Talvin Singh

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Talvin Singh
Birth nameTalvin Singh
Born1970 (age 53–54)
London, England
Years active1991–present
Websitetalvinsingh.com[dead link]

Talvin Singh OBE (born 1970) is an English musician, producer, and composer. A tabla player, he is known for creating an innovative fusion of Indian classical music and drum and bass. Singh is generally considered involved with an electronica subgenre called Asian Underground, and more recently as Indian and/or Asian electronica.

After collaborating with Siouxsie and the Banshees and Björk in the early 1990s, Singh released his debut album Ok which received the Mercury Music Prize in 1999.[2]

Singh has since collaborated with a variety of acts including Madonna and Massive Attack.

Early life and career[edit]

Singh grew up in Leytonstone[3] and began playing the tablas as a child. At the age of 16, Singh went to India for two years where he studied tabla under Sangeet Acharya Ustad Lachman Singh Seen of Punjab Gharana.[3] He then returned to the UK after just one year. In spite of this classical training, Singh's tabla playing was not accepted by British promoters of classical Indian music, as he incorporated too strongly his western influences. By the late 1980s, Singh had decided to turn towards the fusion of sounds. In 1991, he came to prominence by both playing tabla and singing on the "Kiss Them for Me" single by Siouxsie and the Banshees : the single peaked in the Billboard Hot 100 at number 23.[4] Singh then became the sixth member of the Banshees and took part with them as second headliners of the inaugural Lollapalooza tour. Two years later in 1993, he was recruited by Björk to be her percussionist and director on her 1993 album, Debut.

In late 1995, Singh founded the Anokha club night with promoter Sweety Kapoor at East London's Blue Note, where drum'n'bass DJs and South Asian punk bands went head to head with the amped-up sounds of his tabla and percussion. Producer and DJ State of Bengal (Sam Zaman) soon became the core of Anokha alongside Singh & Kapoor, and his sets alongside Singhs help to inspire a whole generation.

Singh and Zaman would make fresh tracks, cutting them on Vinyl press hours before the Monday Anokha sessions where they would be showcased.

Guest spots by LTJ Bukem and others made Anokha a Monday-night hotspot in London, and Singh signed to Island for an Anokha compilation including several of his own productions. He worked as a remixer, for Blondie on their "Maria" single".

In 1998, Singh released his solo debut album, Ok.[5] The record was critically acclaimed and received the prestigious Mercury Music Prize in 1999.[2] That same year, he also collaborated with David Sylvian. In 2000, he worked with Madonna for her album, Music.

Style and influences[edit]

Singh is an accomplished tabla player, electronic musician, music theorist, record producer and DJ. As a solo artist, he is perhaps best known as the father of modern Asian electronica music, though he is also a highly celebrated tabla player, record producer and visual practitioner.

Drawing inspiration from the classical Indian arts, Singh first came to prominence as a tabla percussionist in the 1980s London music scene. Whilst still in his mid-teens, Singh travelled to India to earn pupillage from Sangeet Acharya Ustad Lachman Singh Seen, master tabla maestro of the Punjab school. This period made an indelible mark on the young artist and he has since continued to practice and perform the art form internationally. Singh's collaborations with Indian classical musicians include Ustad Sultan Khan, Rakesh Churasia, Ustad Imrat Khan and Ustad Amjad Ali Khan amongst scores of others.[6]

Singh also became involved in experimental music collaborations beginning in the late 1980s, working with Sun Ra and Courtney, which helped to popularise the burgeoning Asian underground sub-culture movement.

Singh is notable for re-introducing the concepts of Indian classical music to western pop, dance and jazz genres in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Singh's solo album credits include critical and commercial successes Ok (1998)—which won the UK's two most prestigious music prizes, 'The South Bank Prize' and the Mercury Prize in 1999. Ok, his groundbreaking 1998 debut release, was recorded in Mumbai, Madras, Okinawa, New York and London, featuring contributions from Bill Laswell, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Ustad Sultan Khan and the Madras Philharmonic Orchestra amongst others.

Singh has pursued several artistic ventures parallel to and in conjunction with his music career, including creating the seminal London club ANOKHA, performing at the Tate Gallery in London, creating a sound installation at the Frith Street Gallery in London and composing music for various experimental dance, theatre and film projects. In 1990 Singh conceived the Tablatronic, a hybrid electronic/analog tabla (drum) which uses a rare internal microphone system. However, in a 2017 interview, he said he "did not do fusion music" and disliked the way Indian musicians felt they had to do fusion music.[7]


In 2010, Talvin Singh won an award at the UK Asian Music Awards (UK AMAs) for his "Commitment to Scene".[8] He was awarded an OBE in the 2014 Birthday Honours.



  • Drum + Space (as Calcutta Cyber Cafe) (1996)
  • OK (1998)
  • Ha (2001)
  • Sweet Box (2008)


Collaborations and original contributions[edit]



  1. ^ Talvin Singh at AllMusic
  2. ^ a b Finn, Gary. Mercury prize for Talvin Singh The Independent. 8 September 1999
  3. ^ a b Garratt, Sheryl."You drum it, I'll Singh it". The Observer. 25 March 2001.
  4. ^ Siouxsie and the Banshees US charts awards AllMusic
  5. ^ Colin Larkin, ed. (2000). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Nineties Music (First ed.). Virgin Books. p. 356. ISBN 0-7535-0427-8.
  6. ^ Lavezzoli, Peter (24 April 2006). The Dawn of Indian Music in the West. A&C Black. p. 343. ISBN 9780826418159 – via Google Books.
  7. ^ Canton, Naomi."'Indian musicians feel they have to do fusion to be hip'". The Times of India. 10 September 2017.
  8. ^ "BBC – Asian Network – BBC Asian Network AMA 2010 – Winners". BBC. Retrieved 24 August 2010.

External links[edit]