Lenny Seidman

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Lenny Seidman
BornPhiladelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Occupation(s)Musician, composer

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

History, Ensembles, Touring, Teachers[edit]

Seidman began studying tabla in 1971 with Ishwarlal Misra, followed later by Chotelal Misra and Kiran Deshponde. The said personalities are all from Benares. Prior to this, Seidman studied classical and jazz piano.[2] During the 1980s, he integrated analog electronic music with his percussion composing and performing pieces for dance companies, such as Group Motion and his own 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 partner 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 his composing focus on inter-cultural percussion ensembles.

A three-month residency in 1993 at the Headlands Center for the Arts in Sausalito, California, provided Seidman the perfect environment for study, research, and composition 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, monumentally expanding 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.

Lenny is co-director with Darryl Burgee 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 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 in parts of Europe. He completed a four year international tour in 2007 with Rennie Harris and 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, along with Garrett Fisher(composer), Carmen Gillespie(librettist), and Emily Martin-Mobley(director). In late 2015, he collaborated with butoh artist Michael Sakamoto at the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was awarded a 2017 grant from Pew Center for Arts & Heritage for his newest project entitled "ARC", a full length contemporary suite merging the drumming traditions of tabla and taiko with dance forms representing Asia Pacific, African diasporic, hip hop and Western post modern. With substantial additional support from the William J. Cooper Foundation, the world premier took place at Swarthmore College on October 5, 2018. The cast of performers are Joe Small, Kristy Oshiro, Isaku Kageyama, Laurel Jenkins, Ani Gavino, Orlando Hunter, Dan Scholnick, Jonathan Marmor, and Lenny Seidman who is also the artistic director. A residency at the Millay Colony for the Arts in Austerlitz, NY provided uninterrupted time to create the music sketches for ARC.

He has founded and coordinated several other ensembles, including the Shamanistics with Michael Daugherty and Ric Iannacone, and Splinter Group, a percussion/dance ensemble including Rennie Harris, Roko Kawai, Grace Zarnoch-Green, Toshi Makihara, Joe Ruscitto and Branavan Ganesan. He has performed and/or recorded throughout the Americas, as well as 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; 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 and taiko ensemble, and working with their kathak dance classes. Lenny has given workshops nationally, teaches tabla and rhythm theory privately, and has been 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 the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, Independence Foundation NEA, Rockefeller Foundation MAP Fund, and Pew Center for Arts and Heritage as an individual artist. he also creates 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 later 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 where he collaborated and lived with 30 performing artists from throughout Asia. 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. It is 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 of Indian music. This piece was inspired by his trek into the Himalayas in Kashmir, and features themes 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 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 was recorded in a recording studio suite consisting of multi-track tabla layers of various pitches, and included 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. "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, and 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.
  2. ^ http://www.uwishunu.com/2008/06/artist-profile-lenny-seidman/

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