30 September 2022

From Wagga to India and back for Fusion Botanical

| Chris Roe
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tabla players

For Sam Evans (centre), performing at Wagga’s Fusion Botanical will bring him full circle. Photo: Supplied.

For musician Sam Evans, it’s been a long road between growing up in Wagga Wagga and preparing to return for the city’s Fusion Botanical event in October.

Sam runs the Melbourne Tabla School where he teaches students to play the traditional northern Indian percussive instrument.

“I started playing the drum kit when I was a kid, and I think I was looking for something that was a little more complex,” he says.

“After I left Wagga I travelled all around through Europe and many countries in Asia and Africa, studying different drumming traditions.

“When I found the tabla, I just thought it was the most incredible thing that I’ve ever come across.”

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The percussionist was so taken with the instrument and its long tradition that he spent the next decade living in India.

“Having grown up in Wagga and then moved to a place that has 5 million people in an area half the size of Melbourne, it was as far away from Wagga as you could get,” he laughs.

“I was living in Kolkata studying with a tabla master there.

“It has this huge, long history and very complex music and very detailed repertoire.”

The tabla consists of a pair of hand drums, with natural goat skin on the top, that are played, one for each hand, sitting cross-legged.

The former Wagga local is looking forward to bringing his unique ensemble to his hometown for the multicultural festival at the Botanic Gardens.

“It’ll be a mix of performance-based sets where you can watch some pretty amazing tabla playing, some fantastic sitar playing and some very beautiful flute playing,” he explains.

“And then we’ll get a bit educational about how they work and we’re also bringing 10 sets of tabla with us and we’re gonna get the people in the audience to play a little bit as well.”

Fusion Botanical is all about celebrating Wagga’s multicultural community and combines the live music with street food and culture.

More than 6 per cent of the community was born overseas and over 30 per cent of residents can speak a language other than English.

Wagga City Council’s Janice Summerhayes says the tabla players will be among a diverse range of performers and events.

“Along with our headliners, there will be a mix of other entertainment including a DJ, roving performers, a live sand sculpture reveal, giant lawn games and our amazing community performers.”

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The food is also a big drawcard, with more than 25 authentic and contemporary street food and drink vendors involved in the World Food Village.

“You will want to arrive hungry!” she says.

Through his music, Sam hopes to share his love of India and Indian culture with the community.

“It’s not just a performance, it’s a sort of interactive educational approach to the music, so it should be a lot of fun. I’m really looking forward to it!”

Fusion Botanical will be at the Wagga Wagga Botanic Garden from 4 pm to 9:30 pm on Saturday, 15 October.

You can check out the full line-up here.

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