The apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree or as we say, the chip doesn’t fall far from the block! This tends to be the case with Ryan Ali, who grew up with both parents who were both affiliated with tassa drumming. He was born and raised in South Trinidad with the sounds of tassa drums, steel pans and African drums and where his love for music began.
In 2006, Ryan Ali then formed The Boodoo Singh Tassa sdrummers in Queens, NY.
In Trinidad and Tobago and other parts of the Caribbean, the term ‘Tassa’ refers to a drumming ensemble drawn from a union of several of North Indian folk drumming traditions, most importantly dhol-tasha, a style that remains popular today in many parts of India and Pakistan.
Ryan, who is always in the habit of proudly representing the Caribbean, has blessed many with high energy music performances which his group offers. Along with his wife, Amanda, who manages the group, he has set out to eliminate the stigma attached to Tassa Drumming. In the past, younger children always felt ashamed to play the Tassa drum at weddings and other functions. He stated that now even his daughter, Suriya Ali, plays.
Initially partnering with his cousins, he took the task of showcasing that tassa drumming deserves to be equally celebrated as any other genre of music. This proved to be successful as the 12 member group has a record of forty one 1st places, ten 2nd places & three 3rd places in Nationwide Tassa Competitions from 1984 to 2013. The group has also done the opening premier in the movie ‘Bazodee’ written and produced by Soca Artist, Machel Montano.
Ryan highlighted that he is currently embarking on taking tassa drumming to more states within America as well as other countries, even though they are faced with challenges as it relates to extending their performances. Great emphasis is placed on the younger groups who he also teaches drumming too. He teaches many of today’s new Tassa groups in the New York, New Jersey and Florida areas.
Commenting on the nonexistence of tassa groups, he pointed out that there is a need for tassa groups outside of New York and Florida. Thus far, the Boodoo Singh Tassa Group has performed in Hollywood, California, Washington D.C., Fort Lauderdale, Tampa, Miami, New York, Toronto, Montreal-Canada, Venezuela, Margarita Island, Barbados, Grand Cayman Islands, Suriname, and London, England.
Growing up in a Hindu home, Ryan pointed out that he now celebrates Diwali with his family by lighting diyas, and getting together to enjoy the various foods and sweets.
Ryan emphasized that he does not see himself not playing the tassa drums at any point in his life, “I am not going to retire, maybe the day I’ll retire is when I can’t lift my hands up anymore”.