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Badal Roy: Keeping the Groove

By Published: July 17, 2009

AAJ: The result, though, is transcending. Listening to that album is one of those "wow" moments.

BR: The album came out. I never heard it. I played on Big Fun (Columbia, 1974), Get Up with It (Columbia, 1974) and a lot of others. Life goes by and I played with Pharoah Sanders

Pharoah Sanders
Pharoah Sanders
and Lookout Farm. I joined Ornette Coleman and played with him for 10 or 12 years. I did On the Corner in 1972; 1974 I got married; 1977 my son is born; 1995 my son went to Rutgers for graduate school and he comes [home] with an On the Corner CD. The album is still unopened in my basement. It's still there because that music didn't hit me. He told me the boys and girls from his college were taking autographs from him because I was on the album. Then I said, "Give me that CD." I was in the drawing room and I played it and I sat back and said, "wow." Everything opened up, man.

AAJ: After you listened to On the Corner, did you go back and listen to other Miles Davis albums?

BR: Absolutely. And then On the Corner came out as a box set. I'm on a bunch of tracks and the tabla sounds so good. Now, I sit down and say, "Thank God, Miles. You made me famous a little bit."

AAJ: You've worked with a number of legendary jazz musicians. What were the major differences working with these dynamic men?

BR: Miles says, "You start." If he liked one groove, he would say, "Keep that groove going. Don't change it." He would want to keep it going, but after 30 seconds I wanted to change it. But with Ornette, he would always want me to change it. Completely different, but I had fun with both of them.

AAJ: In On the Corner, you have these solos where you start a groove then build complex, dynamic rhythms. What goes through your mind during a solo?

BR: I think I'm the only self-taught tabla drummer that doesn't have any classical training. I just feel whatever I feel at that moment, but those classical tabla players, they practice for eight hours a day for fucking 18 years and they want to go and play those lines. With me, it's not that. I want to play something and wait. Let it go. Let it rest. Give me some space.

AAJ: Your solos have such a great dramatic arch to them. You build up tension and let it go.

BR: By doing that, I'm telling a story. That's the main thing. When you write about me, say Badal Roy is telling a story. And I'm checking it out, which drum is giving me a sound I really appreciate at that moment. I go with the groove, and then go free.

Selected Discography

Miles Davis, On The Corner (The Complete Sessions) (Legacy, 2007)

Badal Roy/Perry Robinson/Ed Schuller, Raga Roni (Geetika, 2001)

Badal Roy, One in the Pocket (Nomad-Music of the World, 1997)

Ornette Coleman & Prime Time, Tone Dialing (Harmolodic/Verve, 1995)

Nana Vasconcelos/Badal Roy/Mike Richmond/Steve Gorn, Asian Journal (Music of the World, 1981/1983)

David Liebman, Sweet Hands (A&M/Horizon, 1975)

Photo Credit

Ale de Vries

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