Asian drummer and pioneer of world music receives Fellowship!

Leading into Leeds College of Music’s 50th year, Johnny Kalsi will receives his Fellowship at the conservatoire’s Graduation ceremony

Kalsi is a dhol (twin-skinned Punjabi drum) player known as the founder of the Dhol Foundation, a dhol drum institute in London and a musical group playing bhangra music, and as a member of Afro Celt Sound System and Transglobal Underground.

“We chose Johnny because of his connection to Leeds” said David Warren, LCoM Director. “He has some really pioneering work in the teaching and performance of world music”. Starting in September, the conservatoire celebrates delivering 50 years of music education in Leeds, with a series of activities and events embracing eclectic and diverse aspects of music performance, working with partners across the city. Kalsi’s cross-genre collaborations are hugely relevant to the mission of the conservatoire, who ran their first Indian Music course in 1970.

Born in Leeds, Kalsi taught himself to play drums and dhol at school, and after leaving school joined the seminal bhangra band Alaap. His style takes in a variety of genres and influences from traditional Indian and Western music, and uses Western instruments to make Eastern drum rhythms. He was the first dhol player to perform live with DJs, the first player to be considered a featured soloist and the first player to teach dhol as an ensemble instrument, leading his first class in 1989. He has redesigned the traditional dhol drum to his own specifications.

In 1995 he joined WOMAD, a springboard for his exposure to a global audience. Kalsi has worked as both a session and touring musician with Fundamental, Transglobal Underground and Afro Celt Sound System, performing at WOMAD festivals around the world.

The Dhol Foundation continues to tour the world with WOMAD and has supported Page & Plant on a European tour. Music by the Foundation has featured in Hollywood films including ‘Gangs of New York’ and ‘Incredible Hulk’, and Kalsi has worked with Peter Gabriel on soundtracks for films including ‘Rabbit-Proof Fence’ and ‘The Last Temptation of Christ’. The Dhol Foundation has performed at the 2006 Commonwealth Games, the London 2012 Olympic closing ceremony and the Queen’s Diamond Coronation Celebration, and collaborated with Avril Lavigne for a War Child charity performance.

Kalsi and The Dhol Foundation are active in charity work including the London Parade (for SCOPE),Stand Up To Cancer and Sikh Welfare Awareness.