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Monday, 07 March 2016 | Shrabasti Mallik
Israeli drummer Oded Kafri is trying to change the world of drumming. In a candid chat with Shrabasti Mallik, he explains how sitting behind the drums at the back blocks the energy
At a time when most boys fuss over possessing the latest play station and cool gadgets or look for ways to juggle studies, hobbies and a bunch of other things, Oded Kafri from Israel knew what he wanted to become — one of the greatest drummers of the world. Such was his determination that he let nothing come in his way. Even at times, when he felt defeated, beaten and lost all hope, something miraculous happened to turn things around and helped him look at things in a positive light.
With over a million views on YouTube, several shows across the world and fans all over, it is a rare feat if you get to meet Kafri in person. And he is as lively in person as he is on the online videos.
Many would assume that since he is a drummer, drums were the first instrument he learnt. But he was introduced to drums when he was 10-years-old. His first tryst with music was with the violin when he was four. “The drums saved me because I was a very restless kid and would get really competitive. Then with drums I found a way to express myself and the competitions did not matter,” he explained before his performance at the World Percussion Festival in Nehru Park.
It was during a summer camp when he was 14-years-old that he had decided to become a drummer. So he channelised all his dreams and energy into this and even joined a music school. At 16, his family relocated to Paris, France where his vision cleared out — he wanted to become the world’s famous drummer. “It was clear and I knew at that age where I needed to focus my energy on. My biggest fear in life is to not being able to focus and be someone whose life is not that focussed,” he pointed out.
But there were obstacles in the way and he recalled how on June 21, celebrated as fete de la musique (the day of celebration of music) no one had asked him to play. His self- esteem dropped and he doubted his talent as a musician. “It was 4pm and although I was on the verge of crying, I decided to play on the streets,” he said and added, “It was a magical night. It was definitely the night that passed the quickest in my life.”
That was first of the many hurdles that he overcame, keeping his chin up. Looking back, he said that at 21, he was exhausted of trying to make his way as a musician in Paris so he went back to Israel “feeling pretty much defeated.” “Then in Israel, I started to study classical percussion and paved my way into the local music industry but I was not happy as a a session player. I wanted to play drums,” he said.
Eventually he put his all into it and, since then, he has never looked back. From touring with Israeli singer David D’Or on his world tour to playing with artistes like Hanoch, Yossi Fine, the Idan Reichel Project — he has done it all. Just not that, he even shifted to London in 2009 from Tel Aviv where he played the drums for the Koby Israelite group performing in High prestige venues such as the Royal Albert Hall and Koko, London.
His whole life has been about beats and rhythms and he told us that the two dominant culture of rhythm is in India and Africa. He elaborated, “India is said to be more academic and profound in being able to be taught than the African. What’s amazing is that Indians were able to develop the vowels and syllables to express the rhythm and they went very far.”
Kafri told us that the drums are evolving amazingly quick. But he does feel the need for the musician to come to the front of the stage — something he has been trying to do for quite some time now. It was a tough job and he needed to break the set routine for it. He reminded us of the saying ‘a band is as good as its drummer’ and said, “I wanted to play drums in the front. I am a frontman and a drummer. It was a hard task because people call you for work as a drummer to accompany them but I wanted more.”
But things are changing and drummers are not only taking centre stage but are also performing while standing up. And he could not be more happy about it. According to him, “Sitting behind the seat is too cursive. To play drums while standing is the future. We sit because we need to control the pedal but the energy is blocked when you are sitting. It is one of the many reasons I start to dance and animate is because I realised that you cannot conquer the world by sitting. You need to stand up. So the drums have evolved a lot and will not cease to evolve.”
If he had his way, he would prefer playing on the streets rather than a polite environment where he feels he cannot reach people. “No matter how bad I feel, I always come back feeling good after performing in the streets,” smiled the drummer who currently lives in Hamburg in Germany.
THE TIMES OF INDIA, INDIA
HAMBURGER ABENDBLATT (HAMBURG BROADSHEET NEWSPAPER)
BILD, HAMBURG, GERMANY
DRUM HEADS MAGAZINE, GERMANY – REVIEW OF DRESDEN DRUM AND BASS FESTIVAL:
YEDIUT – (Tel Aviv Newspaper) – COVERMOUNT and double page article inside
NDR RADIO, HAMBURG, GERMANY – Radio Interview and Promo Video
BBC PERSIA – Promo video and Facebook Post:
ITN NEWS STORY, UK:
DRUM TALK TV – A regular featured artist with hundreds of thousands of views. Below is one example
MOPO, DRESDEN, GERMANY