Artist of the Month: Krish Mehta, tabla player

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Sreekar Kasturi

TABLA IT UP: Junior Krish Mehta jams out to the beat of the tabla as he practices.

Anlon Zhu, Staff Writer

Krish Mehta is a junior at Northwood High School who hasn’t held back when it comes to immersing himself in his Indian roots by playing the tabla, an Indian percussion instrument. He even had the chance to interact with Hasan Minhaj, an award-winning comedian who has spoken at the 2017 White House Correspondent’s Dinner and has his own Netflix special, “Patriot Act.” So of course, Mehta was completely ecstatic when his tabla cover of the Patriot Act theme was reposted by Minhaj on “subtle curry traits,” a Facebook group full of Indian memes and relatable moments.

The Howler: Tell me the story behind being reposted by Hasan Minhaj.

Krish Mehta: I was looking through Instagram and found an account of a person who makes tabla covers of popular songs, and my sister thought it would be really fun to do the same thing. So I chose to do the Patriot Act theme because it’s a “bop.” My sister recorded me and posted the video to a Facebook group called “subtle curry traits” because Hasan Minhaj did a video where he went on the group, and we thought it would be the best way to try and get his attention.

TH: What was it like seeing his post?

KM: I was pretty skeptical that he would actually see it, so when Patriot Act retweeted the video, I was in complete disbelief.

TH: That’s awesome! So what exactly is a tabla?

KM: It’s a percussion instrument used in Indian classical music. So you actually have two drums. You have something called the baya, which is like the big bass drum, and then you have the tabla itself, which is like the––I guess––treble drum on the right.

TH: How did you get into playing the tabla?

KM: I started playing tabla eight years ago because my mom forced me to… but I’ve honestly grown to love it. As I started getting better, I started practicing more. And since I enjoyed it more, I just kept practicing and getting better because––you know––practice makes perfect.

TH: What’s the hardest part about playing tabla?

KM: Probably keeping rhythm. Because you’re supposed to be the rhythmic backbone of the music for other people, so if you are off by anything, it screws up everyone else. So you have to be really precise with playing.

TH: Then what would you say is your favorite part about playing tabla?

KM: The people I’ve become friends with. I’ve made some of my closest friends while playing the tabla at The Ektaa Center.

TH: Does that just do tabla or does it have other instruments?

KM: Yeah, I don’t know a lot of them, but you have the sitar which is like a melodic instrument. It’s kind of like a guitar in some way. There are also a lot of percussion instruments like the mridangam, which is like a South Indian percussion instrument, and the ghatam, which is like a pot basically! I also like the harmonium, where you pump in air and play the notes. It’s kind of like an organ.

TH: What would you say if someone came up to you and said, “Hey, I want to play the tabla,” what advice would you give them?

KM: This is going to sound really cliché, but practice. Just practice a lot. If you keep doing repetitions of what you’re taught, you’ll be fine.