Badal Roy

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Badal Roy
বাদল রায়
Birth nameAmarendra Roy Chowdhury
OriginNew York City
GenresJazz fusion, world music
Occupation(s)Tabla maestro
Years active1959–present

Badal Roy (Bengali: বাদল রায়; born Amarendra Roy Chowdhury) is a tabla player, percussionist, and recording artist known for his work in jazz, world music, and experimental music.


Badal Roy was born into a Hindu family in a predominantly Muslim eastern Bengal region in Comilla, British India in 1945 (which later became East Pakistan, then Bangladesh).[1] He speaks the Bengali, English, Hindi, and Urdu languages.[1] His father was a government official who served in the distinguished position of Joint Secretary. His nickname, Badal (meaning "rain," "cloud," or "thunder" in the Bengali language), was given to him by his grandfather after he began crying in the rain as a baby.[1]

An early inspiration for Roy was American popular music, and he particularly enjoyed the music of artists such as Elvis Presley, Pat Boone, and Nat King Cole. His first exposure to jazz came when he saw a concert by Duke Ellington and his 60-member orchestra at the Metropole Hotel in Karachi, West Pakistan in 1959; he and his brother were the only Pakistanis in attendance (the rest of the audience was white).

Roy received a master's degree in statistics. He came to New York City in 1968 to work on a PhD With only eight dollars in his pocket, he began working as a busboy and waiter in various Indian restaurants, including Taste of India and Raga. He later settled in East Brunswick Township, New Jersey.[2]

Musical career[edit]

Roy began playing the tabla at age 10 or 11, under guidance from his maternal uncle in Comilla. After coming to New York, he began performing with Steve Gorn at a Manhattan restaurant called Raga, eventually attracting the attention of Miles Davis. Davis invited Roy to join his group, and he recorded on Davis's albums On the Corner (1972), Big Fun (1969–72; released 1974), and Get Up with It (1970–74). Roy subsequently performed and recorded with many leading jazz musicians, including Davis, Dave Liebman, Pharoah Sanders, John McLaughlin, Herbie Hancock, Herbie Mann, Pat Metheny, Lester Bowie, Airto Moreira, Charlie Haden, Purna Das Baul, Yoko Ono, and Ornette Coleman (playing in Coleman's electric band Prime Time). In the 1990s Roy began performing with the Brazilian guitar duo Duofel. He has also collaborated with Ken Wessel and Stomu Takeishi in a fusion trio named Alankar. They currently have one album entitled Daybreak.

Roy has appeared and offered workshops at RhythmFest, the Starwood Festival, and at the SpiritDrum Festival,[3] a special tribute to the late Babatunde Olatunji (co-sponsored by ACE and Musart) with Muruga Booker, Jim Donovan of Rusted Root, Halim El-Dabh, Richie "Shakin'" Nagan, Jeff Rosenbaum and Sikiru Adepoju, among others.[4] He often plays with Muruga Booker in the Global Village Ceremonial Band, and with Michael Wolff & Impure Thoughts. In 2004, Roy worked with Richie Havens on the album The Grace of the Sun. In the first half of 2006, Roy travelled to Japan to appear in a tribute for David Baker, his recently deceased recording engineer and friend.

In addition to tabla, Roy also plays a variety of percussion instruments including shakers, bells, rain stick, and flexatone. His notable students include Geoffrey Gordon.

In 2008, the album Miles From India, a tribute to Miles Davis on which Roy appeared, received a Grammy nomination.[5]

Musical style[edit]

Unlike many tabla players, Roy does not come from a family of professional musicians and is essentially self-taught, although he studied with his late maternal uncle Dwijendra Chandra Chakraborty as a child, and also studied briefly with Alla Rakha.[1] Consequently, his playing is freer than that of many other tabla players, who adhere more strictly to the tala system of Indian rhythm. He often plays a set of up to eight tabla (tuned to different pitches) and two baya at a time, which he plays melodically as well as rhythmically.


As leader[edit]

With Amit Chatterjee[edit]

  • 1997 – Endless Radiance (Art of the Duo) (Tutu)

With Ornette Coleman[edit]

With Miles Davis[edit]

  • 1974 – Big Fun (2xLP) Columbia Records, 2xCD Columbia (reissued 2000)
  • 1974 – Get Up With It (2xLP) Columbia Records 1974 (2xCD Coline 1991, 2000)
  • 1988 – Miles Davis: The Columbia Years 1955–1985 (Box set, also 4xCD) Columbia
  • 1993 – On The Corner (CD, Album) Columbia Records, (Legacy reissued 2000)
  • 1997 – Miles Davis In Concert: Live At Philharmonic Hall, Legacy
  • 1998 – Panthalassa: The Music of Miles Davis 1969–1974

With Steve Gorn[edit]

1982 – Asian Journal (with Nana Vasconcelos & Steve Gorn) (Nomad Records)

With Richie Havens[edit]

  • 2004 – Grace of the Sun

With Bill Laswell[edit]

  • 1998 – Sacred System: Nagual Site (CD) BMG
  • 2000 – Lo. Def Pressure (LP & CD) Sub Rosa

With David Liebman[edit]

  • 1974 – Lookout Farm (LP) ECM Records
  • 1975 – Passing Dreams (reissued 1998, 2002)
  • 1975 – Drum Ode (LP) ECM Records
  • 1975 – Sweet Hands Horizon Records
  • 1975 – Ashirbad (reissued 2002)
  • 1976 – Father Time

With Herbie Mann[edit]

  • Sun Belt (Atlantic)

With John McLaughlin[edit]

  • 1970 – My Goals Beyond Knit Classics (Ryko)

With Yoko Ono[edit]

  • 1982 – It's Alright (I See Rainbows)
  • 1992 – Onobox
  • 1992 – Walking on Thin Ice

With Mike Richmond[edit]

With Perry Robinson[edit]

  • 1978 – Kundalini

With Pharoah Sanders[edit]

  • 1972 – Wisdom Through Music (Impulse! Records)
  • 1974 – Love in Us All (CD) Universal Music (Japan)

With Lonnie Liston Smith[edit]

With Leni Stern[edit]

  • 1991 – Ten Songs
  • 1998 – Recollection

With Steve Turre[edit]

  • 1992 – Sanctified Shells
  • 2000 – In the Valley of Sacred SoundHarold E. Smith

With Barney McAll & Rufus Cappadocia[edit]

  • 2003 – Vivid Jazzhead

With Michael Wolff & Impure Thoughts[edit]

  • 2000 – Impure Thoughts Indianola Music
  • 2001 – Intoxicate Indianola Music
  • 2004 – Dangerous Vision Artemis Records
  • 2006 – Love & Destruction Rong Records

With other artists[edit]

  • 1967 – Virgo VibesRoy Ayers Atlantic (reissued 2002)
  • 1979 – Earthquake IslandJon Hassell (Tomato Music)
  • 1984 – Mood SwingThe Nails (LP) RCA
  • 1989 – Dancing with the LionAndreas Vollenweider (CD) CBS (reissued with bonus tracks 2005)
  • 1993 – Angel RodeoLisa Sokolov Laughing Horse Records
  • 1993 – Prophecy: The Whale & the Elephant Trade Notes on the State of the WorldZusaan Kali Fasteau (Flying Note)
  • 1994 – Espelho das ÁguasDuofel (CD)(Velas)
  • 1997 – Rising SunD. K. Dyson (Ocean Records)
  • 1998 – Wake Up And DreamEkstasis (CD) CyberOctave
  • 2000 – Musica (with Luiz Bueno) MCD World Music
  • 2001 - Little Torch - Album: Rocket House - Chris Whitley
  • 2001 – Export QualityDum Dum Project (2xLP) X-Squared Records
  • 2001 – Daughters of the SunNana Simopoulos (Na. Records)
  • 2001 – Branching OutWilliam Cepeda (Blue Jackel)
  • 2001 – The Sea to the NorthGarth Hudson Woodstock Records
  • 2002 – Of Unicorns and Jasmine ...A Lover's Tale – Simirillion (with Cecil Wilson) Canned Air Records
  • 2002 – Sacred SpacesLee Boice
  • 2003 – RebirthChildren on the Corner (Sonance Records)
  • 2003 – Heavy SkiesRoman Kunsman (Downtown Jazz)
  • 2005 – Free Funk (with Muruga Booker & members of the Global Village Ceremonial Band, Perry Robinson & Belita Woods) Qbico 2005
  • 2006 – Vivid (with Barney Mcall & Rufus Cappadocia) Jazzhead Oz
  • Songs For Sitar and Tabla (with Arooj Lazewai) Cassette (Music of the World)
  • 2007 – Bonfire Dreams – Various Artists, ACE
  • 2008 – OrthoFunkOlogy – Free Funk (with Muruga Booker & Perry Robinson) Musart
  • 2008 – An die MusikNobu Stowe & Alan Munshower with Badal Roy (Soul Note)
  • 2008 – Miles From India – Various Artists (4Q/Times Square Records)


  1. ^ a b c d Drum Magazine[dead link]
  2. ^ "Play it Again, Badal Roy", India Abroad, 10 September 2004. Accessed 26 June 2008. "But last week, Roy, an East Brunswick, New Jersey-based tabla player, who has performed with the likes of Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie and Yoko Ono, was part of the tournament's opening night act."
  3. ^ SpiritDrum Festival Website
  4. ^ Muruga Booker Website
  5. ^ Recalling Miles Davis by Crossing Cultures by Nate Chinen – New York Times, 12 May 2008

External links[edit]

  • Poet, J. (2 May 2013). "Badal Roy: From Busboy To Jazz Hero". DRUM!. Archived from the original on 14 August 2016.