James Whetzel
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James Whetzel


Band World EDM


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"Showing up at 11:30 for the headliner won't cut it tonight. To miss opener James Whetzel--Seattle's own tabla thumping, sarode plucking, throat singing young ethnomusicologist--would be a very sad thing. If you think Middle Eastern beats sound good when sampled by Jay-Z, check out Whetzel's version of the real thing."

Seattle Weekly April 30, 2004 - Seattle Weekly


SUM (2001), Capitol Hill: Secret Tracks (2003), Subcontinental Palmwine Punk (2007).

Videos online:

Tabla Poetry:


"Sarod Lang Syne" (Happy New Year)


Palmwine Guitar:


Throat Singing:


Audio Online:





James Whetzel is a uniquely eclectic performer. He plays both acoustic music and electronic music. He sings his own West African palmwine songs and he sings original songs inspired by Indian folk and Classical music while playing the fretless Indian lute called sarod. Also he recites "tabla poetry," which are spoken word pieces based on the mesmerizing beats of the Indian tabla drums. He is also a highly skilled and innovative Tuvan style throat singer.

And he is also a killer DJ/live electronic performer, who deftly mixes breakbeats, and hip hop with African and Indian beats and melodies.

James has played many styles of music. He sings and plays thrash metal electric guitar with the band Buddhist Priest. He was the dynamic front man for the prog. rock/pop punk Giant Peach. He has performed Avant-Garde European Classical music by composer Byron Au Yong, and has made Avant-Garde African Classical music with the African percussionist Yaw Asare. He is also a highly skilled remixer as well as a DJ and live electronic artist. His African/Indian remix of Martin Luther King Jr's "I Have a Dream" speech, and his Arabic/Indian remix of Bob Dylan's "Masters of War" have received a great deal of attention on the internet and on radio.

He began playing music as a kid, learning first to play piano and trombone. Then in his teens, inspired by Hetfield and Hammett, he switched to guitar and rocked heavily. Later he discovered the sounds of Moroccan music and was captivated by the polyrhythmic beats and modal melodies. This led him to check out other musical sounds from around the planet and soon after he discovered West African Pop music, and Indian Classical music.

He eventually became an ethnomusicologist which gave him the opportunity to meet and study with some amazing musicians. He studied West African palmwine guitar music with the legendary Nigerian musician I. K. Dairo and then with the legendary Ghanaian musician Koo Nimo. He performed with Koo Nimo as his back up guitarist in several shows in the US.

He was first introduced to Indian tabla by the American tabla player Lowell Lybarger. Lowell in term introduced him to the young Indian virtuoso tabla player Vishal Nagar. James studied with Vishal and also played with him in fusion music projects. He also played in a group called Awaz which featured the dancer Urmila Nagar, and mixed Indian fusion music with straight up Indian Classical music.

He started doing solo shows in 2001. Performing music for the West Coast production of the show "The Erotica Project."

In 2003 he started playing in nightclubs doing mixing live music with electronic music. In 2004 he was part a collective with tabla player and producer Shri Deepayan and DJ Gringo Starr which produced the Tandav club night. A year later the group decided to end the Tandav nights, in order that all the members could spend more time on producing music. In 2005 Shri Deepayan and James founded the group Mean Deep to explore their mix of live and electronic sounds.

James has played at all the major festivals in Seattle including Bumbershoot, the Seattle International Children's Festival, Folklife and many others. He opened for Afro-Celt Sound System in 2003 at the showbox and also for Panjabi MC in 2004 also at the showbox.

He was commissioned by the City of Seattle to produce an Internationally flavored DJ mix in 2006. This mix plays every day in the International Fountain at Seattle Center. His avant-garde African Classical music collaborations with drummer Yaw Asare are featured as part of the "audio response" collection of the Seattle Art Museum.