Inspiration / 7 October 2020

Behind the Loops: Jon Sterckx

Jon Sterckx Bollywood Looper pack

There’s no denying the influence of Indian music in the western hemisphere. From the Beatles in the 60s to Tool in the 00s to Selena Gomez today, Indian instruments have and will continue to inspire the likes of artists everywhere.

That’s why when we had the opportunity to collaborate with an artist to bring the percussion sounds of Bollywood to BandLab, we gladly took it with both hands.

Jon Sterckx Bollywood Percussion

The Bollywood Percussion Loop Pack is the latest sample pack available now on BandLab’s Mix Editor. Recorded by percussion master Jon Sterckx, it contains hundreds of authentic instruments and rhythms that will inspire creativity no matter what genre of music you are making. Find out how to get access to Loop Packs for free on BandLab here.

We tracked Jon down to find out more about his route into becoming a successful professional percussionist, his career highlights and the process behind making the Bollywood Percussion Loop pack for BandLab.

Read more: Behind the Loops: Joseph Yorke

Bollywood Percussion Loop Pack
Jon Sterckx’s Bollywood Percussion Loop Pack on the BandLab web Mix Editor.

Tell us a bit about yourself, your career in music and how you became so established as an expert in unique instruments and percussion?

My journey with percussion began during my travels during the late 80’s and 90’s. I spent a lot of time traveling in Egypt, and was drawn to the drums that I encountered there, especially the Egyptian tabla (also known as Darbuka) and the Duf (frame drum). I played and jammed with Egyptian and Bedouin musicians as I traveled and picked up the rhythms and techniques in that way.

My travels then took me to India, where I came across the India tabla. The rhythms, techniques and sounds of the tabla fascinated me. With tabla I took a more formal and traditional approach, with several trips to India, learning from three teachers over 12 years – one teacher in UK, Harjinder Singh Matharu, and two teachers in India, Shivanand Bhandari in Karnataka and Kailash Nishad in Varanasi. 

I learned West African and Ghanaian drumming in the UK, taking regular classes over five years. 

While I was learning and developing my understanding of traditional music forms, I was also exploring ways to combine these instruments, rhythms and musical ideas with each other, with Western music forms and with programmed beats and sequenced sounds – all using hardware equipment in those days.

Since 2000, I have been working as a professional percussionist, performing and collaborating with various musicians and groups including Taaliqa, Dhani and Samswara who were voted “Best Group” in the MTM South Asian and Ethnic Minority Awards in 2014. 

I’m also very proud of some of the session work that I have done over the years, notably with two-time Grammy winning composer Christopher Tin on his album “The Drop that Contained the Sea” and Grammy nominated producer Arun Shenoy on his track “Bliss”.

I am also proud of the work that I have done with my solo Drumscapes performances – and the CD that I produced of this work. I use Ableton software for my Drumscapes work, and have had my work featured twice in the Ableton blog. With Drumscapes I have been able to bring together the various facets of my musical interests and abilities, drawing on many influences and interests and acting like a ‘mixer’ combining them all together into one sound. These days it is increasingly difficult to create music that is original, new and unique, but to some degree I feel that I achieved this with Drumscapes. 

Jon Sterckx Bollywood percussion

Tell us about the vision for the Bollywood percussion sample pack?

Bollywood is the name given to the Indian film industry based in Mumbai. Bollywood music is very much a hybrid form, drawing on musical elements and instruments from different musical traditions. You will often hear Indian instruments like tabla, bansuri, sitar etc alongside Western string sections and Western harmony, which are not used in traditional Indian music. Rhythms in Bollywood songs do vary, but by far the most popular and commonly used rhythms are taken from North Indian folk music. The samples in the pack are largely based on the North Indian Rhythms that are used in Bollywood music.

The rhythms and instruments recorded in the pack can be combined in different ways to create new and unique rhythmic variations as well as the more typical combinations heard in Bollywood tracks. For example, in the slower tempos, I have included a lot of triplet fills and three against four rhythms, which can be combined in different ways and could also be used to create pieces in 3/4 or 6/8 time. The pack includes rhythms, fills and Tihai’s. 

A Tihai is a rhythmic phrase used in Indian music which is repeated three times and concludes on the first beat of the rhythm. They are typically cross rhythmical, creating a tension in the music which is resolved when they end on the first beat. Tihai’s are used as endings to sections of music and to whole pieces. 

There are hundreds of samples in the pack, some are very typical Bollywood rhythms, others are less so. This will give people many possible combinations to work with and potentially some really interesting and very varied music could be created using these samples. 

Yes, the pack can be used to create Bollywood style music, but can also be used in less typical ways to create something new and different.

Tell us about some of the unique instruments used on the sample pack?

In the BandLab percussion sample pack, I have included typical Indian percussion instruments like tabla, dholak, frame drums and manjira, also non Indian instruments like Western tambourines, latin percussion vibraslap and various shakers. I used AKG C1000 microphones to record the percussion. I find them bright, crisp and really clear for recording percussion, so they are my go to mics for most of my work. I recorded the loops in a similar way to my Drumscapes work, building up layers that would compliment each other and work well together.

I hope that people will find the sounds and rhythms inspiring and will lead to people exploring new possibilities in their music. Yes, the pack can be used to create Bollywood style music, but can also be used in less typical ways to create something new and different. We have an amazing world of music, instruments, sounds and rhythms out there – so many possibilities and combinations are yet to be explored. I’m looking forward to hearing how people interpret this sample pack and how they choose to incorporate the samples into their music. 

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