Toronto Tabla Ensemble Fire Up Spellcheck

The Juno-nominated outfit table their percussion passion in their latest release.

Toronto Tabla Ensemble turn the tables on technology with their colourful single and video Spellcheck — showcasing today on Tinnitist.

The first release from the group’s upcoming eighth album For The Love Of Tabla, Spellcheck gets its name and inspiration from everyone’s favourite frustrating smart phone feature — autocorrect.

“The title is a joke,” tabla master and TTE founder Ritesh Das reveals. “If you try to type out tabla on your phone, spellcheck changes it to table. I get messages all the time from people asking: ‘Where can I buy a new table?’ I tell them to go to a furniture store.”

Fittingly, the song combines the spontaneity of table-top percussion and a modern drum kit groove with the traditional, North Indian classical art of tabla in an exciting rhythmic mixture. “I wrote a piece that starts with me playing on a table, like I used to do when I was in school,” Das explains. “Then a drum kit comes in to really kick in the groove, and then the tabla adds sophistication based on that groove. So there are really three elements to the piece: The birth of the rhythm, the groove itself and then the expansion of the rhythm to the highest level.”

Members of the TTE Youth Ensemble play on the track along with accomplished London, Ont. drummer Dale Anne Brendon, who studies tabla with Das. The video, produced and directed by Melissa Das-Arp, adds a visual layer of artistry to the pulsating instrumental. The clip features Ritesh Das immersed in his own world while recording and mixing, creating an alternate reality with the other players on the track. It’s a world that Das-Arp was already quite familiar with, as Spellcheck and all the songs for TTE’s new album were written and recorded while the couple rode out the COVID pandemic at home.

“Throughout last winter I would hear all kinds of music coming from the basement,” recalls Das-Arp. “There was one piece I heard over and over that caught my ear, a catchy drum pattern that sounded very different and one day I came down to see what that was. It was Ritesh playing on the table.” Witnessing how the new album was being recorded remotely with collaborators gave Das-Arp the idea for the video. “I wondered what that experience would feel like, to only work with people online for more than a year, some he had never even met. Who are they really?” she asks. “So I thought of him being in front of his computer mixing these sounds and letting his imagination take over.”

Das-Arp took inspiration from the boundary-pushing videos of one of her favourite bands, OutKast, to create an out-of-this world feel for the video. She also collaborated with art director Manantsoa Razafimandimby to put a retro spin on the costumes to create something you would not expect from a TTE video. With COVID restrictions in mind, Das and Das-Arp’s home garage was turned into a film studio and cinematographer Jason Providence and his crew shot each artist in the video separately.

Watch Spellcheck above, hear more from Toronto Tabla Ensemble below, and check out their website, Facebook and Instagram.