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Johnny Kalsi & Dhol Foundation - After the Rain (Video)

Check out Johnny Kalsis first video for the Dhol Foundation!! The video comes from their previous album, "Drum-believable".

About to embark on his forth studio album to date, Johnny Kalsi is taking a traditional Punjabi instrument and using it to break down musical barriers by creating a sound for the world. The rhythm is infectious, the beats powerful and the melodies beautiful. He cites in his album sleeve “I have become not just the drum, but the beats it plays” and nothing could be truer…

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From the young age of 8, Johnny knew that he wanted his life journey to be a musical one. During his childhood, he attended many family weddings where the ladies would sing folk songs and play a smaller version of the dhol called a dholak. He regularly took over from the women playing this instrument and this is where the journey began. Shortly thereafter, he started taking tabla lessons but once at school, he realized that he wanted to broaden his horizons and became a drum player for a jazz trio who regularly performed on the school stage and at community events. Flirting with different instruments allowed him to develop a varied range of musical tones and essentially, he managed to mesh eastern beats on western instruments. Whilst the dhol remained his first love, he refused to let its tradition define the music he created with it, “I was not keeping a narrow mind and becoming a role in the ‘Folk Police’. Instead I opened my mind and ventured out to discover an endless possibility to develop new techniques and accepting the massive variety of music and what exactly the World has to offer this Huge Sounding instrument and of course myself as the player”

He continued playing music and created partnerships with some leading DJ’s where he would play his dhol along to the beat of their records at live shows, the first dhol percussionist to ever do so alongside a DJ. In 1988, Johnny came to the attention of a renowned Bhangra band ‘Alaap’ and took the roll of their lead percussionist and dhol player. He learned much from touring and performing as a front man for Alaap, but reached a point where he felt he could go no further musically. He was, coincidentally approached by alternative band ‘Fundamental’ that were celebrated for fusing together music from African, Asian and European cultures, something which he admired and hence, he agreed to join them on tour. ‘Fundamental’ acted as a stepping stone for Johnny, who a year or so later went on to join ‘Transglobal Underground’. His dream band, however, was the Grammy nominated ‘Afro Celt Sound System’ (the worlds biggest world music band), which not surprisingly, also poached Johnny to become their lead percussionist on tours at which he jumped at the chance. They went on to tour around the world including a huge US tour and parts of Europe. The combination and experience of being in all these bands, which blended different genres, sounds and beats, allowed exposure for Johnny to reach worldwide audiences, something which he was keen to do.

Throughout this time performing in the UK and around the world, he received many requests from people wanting to learn how to play the dhol. Whilst it is hard to imagine that someone so talented with his instrument is self taught, this was the case with Kalsi so he understood their frustration. Johnny felt that this needed to be rectified and in 1989, he opened the D.H.O.L (Distinguished Hall of Learning) Foundation. This started off as 2 students in a small hall in Slough and now 19 years later, boasts over 400 students at several locations across the UK and abroad – the largest dhol institute in Britain.

'The Dhol Foundation’ is also the name for Johnny Kalsi’s collective of dhol players he tours with. His first album which featured 42 dhol players from TDF (as they are sometimes referred to) titled ‘Big Drum-Small World’ was released in 1999. This album featured an array of talented musicians and vocalists alike. ‘Drummers Reel’ the last track on the album made an appearance in the Martin Scorsese film ‘Gangs of New York’ which was a major credit for Johnny and opened his eyes to the world of possibilities within films which he has continued to be succesful in scoring. In 2006, the second album “Drum-Believable” was ready, and statement tracks like "After the Rain" which featured authentic Irish reel kicks (performed by and featuring Mairead Nesbitt of Michael Flatlys' Lord of the Dance and Riverdance), alongside the thumping and rhythmic dhol made this album stand out. His third album ‘Drums & Roses’, was also one of his most intense piece of work yet. “This album features various genres of tracks transpiring into a wall of soundscapes that make the journey of listening to the album more interesting. Recorded all over the world, I can honestly say that the collaborations and singers I have on this album are like a breath of fresh air”

Playing for over 25 years now, the list of those that Johnny Kalsi has worked with is endless. Those he has recorded with or toured with spans from the greats of the Indian industry such as the Late Ustad Nusaret Fateh Ali Khan and Adnan Sami to legendary icons from the western world including Led Zeppelin (which Johnny went on a 6 week European tour with) to Peter Gabriel, Miguel Bose and Robert Plant. In the pop arena he has worked with Canadian born Avril Lavingne, Nelly Furtado, Cliff Richard and more recently performed an astounding accompaniment to the Kaiser Chiefs for the BBC Electric Proms – its quite evident that nothing is beyond his reach and collaborations which didn’t even seem like a possibility, have become reality is his world.

It is not surprising then, that the crowds that he draws are varied and vast. His performances are compromised of Powerful beats and dynamic rhythms which are the focal point at his shows. His passion of performing is evident through recollections alone and there’s not a nerve in sight, “I have never got nervous. An audience of 10 or 100,000 will get the same performance out of me”. Audiences of such high magnitude are no exaggeration, his band The Dhol Foundation are regular featured on the festival scene and the past few years alone has seen him wow audiences around the world from Belgium to Singapore, including featuring on the bill at Womad every year since 1995 and performing at Live 8 and Live earth.

It is his charisma and talent on stage and off that has entitled him to be a front man for his art. He has continued to push the boundaries of conventional dhol playing with his unique blend of different sounds including Celtic, Asian and western. With two successful albums already under his belt, the third about to be released and the fourth in the recording process, this man had a ruthless but true dedication to his music. Each installment is a chapter in his book where his love interest is his dhol. When he utters the words of Ustad Ravi Shankar ““If I stop playing I’ll stop living” he is saying it with true honesty and compassion. Drum Roll for Mr. Johnny Kalsi please…

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