Australian percussionist Ben Walsh debuts his Loop Zero project in the country
When you google percussionist Ben Walsh,the search engine throws up a host of YouTube videos and links.
Notable among these is Walsh and fellow percussionist playing a strangler fig vine in the middle of the Australian bush. Clearly,the man can create music anywhere. However,none of these videos prepares you in any way for a live performance by the artiste.
He debuted in India last year as part of Oz Fest,and this June saw the percussionist touring the country with Loop Zero,a live music and mixed multimedia installation project. On Thursday,he performed at Blue Frog,Delhi,to a small but highly appreciative audience. While on Friday,he introduced percussion to children from Salaam Baalak Trust.
Loop Zero comprises Walsh taking stage,accompanied only by a drum kit and an oddball assortment of objects,both everyday and esoteric,out of which he proceeds to create an orchestra of sound. The backdrop is a visual artistes dream,with loops playing from TV shows,movies,military processions and other graphics.
While there is music playing in the background,one realises its nothing more than a serviette to the meal of music that Walsh dishes out by himself. Plastic waste barrels,wooden storage units,metal bars,even a portable grill,all of these become music instruments with individual tonalities in Walshs hands.
Loop Zero started with a simple set on the drumkit,and this is just the warm up. It isnt so much a multi-media installation as it is performance art,and Walsh isnt so much a percussionist as a performance artiste,for whom drumming is just one of several ways to deliver his message. The piece was divided into several segments,with Walsh taking his audience on various journeys,recounting his experiences as a child (his parents bought him his first drum kit at seven after finding a two-year-old Walsh,in the kitchen,beating a furious tattoo on pots and pans),a teenager (he started his first band at 13 and would lie about his age in order to be able to perform at clubs),and as a sessions drummer for various electronic music tracks and albums before finally launching his own career as a global percussionist . This penultimate stage was shown through a humourous vignette wherein Walsh held a long conversation with the recorded voice of a music producer,interspersed with his attempts to create a drum sound far superior to the simplistic tone the producer wanted.
Another aspect that Walsh touched upon was the curious dichotomy faced by musicians with the increasing advent of computerised instruments in music. Walsh strayed across both sides of the fence,at one point having a drum-off with a drum machine (with score being kept on the visual backdrop),while at another point,he performed in unison with various pre-recorded beats. The highlight of the performance was when he performed a song dedicated to children he had worked with in Mumbais Dharavi slum. He grabbed a plastic waste barrel,struck the plainly Punjabi notes of a dhol on it,while singing in Rastafarian. Mind blowing? Yes.