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Meet Salar Nader

Today we’d like to introduce you to Salar Nader.

Salar, we’d love to hear your story and how you got to where you are today both personally and as an artist.
Whether the odds are against or for you, choose to ride the tidal wave with humility. My name is Salar Nader (Salar System) and I am an Afghan-American Tabla artist, percussionist, composer, producer, and beat maker. A product of the refugee struggle, my parents had no choice but to flee our motherland, Afghanistan in the 1970s during the Soviet Union invasion for fear of their overall safety as threats were beginning to prevail. Their migration does not have a fancy story attached to it. Rather it was one of confusion, sadness, fear, and uncertainty. My parents settled in Hamburg, Germany in the 1980s, where I was ultimately born. I wish I knew whose Tabla was left in our apartment, so I could thank them for essentially allowing the Tabla to find me at the tender age of six months old. As cliché as it sounds, it was love at first sight and the rest was history. I was fascinated by the beats, the texture of the instrument, the poetic significance behind every tap I made.

My parents and I migrated to the United States with Queens, New York being our first stop and eventually settled in the Bay Area, San Francisco. Being far from their homeland, Afghan refugees preserved their culture and unity through music at frequent gatherings or “mehmanis” as we call them in Dari. This is where the inspiration and motivation for collaboration with singers and instrumentalists began. I was just in awe of how naturally my hands flowed on the Tabla as a four-year-old child. I would always bring my Tablas and play and this is where a family friend noticed my talent. She recommended my parents enroll me in the legendary Zakir Hussain’s Tabla school. Had I known that two-time Grammy award-winning artist and Tabla genius Zakir Hussain would become my Guru and lifelong mentor, I would have prepared myself more as I walked into his school.

After being Zakir Hussain’s disciple for a few years, the “Ganda Bandan” ceremony was performed at the age of 12 where the master/disciple bond became official with the blessings of my not only my Guru but by the legendary vocalist Ustad Salamat Ali Khan as well. During this sacred ceremony, a thread is tied to the disciple’s wrist by their teacher, which signifies the lifelong teacher/student bond. The thread on my wrist was and still is a reminder of my responsibility to the Tabla tradition and the world. My hyphenated identity allowed me to play baseball by day and practice Tabla all night. Every moment of practice was a reminder of what destiny had in store for me.

Since 2007, I have toured on several projects as an Aga Khan Music Initiative artist. In addition, my music has been featured in productions such as The Kite RunnerThe BreadwinnerThe HeatReluctant Fundamentalist, and The Big Sick. Currently, I am touring with four-time Grammy award-winning bassist Maestro Stanley Clarke. We perform at about 100 concerts and musical festivals per year in about 65 countries. Aside from being able to share the stage with such a legend in the musical world, I am eternally grateful for the mentorship and wisdom Maestro Clarke consistently provides me with. The tides are always high and still being ridden with humility.

We’d love to hear more about your art. What do you do and why and what do you hope others will take away from your work?
REGIMEN=Riyaz + Rituals. The foundation of my artistic process is embedded into this formula. It is a mind, body, and spirit connection that is imperative for me to make in order to seize the day. In simpler terms, this consists of me making my morning intentions and envisioning my daily practice before I go to bed. My “Riyaz” or practice spans over a period of two to four hours a day and includes technical, mathematical, scientific, and poetic explorations that take place between myself and the Tabla. Within my Riyaz, I’m constantly in a musical lab experimenting with rhythmic patterns and combinations.

As a Tabla artist and composer, I aim to spread the message of love and light through everything I share. It is very important for me to be able to fully connect and honor the traditions of the Tabla throughout the creative process, so my audience can be fully immersed in my artwork. Tastefully merging my training in classical Tabla with mainstream music culminated into the “Salar System.” Every piece I have produced is a homage to Tabla legends Ustad Allah Rakha Khan and my Guru, Ustad Zakir Hussain.

My artwork is a connection to my past and meant to heal and pave the way for aspiring artists through creating a positive impact on the world and one another.

What do you think it takes to be successful as an artist?
The ecosystem we create for ourselves is the determining factor of what we consider as success. Envision and Manifest. At the core of what we do, intentions are really significant to the connections we aim to make. Music and the world of art is about love and bringing people together. Spread positive light and your magnetic field will naturally start pulling people in.

Do you have any events or exhibitions coming up? Where would one go to see more of your work? How can people support you and your artwork?
The technological advancements make it so simple to be able to support one another. Enjoy and fully immerse yourself into the Salar System experience.

You can check out my website for upcoming tour dates with the four-time Grammy award-winning artist Stanley Clarke.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:

Stephen Brooks, FIP Radio Paris, Jose Galeas, Aga Khan Music Initiative Kenya, SF Jazz Center.

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