the young generation will enjoy it in today’s style,” asserts Khan.
For details on RagaMoon, see insider.in