With Indian/Scottish roots in multicultural Toronto, Anita Katakkar’s music practice represents a link between her heritage and community. In Toronto, she studied tabla with composer and musician Ritesh Das and in California and Kolkata with the pre-eminent exponent of the Lucknow style tabla, Pandit Swapan Chaudhuri. Anita has performed, toured internationally and recorded with the Toronto Tabla Ensemble and Jeff Martin and has toured nationally with The Tea Party. She has shared the stage with legendary Kathak dancer Chitresh Das, flamenco dancer Esmeralda Enrique, sitar virtuoso Anwar Khurshid, Canadian/Armenian guitarist Levon Ichkhanian and Paris based singer/songwriter Melissa Laveaux.
Don’t tell me it cannot be done
I am the type of person, where if you tell me it cannot be done, I automatically want to try it. This was the case while I was growing up and I was told that drummers are mostly male. So in school band I picked up drums and percussion. Towards the end of high school, I fell in love with the sound of tabla that I often heard on my grandmother’s “bhajan” tapes. Around this time, I was given a set of tabla, and from there I have learned mainly with 2 teachers.
It’s unconventional to play tabla standing up
Though I love to play in the classical sense (with other North Indian instrumentalists/vocalists or dancers) I also have found that since I live in Toronto, collaborating with western instrumentation came naturally. I found that by sitting down I was not able to create a rapport with my band and audience members and so started playing with my tabla set on stands. I use pedals to trigger sequences off of my laptop.
“Guru” : Listen to your inner Guru. You need to kick your own ass.
I always strive to keep learning and through the guidance of my teachers have come to know the true meaning of Guru. Guru is the process of guiding yourself by learning from your own life experiences. So I often find my Guru within and think of those individuals who have deeply impacted me. From there I sit with my drums for hours, often listening to one stroke played many different ways. On a good day it feels like my tabla are speaking.
Not just 4/4 time
One of the things I love the most about North Indian music is that we play with many different time cycles. I have worked in cycles of 16, 10, 7, 11, 14 and 8.5 and you’ll hear some of these on my CD. It all really comes down to phrasing. 7=3+4, 16=4+4+4+4, 10=2+3+2+3, 11=4+4+1.5+1.5 … You’d think that a time cycle like 7 or 8.5 would be awkward but they really do groove if played with good phrasing!
Rakkatak is a Toronto-based World Music collective that merges Indian rhythms and instrumental melodies with tabla and electronic soundscapes. Fronted by tabla player Anita Katakkar, Rakkatak is currently working on their second album. For the past 3 years, Anita has travelled to study under tabla maestro extraordinaire Swapan Chaudhuri in California and Kolkata for months at a time. On Anita’s latest tabla retreat, Oriana Barbato (bass player) joined Anita and learned about North Indian classical music at the Ali Akbar Khan College of Music in San Francisco. They are currently resident players at Octopus Garden Yoga and have released two 25-minute tracks that are meant to aid in linking breath to movement during yoga practice. Both tracks are available for download on their website.
By Anita Katakkar