Meet a musician: Harkiret Singh Bahra

Harkiret is an experienced Indian Classical Percussion player and Tabla teacher. He’s performed at numerous national venues such as The Royal Festival Hall, as well as across Europe and India.

When not recording fusional genre music with the likes of The Chris Woods Groove Orchestra, Harkiret teaches weekly Tabla classes in Kent and at the annual Chakardar Summer Retreat.

This Autumn we were delighted to collaborate with Harkiret and Chris Woods through our live music initiative ‘Live and Inspired‘. In just five days, Harkiret and Chris performed at 10 schools to more than 3000 students.

In between wowing students with his Tabla skills, we managed to sit down with Harkiret and learned about where this began, why this is important to him and ‘that Matrix moment’ …

Hi Harkiret! Your skills are out of this world – can you tell us a bit about your career so far and how you got started?

I have been learning for over 25 years. I do have some musical background in my family and was motivated to learn having seen my Father and moreso my Cousin play the Tabla so competently. Having noticed my interest in learning, my Father sought a great teacher and after that, there was no turning back!

My first teachers were Giani Gian Singh Surjit and Giani Gurbachan Singh Hamdardh. For the last seventeen years, I have been learning from Ustad Harkirat Singh Rayatt. With his blessings, I have had tuition from the great maestros of Tabla and especially guidance from the late Pandit Shankar Ghosh.

What has been your proudest moment as a musician so far?

One specific moment that stands out is one more to do with my learning experience, rather than performance.

I distinctly remember putting in hours and hours of practice in order to improve speed; there was a distinct moment when, as if by a flick of a switch, a surge of electricity flowed through my hands and my fingers literally felt like they were flying.

Not only that, I started seeing all of my compositions differently (like suddenly being able to see the Matrix) and that I could think a certain speed and then immediately perform it.

Do you have any advice for young people looking to take up Tabla playing?

Like most other instruments, it requires dedication and passion. However, as opposed to many other percussion instruments, learning to play the Tabla is a fine art. The beauty, variety and complexity of the sound is boundless and is to be respected and enjoyed at the same time.

Other advice would be to seek a professional, proficient and passionate teacher since they will be able to breathe life into this instrument and therefore so will you.

Why is music important to you?

Within the first few years of learning to play the Tabla, I realised that this would be one of few things that I could carry on with throughout my life; particularly I often planned how my retirement would be….non-stop Tabla.

In fact, music has become so much more than a post-retirement plan; it’s more like breathing for me. I simply could not be without music, without Tabla.

And finally, why were you excited to join the ‘Live and Inspired’ tour?

Early on in my years of learning, I started to delve into fusion music; during my secondary school years, as Deputy Head Boy, I would jam with my friend who played the Electric Guitar. We would often perform at School events and this was always well received.

So for me, the Live and Inspired tour symbolises me coming full circle back into schools and performing original music with the brilliant Chris Woods. I feel extremely fortunate to have this opportunity and ,above all, humbled by it.

Look out for Harkiret playing on some new compositions with Chris as the Chris Woods Groove Orchestra:

Harkiret will also be leading a group (Chakardar) performance at the prestigious Darbar Festival 2018 in the Barbican, London.