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Canada-based viral tabla player Shobhit Banwait on his Bollywood dreams

Toronto-based YouTube artist Shobhit Banwait found fame with covers of Bollywood and international hits. And came to be known as the internet’s “hot tabla player”

HT48HRS_Special Updated: Feb 03, 2017 17:59 IST
Manali Shah
Manali Shah
Hindustan Times
HT48Hours,Shobhit Banwait,Hot tabla player
Musician Shobit Banwait (Photo: Aalok Soni/HT; location courtesy: Hoppipola, Powai)

Toronto-based YouTube artist Shobhit Banwait found fame with covers of Bollywood and international hits. And came to be known as the internet’s “hot tabla player”

last year, Toronto-based musician Shobhit Banwait (26) went viral for his videos of tabla covers of popular Bollywood and English songs. Since then, each song he has posted has clocked a couple of lakhs in views. Recently, even award-winning Australian singer Sia tweeted Banwait’s cover of her song, Cheap Thrills, saying she loved it.

He’s good at what he does, sure. But that’s hardly a criteria for breaking the internet. Banwait’s videos are as basic as they get — shot on a stationary iPhone, at his residence, with a ceiling fan in the background. The ceiling fan, actually, has become a celebrity in its own right — people comment asking for it when they can’t see it in some of the videos. Until a while ago, he didn’t even use a mic to record.

Compare these to videos by other popular YouTube artists of Indian origin — the production quality of Vidya Vox’s (Virginia-based Vidya Iyer) uploads is near-professional. It’s difficult to tell what, then, worked in his favour. Perhaps his appearance helps. He’s garnered a fair bit of female fan following with his tall, lean frame, neat beard, and perfectly gelled hair. He’s even known on the internet as the “hot tabla guy”. Not bad for an NRI lad trying to break into Bollywood.

Banwait is in the city for his brother’s wedding. We catch up with him at Hoppipola, Powai.

“I come to India pretty much every year,” he says. But this visit is different. Apart from his brother’s wedding, he’s also here to meet Bollywood musicians to try and get a foot in the door. “Most of my fans are here.” Bring up the attention he receives from women, and he laughs, “I do enjoy it.”

Banwait’s interest in music was sparked at an early age. “My father used to be a singer in a band. Growing up, I used to watch him also play the dholak and I picked up the instrument by ear. When I turned 13, I started learning the basics of dholak and then switched to tabla,” he says. Some of his covers feature the dholak (Manali Trance, Abhi Toh Party Shuru Hui Hai).

READ MORE: Meet Jonita Gandhi, the original YouTube star

The IT graduate is now pursuing music full-time. He has plans to make videos that are high on production value. “I am in talks with a lot of musicians and dancers back home for making covers as well as original music.”

Banwait is inspired by Toronto talent who have made it big — YouTube artists Lily Singh (Superwoman), Jus Reign, and Jonita Gandhi, who is now a Bollywood playback singer. “In fact, I used to be in a band with Jonita’s brother. She’s moved base to Mumbai now.” If they can do it, he feels he can too.

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First Published: Feb 03, 2017 17:58 IST