Rajesh Bhandari first discovered the lyrical beauty of Indian classical music at a young age on a trip to Delhi, India. Bhandari and his father returned to the United States along with a harmonium and tabla beginning the young percussionist’s musical journey.
Born in Queens, New York, Bhandari now resides in Miami. Soon after the fateful trip to Delhi, Bhandari began studying tabla, music, and theory with Pt. Ravideen Ramsamooj. Over the years, Bhandari has studied with many great maestros including Pt. Samir Chatterjee, Pt. Anindo Chatterjee and Ustad Zakir Hussain. While he began his musical journey studying classical Indian music, Bhandari began exploring Western styles, including Jazz and World music, in his teens and during his college years at Miami Dade College (MDC). From Bollywood to Ghazal, Bengali and Punjabi geet to World music and Jazz, Bhandari enjoys learning and experimenting .
At the age of 14, Bhandari began performing and traveling, which was a unique learning experience. Early in his career, Bhandari was a dance accompanist at the New World School of the Arts in Miami. It was during this time that the young musician began to understand the relationship between dance and music. Feeling inspired, Bhandari began composing music for dances led by students, faculty, and visiting artists. Since that time, Bhandari has accompanied many dance artists and musicians from around the world, making him a truly versatile tabla player.
Bhandari now shares his knowledge and experience with eager young musicians in South Florida, where he teaches classes monthly. Fans can expect his latest solo fusion album, Ambient Resonance, to be available in early September, followed by tour dates in the fall. Featuring great musicians from a range of genres, the album will showcase Bhandari’s talent and love for music in all its forms.
Bhandari will also be performing with Vocalist Sudhir Narain, who will perform bhajans and geet, on Saturday, August 12, 2017, from 6-9pm at the Palm Beach Hindu Mandir.
For more information about Rajesh Bhandari, visit https://www.rajbtabla.com/.
|You’ve had the opportunity to learn from and work with accomplished musicians, such as Ustad Zakir Hussain, Pt. Krishna Mohan Bhatt, Lakshmi Shankar, Falu Shah, and even Shakira. Is there any one moment that stands out as the most memorable?
Studying and performing Ustad Zakir Hussain’s music at Carnegie Hall in 2009 was definitely the highlight of my career. It was also an amazing experience working with Pt. Shivkumar Sharma, Kala Ramnath and drummer Steve Smith in that workshop and performance as well.
And there are so many more amazing memories for me, from performing with Smt. Lakshmi Shankar on WLRN in 2003 to performing with Questlove to touring with Shakira in 2009 and more recently with Utsav Lal, Mitali Banerjee Bhawmik, and Suresh Wadkar.
|Why tabla, what drew you to this particular instrument? What are some of your earliest memories of learning to play?I think I was just fascinated with the sounds that one can make with this instrument, but I also fell in love with classical music’s rich nuanced melodies and deep rhythms. I remember from a young age a strong desire to practice and play tabla, and still to this day am in awe of what great music you can create.|
|Who do you consider to be a mentor and why?I would say I have a few mentors but Ud. Zakir Hussain has had the biggest influence on me, especially due to his work in fusion and world music. He really showed me how many possibilities there are for tabla in traditional Indian music as well as other genres. He also showed many artists how to be better stage performers as well as how to be more inclusive when it comes to classical music. He taught me how it is important to learn about the cultures of the world through music. Pt. Samir Chatterjee and Pt. Anindo Chatterjee are also big influences as well not only musically speaking, but they were both mentors on how to remain focused on practice and maintain virtues of humility, patience and perseverance.|
|What advice do you have for young Indian Americans who wish to pursue a career in music or the performing arts?The performing arts as a career isn’t the easiest path, but it can be quite rewarding. I do think there are more people now who are choosing to put a good effort forth as well. I believe it’s important to know your intent with your art first, then continue being consistent with developing your ideas and finding a way for people to experience it. Patience and humility is needed for this as well. But as long as you are genuine in your approach, you can find an audience and people are interested in having new experiences and the performing arts is a great way to connect with people on a very deep level. As the arts are a means for one’s expression of some of the deepest human emotions and can have a profound effect on those who can bear witness to it.
All images provided by Rajesh Bhandari. Article appears in the August 2017 issue of Desh-Videsh magazine.
About the Author
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