Amerendra ‘Badal’ Roy Choudhury arrived in New York in 1968 with a pair of tablas and eight dollars in his pocket. In three days he took a busboy job and then waiting positions in various Indian restaurants. Soon, instead of waiting on customers he was entrancing them with his drumming. Badal’s passionate style of playing is free-flowing and always from the heart, and when Miles Davis heard him play, the superstar warmed to him and spread the word. Soon he received his big break: an invitation to record with John McLaughlin and Miles successively.
Today Badal Roy is the foremost exponent of tabla in jazz music. He has played with not only Davis and McLaughlin, but also artists as diverse as Herbie Mann, Dave Liebman, Don Cherry, Pharaoh Sanders, Dizzy Gillespie, Lonnie Liston Smith, Andreas Vollenweider, and Yoko Ono. He has been an integral part of Ornette Coleman’s Prime Time since 1988 and is presently collaborating with Brazil s Duofel, an instrumental guitar duo. We caught up with Badal this spring in between projects and this is what he had to say:
Q: How did you come to be involved in the release of Tarun Battachrya’s “Sargam”?
“I know Tarun very well. He is definitely a top ranking santur artist in India. He came to the U.S. several years ago and stayed at my home. We got really close and so I arranged a concert for him there. I said: hey, next time you do something that’s not pure classical with a lot of good rhythms let me know. During my last trip to India he made an impromptu recording; the artists just got together and said let s play some music. It turned out beautifully. I let Bob Haddad hear it and he liked it too so we decided to release it on Music of the World.
Q: How did you hook up with Nana Vasconcelos for the recording of Asian Journal?
Steve Gorn and I used to jam at the Raga Restaurant in New York. I’ve known Nana for 18 years or so now. We contacted him and Mike Richmond as well as (Turkish musicians) Ismet Siral and Mirat Verdi, and it all came together. I can’t believe we recorded it in the early 80’s and people are still turning on to it! It’s happening all over the world.
Q: Will you be working with Duofel anytime soon?
I’ll be in Brazil again for the whole month of June on tour with Duofel. All of the time we play live there is magic happening. That s why I m there! Magic, magic, magic!
Q: How about Prime Time?
In October I’ll be touring with Prime Time to help promote the new album due out in September. I’ll also be doing some gigs at The Knitting Factory with Ken Wessel (guitarist for Prime Time).
Q: What musical wishes do you have for the future?
I want to put together a band of 4-5 musicians that features a sarangi player. Sarangi (Indian bowed instrument) is to me a most spiritual instrument. It gives me more goose bumps than any other. I also want to go back and play with the Bauls, the street musicians of Bengal. That s where my heart is. I’ll just go to the villages and swing, play with them, and listen to their lovely lyrics!
Selected Discography on Music of the World:
One in the Pocket (NMD 50315)
Asian Journal (with Nana Vasconcelos and others) (MOW 303)
Basic Tendencies (with Mike Richmond and Glen Velez) (MOW 306)
Yantra (with Steve Gorn) (MOW 102)
Songs for Sitar and Tabla (with Arooj Lazewal) (MOW 201)
On other labels:
On The Corner: Miles Davis – Columbia
Sun Belt: Herbie Mann – Atlantic
My Goals Beyond: John Mclaughlin – Ryko
Drum Ode: Dave Liebman – ECM
Satisfied Shells: Dizzy Gillespie – Polydor