By Asjad Nazir
HE MAY be one of the finest dhol players in the country, but for Aman Singh it is more than just about the music or performing live.
With his dynamite group Dhol Frequency, he has taught youngsters to become world-class musicians and reconnected many to their Indian roots. Having performed at big events and made a positive difference with his youth work, the musician and philanthropist is now using the dhol to combat the rising epidemic of knife crime.
His Drop The Knife Pick Up The Dhol initiative aims to give a musical alternative to weapons and crime. This continues a remarkable journey for the self-taught musician that has entertained audiences and made a difference. Eastern Eye got Wolverhampton based Aman Singh to discuss Dhol Frequency, his initiative and the power of music.
How do you look at your journey with the group Dhol Frequency?
Interesting to say the least. It’s been challenging trying to build up a foundation for children to learn and enjoy what they do. Looking back at when I started Dhol Frequency in 2018, I feel that I’ve now got an established team of young individuals who thrive in what they do. This is a team effort – my journey started with the team, and I will move forward with them.
What has been your biggest highlight?
There have been many. First and foremost, getting the team together, then having the opportunity to perform on various stages with some of the biggest names in the world.
Tell us about your new Drop The Knife Pick Up The Dhol initiative.
I have always wanted to do more for teenagers and kids. There is a lot of crime out there that is scary. There are so many people who are out on the streets taking drugs, carrying guns and knives. So I thought, maybe, if I could change a tiny fraction of that and try taking kids off the streets, into social clubs or after school clubs, and teach them something, they will enjoy it. And it can keep them off the streets.
Tell us more…
They can maybe make a name for themselves in the years to come playing music. The big plus point in this is it will keep parents’ minds at peace that their son/daughter is safe. Being a father myself, I owe it to my son to try and make a difference and create a safer world for him to grow up in.
Why has knife crime become such a big problem?
I can’t speak for statistics, surveys and other findings, but if you ask for my personal view on this, I would say that there are many contributing factors towards this behaviour. It’s not a problem that has occurred overnight. It’s been around for many years, but social media is one factor that has encouraged it.
Do you think music can help?
Definitely! People express themselves in many ways, and music surely is one of the best ways to express how you feel. Using so much energy while playing dhol can help in many ways. One is that it will keep your mind busy, while concentrating, and secondly, when you have used so much energy and muscles it tires you out physically and mentally (in a good way), so leaves you with no time for negative thoughts.
What has been the response so far?
Phenomenal. We have been contacted by various platforms and organisations to team up and take this forward to raise awareness. These things take time. It’s important to make sure I focus on the team that I have, as well as expand with new members with this initiative.
What is the long-term aim?
To get more people involved with dhol. It’s a skill that can be utilised for any happy occasion and can make you feel positive. I’d like to get more people in during the evening to practise. If we can try and reduce crime in at least one area of Wolverhampton, I will feel that I’ve achieved what I set out to do.
What else can we expect from you?
We have been lucky to do a lot of high-profile and big collaborations. There is a lot more on the way, including making a positive difference. Watch this space.
What’s the secret to great dhol playing?
Dedication, hard work and determination. It’s important to have a strong support system around you. At times, I’m away from important family functions owing to dhol commitments, so without having a supportive family it would be hard.
How has music helped you?
It has helped in many ways. When I was younger all I wanted to do was practise and make myself better. I didn’t have much interest in going out. It’s helped me to focus on what I wanted from a young age and here I am today fulfilling my childhood ambitions, and helping other youngsters.
What inspires you?
Live music. It inspires me to see how the musicians interact with each other on stage without even talking. How eight to 10 musicians can entertain through beautifully composed pieces of music. When Dhol Frequency is on stage that’s exactly how we interact and entertain the crowd. Focus is key and important to hold each other up, and support one other while on stage. The end result is the appreciation from the crowd and that keeps us strong. It is all very inspiring.