Badal Roy

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Badal Roy
বাদল রায়
Birth nameAmarendra Roy Chowdhury
Born(1939-10-16)16 October 1939
OriginNew York City
Died18 January 2022(2022-01-18) (aged 82)
Wilmington, Delaware, U.S.
GenresJazz fusion, world music
Occupation(s)Tabla maestro
Years active1971–2016

Badal Roy (Bengali: বাদল রায়; born Amarendra Roy Chowdhury; 16 October 1939 – 18 January 2022) was an Indian tabla player, percussionist, and recording artist known for his work in jazz, world music, and experimental music.


Roy was born Amarendra Roy Chowdhury on 16 October 1939, into a Hindu family in a predominantly Muslim eastern Bengal region in Comilla, British India (which later became East Pakistan, then Bangladesh).[1][2] His mother, Sova Rani Roy Chowdhury, was a homemaker, while his father, Satyenda Nath Roy Chowdhury was a government official in Eastern Pakistan.[2] The name 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 toddler.[1] He spoke the Bengali, English, Hindi, and Urdu languages.[1]

He was introduced to music, in particular the percussion instrument Tabla, by his uncle.[2] 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 in Karachi, West Pakistan in 1963.[2][3]

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 in the New York area, including Pak Indian Curry House, Taste of India and Raga. He later settled in East Brunswick Township, New Jersey.[4][5] He later received lessons from Alla Rakha, a tabla player who performed with the sitar player Ravi Shankar and was Zakir Hussain's father.[2]

Roy married Geeta Vashi in 1974. The couple had a son and lived in Wilmington, Delaware. Roy died from COVID-19 in Wilmington, on 18 January 2022, at the age of 82.[2]


When Roy moved to New York, he worked as a waiter in Indian restaurants in the region. In the weekends, he performed as a tabla artist accompanying a sitar player at A Taste of India, an Indian restaurant in Greenwich Village in New York. Here, he was spotted by John McLaughlin and was asked for accompanying him in jamming sessions and later partnered to record an album My Goal's Beyond (1971). The album was considered a landmark one in Indian-themed jazz.[2]

Steve Gorn spotted him in 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, 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,[6] 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.[7] He often played 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 played 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.[8]

Helix, his final recording as a member of Michael Moss's Accidental Orchestra, was in 2016.[9]

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 played a set of up to eight tabla (tuned to different pitches) and two baya at a time, which he played 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]

With Steve Gorn[edit]

  • 1983 – Yantra: Flute and Tabla (reissued 1994) (Music of the World)
  • 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]

With Yoko Ono[edit]

With Mike Richmond[edit]

With Perry Robinson[edit]

  • 1978 – Kundalini

With Pharoah Sanders[edit]

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]



  1. ^ a b c d Brooks, Iris (November 1997). "Tale of A Tabla Nonconformist". DRUM!. ISSN 1097-0614. Archived from the original on 17 August 2003. Retrieved 14 May 2021.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Pareles, Jon (23 January 2022). "Badal Roy, Who Fused Indian Rhythms With Jazz, Is Dead at 82". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 24 January 2022.
  3. ^ "'There is no fear': how a cold-war tour inspired Pakistan's progressive jazz scene". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 January 2022.
  4. ^ "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."
  5. ^ "On the groovy train". Retrieved 24 January 2022.
  6. ^ SpiritDrum Festival Website
  7. ^ Muruga Booker Website
  8. ^ Recalling Miles Davis by Crossing Cultures by Nate Chinen – New York Times, 12 May 2008
  9. ^ West, Michael J. "Badal Roy 1939 – 2022". JazzTimes. Retrieved 24 January 2022.
  10. ^ "Badal Roy". Discogs. Retrieved 24 January 2022.
  11. ^ "Badal Roy Albums and Discography". AllMusic. Retrieved 24 January 2022.

External links[edit]