Dunman High boy hooked on tabla

V.K. SANTOSH KUMAR

Wu Shao Kuan started learning the tabla nine years ago after his Indian neighbour in Punggol taught him the basics.

"I used to play the (Chinese stringed instruments) erhu and gaohu in primary school and then my piano teacher's husband gifted me a drum," he said.

"My neighbour Sanjeev Saxena, a teacher at the Global Indian International School and the Sri Senpaga Vinayagar Music and Dance Academy, noticed that I have a good sense for beats and encouraged me to learn the tabla.

"I have been hooked to the Indian musical instrument since."

The 15-year-old, a Singapore permanent resident who hails from Taiwan, now plays Chinese and Western percussion with the orchestra at his school, Dunman High. But his love for the tabla remains unsurpassed.

He has improved so much over the years that on Dec 20 last year he won second place in the tabla intermediate category at the National Indian Music Competition (NIMC) organised by the National Arts Council.

The NIMC, apart from serving as a platform for artistes to showcase their talents, aims to develop the performing skills of young musicians in Singapore, raise musical standards and identify new talent.

Shao Kuan showed deft skills as he played the roopak taal (the popular seven beats in Hindustani music) in the preliminaries and the jhap taal (10 beats) in the final. He was awarded the second place by a panel of eminent Indian musicians that included Mr Anubrata Chatterjee, one of India's finest young tabla players.

"I have been taking lessons weekly at the Temple of Fine Arts (TFA) under the tutelage of Mr Nawaz Mirajkar since 2014 and I am grateful for his continuous support," said Shao Kuan.

He won third prize in the NIMC Junior category in 2017 and has performed several times at TFA events and at the Sri Senpaga Vinayagar Temple in 2012 and 2013.

His passion for playing the tabla has rubbed off on his father (Mr Eric Wu, a procurement manager at United Microelectronics Corporation (Singapore Branch), who is now learning the bansuri, a side-blown flute originating from the Indian subcontinent.

"My father played the Chinese flute (dizi) throughout his school years and was the principal dizi player at the National Tsing Hua University in Taiwan," said Shao Kuan.

"He is now learning the Indian flute after Mr Nawaz suggested that he should learn an Indian musical instrument along with me."

Shao Kuan has no plans to take up any other Indian instrument.

"I plan to continue taking tabla lessons at TFA under Mr Nawaz," he said. "My focus is to become better at playing the tabla."

santosh@sph.com.sg

"My neighbour Sanjeev Saxena noticed that I have a good sense for beats and encouraged me to learn the tabla. I have been hooked to the Indian musical instrument since."

- Wu Shao Kuan

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