Interview: Leo Hayashi, tabla player

Interview: Leo Hayashi, tabla player

On Saturday, July 16, 13 year-old tabla player Leo Hayashi will be performing at Devang House’s Rhythm & Bliss – A Tabla Recital, accompanied by his father on the Harmonium. Here, we interview the young prodigy on his background, passions and goals for the future.


Leo, tell us a little about yourself - where were you born? When did you come to India? 

I was born in Osaka, Japan. I have been traveling to India since the age of one years old. At that time, I used to come as a tourist. 

I shifted permanently to India about five years ago, when I was eight years old. 

When did you start playing tabla?

I started playing at the age of one, when I first came to India, but I started lessons when I was five years old.

What interests you about playing tabla?

Since I was in my mother’s womb, I have always listened to music. My mom has loved Indian music for the past 20 years. I would listen to Ravi Shankar’s music before I was even born.

The first time I saw a tabla when I came to India at the age of one, I don’t remember it clearly, but my mother says I started dancing with the tabla.

Afterwards, I remember I kept saying I wanted to learn. But obviously I was a baby, so from five years old I started lessons.

Who are your role models in life?

I look up to many great musicians. The person I look up to most is my Guruji, Ustad Akram Khan Sahib. I look up to him first, because he’s my Guruji and second, because he’s very awesome. He makes magic with his hands. It makes me feel very nice. 

What is your schedule like? How many hours do you practice each day?

If it’s a weekday, I practice for about 1.5 hours or 2 hours. If it’s a holiday, I practice more than usual. I go to my Guruji’s house for lessons once or twice a month. I practice independently, and also with my father.

What is your goal in the future?

I want to become a famous tabla player and I want to spread this music all over the world.

I also want to spread this music in India, because Bollywood has taken over the music world here.

Classical Indian music is a very natural music, which we shouldn’t forget. This music was made, we don’t know, maybe 2000 or 3000 years ago.

You often perform with your parents, what is that like?

My mother and father practice [Leo’s mother is a vocalist and his father is a harmonium player]. Sometimes I play with them or listen to them. It’s nice – there’s music all over my house.

Being half-Japanese, half-Indian, what’s your experience of living in India? Do you enjoy it? How are the cultures different?

I just went back to Japan in June after five years. I felt Japan is very beautiful, but I like India in some other ways. It is very free, this country - there is freedom. And I like the people here – they are nice people.

Which languages do you speak?

I speak Japanese, Hindi, and English.

Is there anything else you would like to share with us?

I’m really looking forward to the concert – I’m very happy to be having a concert with Devang House.


Join us on Saturday, July 16 evening to experience Leo's tabla performance live. Event details and booking information here

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