Flippin' The Bird
Judging by the line-up for their next Big Bang Saturday gig, someone at Digress Lounge is both astute and has great taste in music. They have invited Ben Walsh and Bobby Singh to perform. Probably better known for providing the high energy beats of the acclaimed live drum and bass outfit The Bird, Ben and Bobby will be revealing a mellower, more chilled side of themselves for this gig through the soulful, global grooves of their musical incarnation GROOVELANDS SOUNDSYSTEM. Groovelands Soundsytem is an electronic duo — it’s just Ben and Bobby — featuring percussion and a couple of DJ decks. Ben is half percussionist, half DJ and Bobby predominately plays the tabla, a traditional Indian drum.
I caught up with the engaging and energetic Ben after he’d spent a weekend hibernating at his bush retreat near Byron Bay. “I like to get away, outside the cities and hang out with species other than humans sometimes,” he told me. The project, as Ben calls it, gives Ben and Bobby a chance to experiment with a musical repertoire that doesn’t really fit with The Bird. “We wrote a lot of music from Bobby’s background – he’s Punjabi... and Bobby and I are huge fans of traditional music. We love Armenian duduk music, Balkan gypsy music, we wanted to make a really great music dance project together so that’s what we’ve been doing.”
Whether he is playing with The Bird or Groovelands, Ben’s motivation for performing his music is the same. “It’s so much fun making people dance” he says. “Sometimes with a project you make people listen, sometimes you make them watch, sometimes you make them sleep,” he laughs, “but making people dance is a great part about being a drummer.” Ben talks about how an audience amplifies what is on stage. “If someone’s a little bit egotistical then egotism is amplified, if someone’s angry then anger gets amplified.” But Ben really loves what he does. “I play from the heart and the audience resonates with what I’m feeling as a human being.”
And trust me, Ben’s energy is infectious. I remember the first time I saw The Bird, probably ten years ago now. It was New Years Eve and I was at the Woodford Folk Festival by myself because my then-boyfriend had drunk too much ‘herbal tea’ and crashed out in our tent. The Bird came on stage and I lost myself in their tribal rhythms, catchy grooves and Ben’s energy; I ended up having a great night.
So Digress Lounge is providing an amazing opportunity to experience two very fine percussionists. This is the first time they’ve played in Canberra; they don’t often play as Groovelands, their primary focus being The Bird; and this isn’t their typical type of venue. I can’t recommend them highly enough.
Groovelands Soundsystem are bringing the beat to Digress Lounge Saturday June 2, 8.30pm, supported by Gabriel Gilmour and Hiero IX. Tickets are $10/$15 on the door.