This very talented Indian origin drummer from Canada who turned down the invitation to perform with Mozart of Chennai A.R. Rahman is out to create her own beat. DigiKarma got the opportunity to talk to her and here is what she have to say
Q. Welcome to DigiKarma. Could you tell us where you’re from and how you got started in the field?
Thank you for having me! I was born and raised in Toronto, Canada, and my family’s background is Indian. My father is a musician (plays keyboard, harmonium, piano and has played with Mehdi Hassan, Manna Dey, Abida Parveen, Aadesh Srivastava to name a few). He always kept drums and a bunch of other instruments around the house, so I was always surrounded by music. I am a self-taught drummer and have been playing since the age of 2.
Q. You can play various instruments…how many instruments can you play and which is your favorite?
My main instrument is the drum set, but I also play the piano, sing, and play tabla, dholak, dhol, kanjira, ghatam, congas, timbale, bongos, cajon, darbuka, tumbek and others. I am dabbling and eagerly learning other instruments as well! Also, I love to play various genres of music: I am currently freelancing, collaborating, doing session work and performing with international artists playing jazz, latin, gospel, hip hop, funk, r&b/soul, flamenco, fusion, Bollywood, Indian and world music.
Facebook Page for Sarah Thawer (@sarahtdrumguru1)
Q. Why did you choose the drums as an instrument to play? Was there a song/artist/drum riff that made you instantly want to play, or was it progressional?
I did not feel like I chose the drums, I feel like the drums chose me. I never sat down and consciously made a decision that drums were something I wanted to play. I just began to play them at around age 2 and from a young age, I felt drums were a part of my being. I remember a few incidents actually that display my love for drumming at different stages in my life. Between the age of 5 and 6, I remember that I used to have this setup of three Indian- congas, and parts of a drum set and I would play the song “Radha Kai Se Na Jale” (from the film Lagaan), with my sister singing on the microphone and my dad playing keyboards, and we would jam to that song amongst others for many days and hours. Also, at around age 9 and 10, I used to carry around a drum machine/ sampler and bring it to my parents’ friends parties and sit in the corner with my headphones and make beats. Additionally, I played drum kit in a jazz band from middle school all the way to grade 12. I also remember doing a “show and tell” with my
I also remember doing a “show and tell” with my tablas in grade 4. In grade 7, I used to carry the ghatam to school to play and I used to walk around with the bhangra dhol stick in my grade 11 year and practice during math class on my leg. One thing I specifically remember in my grade 8 year is that my friends and I would gather around the table during lunch time, and I would assign everyone a specific beat to play whether it was to clap or hit the lunch table, and then I used to solo around the groove that was created on the lunch table. The lunch supervisors used to get so mad and we were always in trouble and they threatened to kick us out of the lunchroom!
Q. What bands/artists did you listen to growing up? What inspires you?
Growing up I had so many phases of listening to different music and musicians that I listened to. From a very young age I was always inspired by Indian folk rhythms, Arabic rhythms and middle eastern percussionists playing tumbek, darbuka, riq, etc, south Indian percussionists playing Thavil, Kanjira, mridangam, ghatam, etc, North Indian percussionist playing tabla, dholak, dhol, etc, latin (Cuban and Brazilian) percussionists playing congas, bongos, timbale, pandero, shekere, flamenco cajon etc, jazz fusion drummers – just rhythm in general inspired me.
In addition, I currently am inspired a lot by jazz, fusion, gospel, hip hop, prog rock and Cuban drummers, such as Tony Williams, Elvin Jones, Bill Stewart, Eric Harland, Peter Erskine, Nate Smith, Dafnis Prieto, Maison Guidry, Mark Guiliana, Horacio Hernandez, Matt Garstka, Sheila E, Steve Jordan, Nathaniel Townsley, Trilok Gurtu, Thomas Pridgen, Eric Moore, Dennis Chambers, Vinnie Colaiuta, Aaron Spears, Robert “Sput” Searight, my friend Larnell Lewis, Billy Cobham, Gregory Hutchinson, Herlin Riley, Adam Deitch, Teddy Campbell, Calvin Rodgers, Steve Gadd just to name a few. In addition, I am also really inspired by melodic instruments and vocalists of all genres.
I am also inspired by people, especially my grandparents. I am inspired by kindness, comedy, smiles, laughter, love, and just life in general.
Q. Did you go to music school or are self-taught?
I am self-taught, learned by watching and listening and just playing and performing. I began to perform on stage since the age of 6, and from then on, I played in the jazz bands in high school, in the symphony orchestras (playing the violin and classical percussion), choirs, took part in the midi classes learning different software and all of the other ensembles. Subsequently, I was chosen as the recipient of the Oscar Peterson Scholarship at York University and decided to study jazz, world music, gospel and contemporary music, and graduated with the Summa Cum Laude distinction. I took western classical piano lessons from the age of 3, singing lessons since the age of 6 and tabla lessons since the age of 7, but was playing the drum set and other percussion instruments from the age of 2, and realized that the drum set was the instrument I wanted to focus on.
Q. Can you tell us about the famous Rahman incident and how was it playing for him on stage?
I was extremely honored to be invited by A.R Rahman Sir a few years ago to perform with him for Coke Studio. To be completely honest, I thought it was a spam or a prank, I did not think it was real, it was too good to be true. After some time, finding out that it was real, I was shocked and frustrated. But my parents told me to have faith, and that everything will work out.
A few years later (May 2015), Rahman Sir and his team came to Toronto to perform, two nights at the Sony Center. I went to watch the concert the first night, it was of course incredible. After the concert, I got the opportunity to meet Rahman Sir and he invited me to come and jam with him on stage the following night. It was truly a dream come true!
Here’s the link to the video:
Q. Even the best players practice frequently and learn new things, so where exactly do you go to read tutorials or articles that help you find inspiration for your music?
Learning is life-long and never ending. I find that the more I learn, the more I realize I have so much more to learn. Practicing to me is like food, I can’t go one day without it. For inspiration, I listen to music and watch videos of live concerts and/or videos of my favorite drummers playing drum solos. What also really helps me to get inspired is watching live music!
Q. What suggestion will you give to our readers who want to be drummers?
I would suggest studying all genres of music, and just because initially when you first listen to a genre and you don’t like it, don’t give up on it, dig deeper in it! Each genre has beautiful qualities and things that are most important to it. For instance, in Cuban music, the clave is very important, in gospel music it’s the 2 and 4 on the snare, in jazz it’s that swing pattern, and so on. Learn the different styles of drumming in different genres and the drummers that helped evolve that music to understand the roots of the incredible genres of music.
Q. What is your favorite song to perform?
Hmmmmmm……that is a tough one. I have too many favorites. I would say that is similar to asking a mother which child is her favorite! (Obviously, my mom would pick me…..yeah right….haha!)
Q. Who do you want to collaborate with now?
I want to collaborate with every musician from all genres of music. I have a never-ending list of musicians and artists I wish to collaborate with!
Q. As a musician, what’s your ultimate goal? What’s the destination of your journey?
I feel that as a musician, there is no destination, and to me, that’s the beauty of it! The journey of learning is life long. My goal is to be the best I can be, being hungry to learn every day, and pouring my heart into the music every time I play it. As well as to be in the moment as much as I can while playing the drums and spreading positivity to the world.
Q. Thanks again for providing DigiKarma with this opportunity to interview you. Any final thoughts for our readers?
Pleasure is all mine! To the awesome readers: thank you for taking the time to read this interview! Wishing you all the best, and happy drumming!
Note: This Interview was taken by Ash from DigiKarma.
Facebook Page for Ash (@officiallyAsh)