Asian Music and Dance

Sukhdeep Singh

Sukhdeep Singh has been teaching tabla for the last twenty years and is currently a resident teacher at Bina Musicals in Southall. Over the years, several hundreds of students have passed through his hands ranging from five years to over fifty. 

No matter how old you are, tabla like any instrument, says Sukhdeep, takes a lot of dedication and time. “Many young people have little idea of the amount of time it takes to become proficient. It’s not really possible to do tabla one day a week, and spend the rest of the time doing other pursuits like tennis, football, etc. At some stage you really need to make a choice and devote time to your learning if you want to develop as a musician. Many young people start off very enthusiastic, but soon give up when they begin to realise the hard work and practice involved.” 

Sukhdeep himself learnt from his father Rajinder Singh Jabbal and later became a disciple of Bhai Gurmeet Singh Virdee, one of the UK’s most successful and respected tabla teachers. Gurmeet Ji was instrumental in developing what has traditionally been an oral method of teaching into a methodical written notation geared to the western system. “Many teachers now use some written format. I was fortunate enough to have been taught it very systematically. It allows me to write the compositions as well as the number of beats in each piece in a way that makes it easier for students to understand, helps them visualise what they are doing and consolidates their learning.”

Like many tabla teachers, Sukhdeep’s learning was largely through the traditional guru-shisya relationship without any formal qualifications. “I’ve never thought formal qualifications are a necessity for myself. However, it may help young people in today’s educational system to allow them and others to see what level they have reached. At the moment, what I find is that many students drop out of tabla in their late teens, as formal qualifications begin to take priority. Often when that happens they find it difficult to get back into it.”

Nevertheless, Sukhdeep’s experience shows that increasing numbers of people are interested in learning about the instrument. “Whatever the reason that they become interested – whether it’s hearing the instrument at a party or concert or even being encouraged to learn it by parents – more people are turning to the instrument.” 

You can contact Sukhdeep on sukhd@yahoo.com



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