Suphala's Tabla

She’s learnt from the best – Ustad Alla Rakha and his son Zakir Hussain. Now tabla player and composer Suphala is bringing this ancient instrument into urban spaces and making it hip and happening, from loft parties to galas and discos.


What was it like to study with the masters? “It was amazing and a great privilege,” says Suphala. “I was lucky enough to be there with Ustad Alla Rakha when he had the time to teach; he was in his 70’s. He has an institute in Bombay where he would teach five days a week. I lived with him when I stayed in Bombay so not only would I go to class with him, but also I would sit with him in the balcony every morning and we would have our chai together and if he felt inspired, he would start reciting a rhythm to me. I managed to spend a lot of quality time with him. It was great just being around your guru as much as possible, because you never know when they’ll be inspired to teach you something.”

Suphala, whose album The Now has been released by Rasa Music and includes such top artists as Norah Jones, grew up in Minneapolis in a family of doctors and engineers. There was a lot of emphasis on education, so it was unusual for her to go in this direction, and especially to take a classical instrument like the tabla into pop music.: “For me it was natural to do that because I have grown up here and listened to all sorts of music. I study and love classical Indian music, but the music that I produce and write is a combination of all these factors. So it is a new thing but also very natural for me.”

Does she still practice the tabla every day or has the fusion changed that somehow? “My life revolves in a large part around my guru and studying the art even more,” she says. “I still do practice classical music every day and try to keep my chops up on the tabla and everything comes from there.”


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