Lenny Seidman

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Lenny Seidman
Born Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Occupation(s) Musician, composer
Instruments Tabla

Lenny Seidman (born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) is a tabla player, composer, co director of Spoken Hand Percussion Orchestra and World Music/Jazz curator at the Painted Bride Art Center in Philadelphia.[1]

History, Ensembles, Touring, Teachers

Seidman began studying tabla in 1971 with Ishwarlal Misra, followed by Chotelal Misra and Kiran Deshponde, all from Benares, India. Previously he had been studying classical and jazz piano. During the 1980s, he integrated analogue electronic music with his percussion, composing and performing pieces for dance companies such as Group Motion and his music ensemble, Lotus which included John Blake and Jamaaladeen Tacuma.

In 1980 he began studying the South Indian rhythm system with carnatic violinist Adrian L’Armand. Within a year, he became Adrian's accompanist on tabla for concerts. Soon after, he began touring with Bansuri flutist Paul John. In 1991, Lenny became a student of tabla maestro, Zakir Hussain. This was a pivotal moment for Seidman as he decided to direct his performing focus exclusively to tabla, and composing focus to inter-cultural percussion ensembles.

A three month residency in 1993 at the Headlands Center for the Arts in Sausalito, CA provided the perfect environment for study, research and composing for what was to follow. In 1996, he formed Lenny Seidman Tabla Choir, the same year that Spoken Hand Percussion Orchestra was born. A fellowship/residency at APPEX (Asian Pacific Performing Arts Exchange) ensued in 1999 that monumentally expanded Lenny's aesthetic. This intense six-week residency involved living, work shopping and performing with a very large group of traditional and contemporary drummers, choreographers, and theater artists from many countries throughout the Pacific Rim. The performances took place at UCLA and other venues in Los Angeles.

He is co-director of Spoken Hand Percussion Orchestra, which unifies the drumming traditions of North Indian tabla, Afro-Cuban bata, Afro-Brazilian samba and West African djembe into its own unique sound. Spoken Hand, now in its 20th year, has performed extensively in university, festival and theater settings and collaborated in 2002 with Zakir Hussain, and hip hop choreographer Rennie Harris Puremovement in "Flammable Contents". Shortly after, Spoken Hand released its first Cd. In 2013, Spoken Hand released its "Skins & Songs" Cd, a collaboration with Philip Hamilton's "Voices" with whom he also performed in Poland. Seidman is director of the Lenny Seidman Tabla Choir, and is an original member of Atzilut, the Middle Eastern Jewish/Arabic music ensemble noted for their "Concerts for Peace" performed at the United Nations, throughout the U.S. and Europe. He completed a four year international tour in 2007 with Rennie Harris PureMovement's epic piece, "Facing Mekka" as a musical collaborator and performer.

In 2011 he embarked on his first feature film as musical director and composer for Nadine Patterson's feature film, "Tango Macbeth" which has since screened at festivals in Paris, New York, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia following its release in 2012. Lenny was a guest performer with the contemporary opera, "Ghosts of Monticello" at Bucknell University in early 2015: Garrett Fisher, composer; Carmen Gillespie, librettist; Emily Martin-Mobley, director. In late 2015, he collaborated with butoh artist, Michael Sakamoto at the Barnes Foundation in Phila.

He has founded and coordinated several other ensembles including the Shamanistics with Michael Daugherty and Ric Iannacone, and Splinter Group, a percussion/dance ensemble with Rennie Harris, Roko Kawai, Grace Zarnoch-Green, Toshi Makihara, Joe Ruscitto and Branavan Ganesan. He has performed and or recorded throughout the Americas and abroad with numerous music artists including: Zakir Hussain; Kenny Endo; Spoken Hand; Atzilut; Simon Shaheen; Philip Hamilton; Yacouba Sissoko; LL Cool J, Kenny Muhammed; Michael Daugherty; I Dewa Puta Berata; Butch Morris; Yair Dalal; Kyaw Kyaw Naing; Ursula Rucker; Elio Villafranca; Papo Vazquez.

He has also worked with numerous choreographers including: Rennie Harris; Cynthia Lee; Viji Rao; Antonia Minnecola; Helmut Gottschild; Roko Kawai; Christine Cox; Nina Martin; Benoit LaChambre; Myra Bazell; Eko Supriyanto; Cheng-Chieh Yu; Sen Hea Ha; Ananya Chatterjea; Kim Arrow and Group Motion Dance Co. He was a guest artist at Swarthmore College Department of Music and Dance from 1998 to 2012, teaching tabla, collaborating with their gamelan orchestra, taiko ensemble and working with their kathak dance classes. Lenny has given workshops nationally, teaches tabla and rhythm theory privately and is the World Music and Jazz curator at the Painted Bride Art Center in Philadelphia since 1986.

Grants, Fellowships, Commissions, Residencies, Awards[edit]

Lenny's creative work has been supported by Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, Independence Foundation NEA, Rockefeller Foundation MAP Fund and Pew Center for Arts and Heritage as an individual artist, and also to create new work for Spoken Hand Percussion Orchestra. He was commissioned by Phrenic New Ballet to compose a new piece for choreographer Christine Cox's "Tabula Rasa" and by Kim Arrow for his "Quasimodo in the Outback". He was awarded the APPEX Fellowship in 1999, a six-week inter-cultural residency at UCLA to collaborate and live with 30 performing artists from throughout Asia where his works were performed. He also was awarded a three month residency at Headlands Center for the Arts in Sausalito, CA, in 1993. Seidman completed a month long artist retreat at The Millay Colony for the Arts, Austerlitz, NY in April, 2017 and was awarded a project grant from The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage to develop ARC, a performance suite that brings together the drumming traditions of tabla and taiko with contemporary dance and Japanese butoh to be premiered at Swarthmore College in October, 2018.


  • "Rain Man of Fitz. Mercy", composed in honor of his brother, Murray, who was murdered in early 2011. This piece was performed by Spoken Hand Percussion Orchestra in May, 2011.
  • "Taal of the Wild" - Commissioned by the Independence Foundation. "Taal" (or tala) refers to the rhythmic system in Indian music. This piece was inspired by my trek into the Himalayas in Kashmir, and features theme and variations of a phrase played at 4 to the beat and 7 to the beat . "Taal of the Wild" is part of Spoken Hand Percussion Orchestra's repertory, and has also been performed by the APPEX Percussion Ensemble at the Japan/American Theatre in Los Angeles.
  • "Bendir, Done Dat" - Composed for Spoken Hand Percussion Orchestra. Features a trio of Bendir (frame drum with snare) players. It is now part of Spoken Hand's repertory.
  • "Peshkar" - Composed for Spoken Hand. Peshkar is one of the primary compositional forms in the classical tabla repertoire. It is now in the Spoken Hand repertory.
  • "Mudra Hang" - Commissioned by choreographer Kim Arrow for his multimedia work, "Quasimodo in the Outback". Composed for the tabla choir, this suite collaborates with both live and animated dance.
  • "Dha Funk" - Inspired by the work of South Indian violin master, L.Shankar, this 19 beat cycle gets tongue-in-cheek treatment in a call and response recitation of the tabla drum strokes. "Dha Funk" is part of Spoken Hand's repertory.
  • "Skinful" - This Spoken Hand Percussion Orchestra repertory piece in a cycle of 16 beats merges both North Indian (Hindustani) and South Indian (Carnatic) rhythmic concepts and features a Carnatic style of melodic instrument/drum interplay. "Skinful" was also performed by the APPEX Percussion Ensemble at UCLA.
  • "Haitian Taiko" - Composed for tabla and Swarthmore College's Taiko Ensemble. The primary rhythmic theme was inspired by an Afro/Haitian rhythm, developed for the tabla choir.
  • "Batu-Batu Tukene" - Composed for tabla and Swarthmore College's Balinese Gamelan ensemble, Semara Santi. Batu-Batu denotes a quick repetitive drum pattern that supports a fast passage in a gamelan composition, and tukene is a 3 count tabla phrase. This piece merges both traditions in a contemporary format, set to a 6 beat cycle in a main subdivision of 9-7-5-3.
  • "Dha Terekita Cak" - Composed for tabla and Semara Santi Gamelan Ensemble, this piece features the rhythmic recitation practices from the Balinese gamelan and North/South Indian drumming traditions conversing with each other.
  • "Tabula Rasa" - Commissioned by Phrenic New Ballet. This piece was composed for choreographer, Christine Cox. It is a recording studio suite consisting of multi track tabla layers of various pitches with an abstract electronic music section.
  • "Meet Mr. R" - A 75 minute solo piece performed by Seidman for tabla and frame drum approximately 12 times during 1994 and 1995 for Helmut Gottschild's "Meet Mr. R" performed at: Oberlin College, Oberlin, Ohio; Allegheny College, Meadeville PA; University of the Arts Theater, Philadelphia PA and Painted Bride Art Center, Philadelphia PA.


  1. ^ Klaiman, Gloria (2001). Night and day: the double lives of artists in America. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 9–16. ISBN 978-0-275-97029-1. Retrieved 23 May 2010. 

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