the blog of musician Dinuk Wijeratne

Tag: radio

Concerto for Tabla & Orchestra (2011)


“The piece is fantastic, complex, and brilliant. The orchestration and solo writing are masterful. I didn’t think one could pull off [such] a concerto, but Dinuk did. I don’t know of anything like it. The audience went crazy after it for good reason.”
John Corigliano

“Dinuk Wijeratne’s Tabla Concerto is a breath of fresh air in the repertoire – a vibrant, colourful piece that orchestras love to play, and audiences will never forget.”
– JoAnn Falletta
(Music Director: Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra & Virginia Symphony Orchestra; Principal Conductor: the Ulster Orchestra)

“Dinuk is one of the most gifted musicians I know. His Tabla Concerto is a pioneering work of musical fusion, a seamless integration of the most complex aspects of North Indian Classical Tabla music into a totally Western model.”
– Bernhard Gueller 
(Music Director: Symphony Nova Scotia)

“Dinuk Wijeratne’s Tabla Concerto is a fresh, engaging, cross-cultural, embracing and original piece, which blends cultures marvellously. Combined with Sandeep Das’ virtuosity and energy as soloist, the concerto delighted both audience and orchestra at its US premieres. To include tabla recitation in the last movement was a stroke of genius.”
– Alastair Willis 
(Music Director: Illinois Symphony Orchestra)

“Dinuk’s Concerto for Tabla and Orchestra is utterly spectacular. From the moment it begins, you are drawn into an evocative world where cultures have no barriers, and co-exist in a way that is completely natural. Add to that a high octane, colourful score and everyone…musicians, audience, conductor…all leave excited and looking for more!”
– Robert Franz 
(Music Director: Windsor Symphony Orchestra, Boise Philharmonic)


Listen to all three movements:

1. Canons, Circles

2. Folk song: ‘White in the moon the long road lies (that leads me from my love)’

3. Garland of Gems


World premiere given by Ed Hanley (Tabla) & Symphony Nova Scotia conducted by Bernhard Gueller on February 9th, 2012, @ the Rebecca Cohn Auditorium, Halifax, Nova Scotia. Recorded live by the CBC. First Canada-wide broadcast: Sunday January 27th on IN CONCERT, CBC Radio2. The Tabla Concerto was a finalist for the 2012 Masterworks Prize. 


2 flutes (2nd doubling piccolo)
2 oboes (2nd doubling cor anglais)
2 clarinets in B♭ (2nd doubling bass clarinet)
2 bassoons

2 horns in F
2 trumpets in B♭
1 trombone

2 percussion



Screen Shot 2013-02-05 at 2.11.27 PM


1. Canons, Circles
2. Folk song: ‘White in the moon the long road lies
(that leads me from my love)’
3. Garland of Gems

While the origins of the Tabla are somewhat obscure, it is evident that this ‘king’ of Indian percussion instruments has achieved global popularity for the richness of its timbre, and for the virtuosity of a rhythmically complex repertoire that cannot be separated from the instrument itself. In writing a large-scale work for Tabla and Symphony Orchestra, it is my hope to allow each entity to preserve its own aesthetic. Perhaps, at the same time, the stage will be set for some new discoveries.

While steeped in tradition, the Tabla lends itself heartily to innovation, and has shown its cultural versatility as an increasingly sought-after instrument in contemporary Western contexts such as Pop, Film Music, and World Music Fusion. This notion led me to conceive of an opening movement that would do the not-so-obvious by placing the Tabla first in a decidedly non-Indian context. Here, initiated by a quasi-Baroque canon in four parts, the music quickly turns into an evocation of one my favourite genres of electronic music: ‘Drum-&-Bass’, characterised by rapid ‘breakbeat’ rhythms in the percussion. Of course, there are some North-Indian Classical musical elements present. The whole makes for a rather bizarre stew that reflects globalisation, for better or worse!

A brief second movement becomes a short respite from the energy of the outer movements, and offers a perspective of the Tabla as accompanist in the lyrical world of Indian folk-song. Set in ‘dheepchandhi’, a rhythmic cycle of 14 beats, the gently lilting gait of theTabla rhythm supports various melodic fragments that come together to form an ephemeral love-song.

Typically, a Tabla player concluding a solo recital would do so by presenting a sequence of short, fixed (non-improvised) compositions from his/her repertoire. Each mini-composition, multi-faceted as a little gem, would often be presented first in the form of a vocal recitation. The traditional accompaniment would consist of a drone as well as a looping melody outlining the time cycle – a ‘nagma’ – against which the soloist would weave rhythmically intricate patterns of tension and release. I wanted to offer my own take on a such a recital finale, with the caveat that the orchestra is no bystander. In this movement, it is spurred on by the soloist to share in some of the rhythmic complexity. The whole movement is set in ‘teentaal’, or 16-beat cycle, and in another departure from the traditional norm, my nagma kaleidoscopically changes colour from start to finish. I am indebted to Ed Hanley for helping me choose several ‘gems’ from the Tabla repertoire, although we have certainly had our own fun in tweaking a few, not to mention composing a couple from scratch.

© Dinuk Wijeratne 2011


Software priest marries Mac and BBC iPlayer

Amen to that. Rather than rave ad nauseam about the BBC and the cult of Mac, I’ll keep this down to a short shout-out to my favourite (free!) software discovery of 2011:

Get iPlayer Automator!

For Mac. Obviously. Windows users, I do believe that there is a version for you but its interface is terribly un-user-friendly, prompting the hosts of its download page to note: “Life is, as usual, more complex for Windows users.” So you’ll just have to switch to Mac ;)

I love the fact that what could otherwise be a very dry, utilitarian, download page for the Mac version instead opens astutely and more humanly with a mission statement. Curiously, this reminded me of the famous TED Talk by Simon Sinek, in which he explains how inspirational leadership attracts followers when it is able to communicate articulately WHY it does what it does….not just WHAT it does or HOW it does it:

“The goal of Get iPlayer Automator is to allow iTunes and your Mac to become the hub for your British Television experience regardless of where in the world you are.”

It has done just that for me, living in Canada as I do, the BBC’s world-class content agonizingly out of reach of my download jurisdiction until now. Not only does it allow me access to a plethora of quality TV and film, the software has been somewhat life-changing for me in that I can now enjoy as just many radio programs in my car, courtesy of my iPod touch. Load up and listen, it has simply transformed my driving experience.

The interface of the Mac version of Get iPlayer Automator has a simple elegance, and installation of the software is absolutely straightforward. I’ll leave you with instructions for use. You can download it here. Feel free to leave a donation for the designer via PayPal :)

  1. Open the software, and allow it a short while for it to perform a cache update. This is when it checks for new source data, scads of daily content from the BBC.
  2. In the search bar, type in the name of the program you wish to download. The BBC iPlayer website will have all the information you need.
  3. Select it and hit ‘Add To Queue’
  4. You can repeat steps 2 and 3 to queue up more programs.
  5. Hit ‘Start’, the green button in the top left corner. Downloading should begin immediately and work its way through the queue.
  6. The ‘Preferences’ menu offers a nifty, time-saving feature: ‘Add Completed Downloads to iTunes’. Boom.