Johnny Kalsi and The Dhol Foundation released their new album, ‘Basant’ in August on ECC Records. There are few people as synonymous with their instrument as Kalsi is with the Punjabi double-sided barrel drum, the dhol – the instrument that lends bhangra music its distinctive sound. He is well-known for his work with Afro Celt Sound System, The Imagined Village and numerous solo artists but it is on The Dhol Foundation albums that he lets loose his creative side. This could be called Kalsi’s solo work but ‘Basant’ is full of collaborations and the result is glorious and uplifting.
Born in Leeds and raised in London as a Sikh, songs and music were part of Johnny Kalsi’s daily life. At seven he started to learn the tabla, progressing at fourteen to the dhol and joining a local bhangra band, Alaap. In the 1990s he was part of Fun-Da-Mental and Transglobal Underground before going on to work with Afro Celt Sound System and The Imagined Village.
Kalsi created The Dhol Foundation in 1990 as both a school for children to learn the instrument and as a touring and recording band – an ever-fluctuating group featuring 30 drummers creating a wall of drumming noise. The group have released four albums and have performed on some of the world’s biggest stages – the Olympics Closing Ceremony in 2012, the Royal Variety Performance and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations.