"Online dhol drumming classes are the thing now."
Popular female dhol group, Eternal Taal, are a well-known and established drumming band who have performed across the UK and internationally. However, the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has naturally raised challenges for the band.
From playing at Desi weddings to Glastonbury festival to appearing on national television and in Bollywood films, the dhol group led by female members has certainly entertained audiences with their unique look and sound.
Parv Kaur who manages the group has spent over 20 years establishing the group and its brand. She teaches the dhol and has constantly encouraged young girls to play the drumming instrument, which has often been seen as a male-dominated instrument.
Culturally, the dhol is used for celebrations and is associated frequently with weddings, Punjabi festivals like Vaisakhi and Bhangra music. It has a tremendous entertainment value along with its loud and vibrant sound.
So, when a group of female dhol players from Eternal Taal are playing together, the breadth and depth of the sound of the drums played in sync is an absolute marvel to watch and hear.
To understand how COVID-19 is affecting Eternal Taal and Parv, DESIblitz exclusively conversed with her to find out.
How has COVID-19 affected Eternal Taal?
I really thought this was the year.
We had four major international gigs ready to go, six big festivals to perform at and three global artists to collaborate with! This is now of course not happening.
Big gigs, international presence, makes our brand popular. We have worked too damn hard for the last 20 years to let this COVID-19 affect us.
With all this time off I’m still working in the background communicating with various companies to get the ball rolling next year. I think when this is over the industry will be busy more than ever.
How are you adapting your business?
Eternal Taal is an international Female Dhol drumming band. So performing at events is what we do.
Even though that’s not happening we are hard on social media posting all our previous high profile and global events. Keeping the interest flowing and getting more people to follow us which now the aim.
What kind of work, if any are you doing now?
Online dhol drumming classes are the thing now.
I thought by teaching my own students it would stop there. But I have people all over the world (women) wanting to learn off me.
So, every day I spend time teaching the dhol and keeping myself busy by sending homework videos, sheets and soundtracks for my students to practise to.
It’s fun, keeps me sane and I just love what I do. I am also working on my normal day job stuff (computer science lecturer). So I am an all-rounder busy bee.
How are other artists you know coping with COVID-19?
Coping with social media. I have seen so many live videos, posts, increase in the number of people joining social media sites.
It’s great to see and I hope people keep the content positive, full of energy and inspiring.
Artists must always remember there will be sunlight after this storm.
So hold tight, do something you have never done before and enjoy home life. I have taken up juggling (haha) and my little one loves it. Great for concentration levels.
How are you coping currently financially?
All thanks to my dad I wanted to quit A levels and drum forever. He was the only one telling me not to as I always needed a plan B.
So I started a career in teaching and I’m now a lecturer in computer science teaching 16-18 year-olds. I love my job, been doing it for 15 years and I would never give it up.
Therefore, financially, I’m lucky I have a plan B back up and helps me tick over in these hard times.
As for Eternal Taal, we are okay for now until we resume bookings because most of our performances are paid by the performance and our overheads are not too high.
How has the lockdown affected you and your family personally?
I’m married in another city so for my parents not to see my daughter, I find that’s the hardest part.
Retired they have grandkids to keep them busy. But now I think they are finding it very difficult to keep busy. The school runs, after school clubs and general weekend craziness is what they miss most.
My husband still works from home and I spend time with my little one.
I think I’m valuing it more this time around simply because this time of the year I don’t normally see my daughter often as I am performing all over the world.
So I think spending time with my little one is giving me an unexpected reward.
Do you feel Desi people have reacted well to the lockdown?
Not really. I go to an Indian shop to get my yoghurt (dhai) and they are still out in full force.
The older generation is struggling because the younger generation still has jobs and social media.
My father-in-law has spent 80% of the last 20 years at the gurdwara (Sikh temple) and is struggling really badly to cope as he is in his 70s.
This is something they have never experienced in their lifetime but sadly, something they will have to get used to, for their own safety.
Do you think Eternal Taal will survive the lockdown?
Yes. I’ve been keeping the business alive for the last 25 years. What makes anyone think this will send it down the gutter? I don’t think so!
I started my dhol journey 25 years ago. I wasn’t allowed to travel on public transport, perform at events as I was too young. So I started my own group at a community centre near my house (walking distance).
I had no social media, no big promotional companies and no support. It was just me and my drum.
25 years on. I am UK’s first female dhol player performing non-stop.
I have continuously been teaching dhol since 1999 and I am the only female dhol player to have her own entertainment team providing services of DJs, dancers, singers and more.
So, we have to keep a positive outlook that this shall pass too.
How do you feel the Desi events industry will change after COVID-19?
Less of the ‘Big Fat Indian Weddings’ and large festivals (until things get safe and better). People will be more careful and spend less.
I think people will now think of the ‘rainy day’ kitty and start saving more because this could happen again.
Without these big British Asian weddings more companies will go bust. I think people will now have to think of a plan B.
What plans do you have in place for the future, post COVID-19?
Going back to work is the priority, and to be open for bookings no matter how small or big. I can’t wait to work all week in my day job and gig all weekend with Eternal Taal.
We will all need to adjust to a ‘new normal’ and learn to adapt to try our best to make it fun and crazy like before.
How long this will take we don’t know, but we have to do our best to make what we can out of such a challenging scenario never experienced by our generation before.
Just this time I will be more careful, more mindful and protect my family.
Parv has shown that whatever the challenges ahead, she and her troupe of women dhol players are empowered to tackle them, the best way they can.
Anyone in the entertainment business knows that post-COVID-19, it is going to take time for things to get back to a ‘normal’ of some kind. How or when remains the question.
But for now, we can be encouraged by Eternal Taal for their dedication to their cause and we hope to see them banging those dhols loud and proud, very soon and in the not too distant future.