Ritesh Das makes a groovy fresh start with his shape-shifting, epic solo debut To Begin With — showcasing today on Tinnitist.
Stepping away temporarily from his long-running and beloved Toronto Tabla Ensemble after three decades at the helm, the 66-year-old percussion maestro has fashioned a musical hybrid unlike anything else in his storied career. To Begin With offers a sequence of cinematic cuts that blend man and machine, balance spirituality and technology, and form the soundtrack for a globe-trotting adventure film straight out of Das’s boundless imagination.
Not bad for an album whose origin story was decidedly housebound. Unable to travel due to the pandemic, Das turned to technology and his home studio, teaching himself composing and recording software. In the process, he wrote songs that blended live instrumentation with programmed beats, samples and orchestral instruments. He also brought in tasty collaborations with a diverse range of world-class talents, including the Montreal klezmer outfit Oktopus (Ot Azoy); Egyptian vocalist Maryem Tollar and sarod maestro Manik Khan (Ta’alu Nitabill) and Canadian rock queen Bif Naked (Forgiveness of Trees).
Das’s own story is no less epic. Born in Calcutta to parents who owned the region’s first dance and music academy, he followed his brother Chitresh Das to San Francisco and Los Angeles, where he joined the Aman Folk Ensemble and toured the U.S. while broadening his musical horizons. After relocating to Toronto in 1987, he began teaching tabla and formed the TTE in 1991.
Since then, Das and the TTE have crossed Canada multiple times, and mesmerized audiences in India and Australia with their intricate grooves and modern, high-energy approach. They have released eight original studio albums that have garnered multiple awards. Their 2020 album Bhumika earned the group a nomination for Best World Group and Best Instrumental Group at the Canadian Folk Music Awards. Their compositions have been licensed for commercials and films.
But Das has never rested on those laurels. An unstoppable artist, he is already looking ahead to his next release — a radio-station theme is already in the air— along with new orchestral compositions, film scoring opportunities, and a return to the performing world with the TTE. Stay tuned for the sequel.
Meanwhile, check out To Begin With below, watch the video for Ta’alu Nitabbil (Let’s Drum) featuring Maryem Tollar and Manik Khan above, and get in the groove with Ritesh Das at his website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.