Tom Simenauer
aka ‘Tabla Tom”

Tabla Tom

Tabla Tom

Tom plays tabla, percussion and sings interesting overtone chanting with At-Ma. He joined Craig and Russell on stage for three concerts at the Yoga Show Festival, Kensington, Olympia, London during October 2008, and a new at-Ma was instantly born. Seeing this innovative trio flourish over for the past 2 years, he is more excited about the band than ever.

“I have been a drummer in many bands over the years, playing music from classical western and Indian, r’n’b, country, bhajans, and what I have come to realise is that if the drummer can’t groove well, the whole band is greatly compromised, so it’s a very important job. Being the engine of a band is an uplifting experience, especially when other band members are rhythmically strong, and that’s why I love playing with the great musicians in At-Ma. I get a real kick from the energy and subtlety that’s weaving around the three of us and, of course, from the audience.”

Tom was born in New Zealand into a totally musical environment. His parents are masters of their respective art in western classical music, and his two older brothers are both talented rock musicians. “Even in my Mum’s tummy I heard opera and piano constantly for 9 months. Mum sang a lead role in an opera called “The Creation” (seriously!) the night before I was born, so music was as normal as breathing in our house.”

From the age of 3, Tom hit everything in sight, cutlery drawers (a firm favourite), dashboards, pots and pans – in fact anything that made interesting sounds. He also studied piano with his mum and he learned violin for many years at school. Drums were always Tom’s main love, however, and he finally got a drum kit when he was 12.

After playing in many bands in New Zealand, Tom moved to London and started studying tabla with the amazing master Shib Shankar Ray. Before he met his tabla guru, Tom thought himself to be a good musician, but after becoming a disciple of Shibji he had to eat a lot of humble pie for many years, which felt like going back to square one all over again. One of the greatest skills Tom learnt from Shibji was the art of improvisation.

Tom loves playing with his wife Thrisha, who also plays tabla, and they spend hours playing together at home. They have a beautiful daughter, Tara.
“Having learned many styles of music and played and jammed with hundreds of fantastic musicians, musical ideas flow out of my being quite easily. The art of improvisation really helps here. One can take a musical idea and play around with it for hours, tweaking it gently and experimenting with it. The key is to keep
the variations within the musical context of the original motif.

“Improvisation is a subtle art, and it is all too easy to create ideas that don’t really have a lot of musicality or logical connection with the original musical motif. Through study with Shibji, I was given a very deepgrounding in the art of improvisation. The Indian musical tradition has developed this whole area to a refined and sublime level over many centuries.

“Having said that, I like to try anything, keeping in mind that nothing is ‘wrong’. The idea of ‘wrong’ limits creativity. But 9 out of 10 ideas are discarded without attachment to them, and perhaps this process reveals a musical gem. As a musician becomes more experienced, the gems come more readily, and the whole process becomes great fun.” Tom’s connection with God is his main focus in life. He practises daily with A Course in Miracles, and has a deep connection with Haidakhan Babaji.

“My spiritual path is really the bedrock to my life. I feel God’s presence and gentle guidance more and more as life goes on. After all is said and done in this physical world, the soul remains. I also play in a band called Goma. We play bhajans that celebrate our life using Sanskrit mantras. With At-Ma, our intention is also a celebration, and instrumentally, vocally, we express joy through music. I feel very blessed that I have been given life, awareness and musical gifts to share this kind of up-lifting music with so many different people.”

Tom is also a member of the Celtic fusion band Dragonsfly, and has composed, produced and engineered his own album CD “Human Grace”. He helped to engineer part of Dragonsfly’s “The Ridgeway” album and has recently started to produce local artists and record them with his mobile recording unit.

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