For more than a quarter-century now, the Toronto Tabla Ensemble has been making fearlessly progressive recordings that seemingly no one else has been capable of recreating on their own, and in “Dream Symposium,” their latest single, they return to the headlines with one of their more capable and ambitious efforts in recent memory. “Dream Symposium” is made up of fluid drum patterns that create a patchwork of emotions as familiar as they are alien, and while it’s probably not the most exciting addition to their ever-expanding discography, it’s still one of the more interesting songs I’ve listened to lately.


Though this track isn’t as forward-thinking as some of the gems from 2008’s Alankar were, it’s got a fun, freeform groove that is hard to erase from your memory once you’ve been exposed to it for the first time. There’s more to the rhythm of the song than the beat of the drums; it’s actually the cadence of the pattern that evokes the most emotion, the most mental imagery, of any element in the track. “Dream Symposium” dares to be different in its black and white attempt at full-color dynamic audio, but it’s a dare that was worth taking when juxtaposing the final product with the mundane music topping the charts this September.

There’s a sense of tribal familiarity to the foundation of this song, and by that I mean the grooves feel and connect with the audience in an almost instinctual way. It’s one thing to pen a catchy beat, but it’s something entirely different to jump off with nothing more than a glaring flute’s bellow only to finish in a tizzy of percussive lashings. Existential thought and respect for the medium of music itself were key factors in the design of “Dream Symposium,” but then again, the same can be said for most of the music that the Toronto Tabla Ensemble has released.


“Dream Symposium” is one of the most moving performances that I’ve come across in a long time, and although it’s an orchestral force to be reckoned with that I wouldn’t recommend to the audiologically timid, it’s nonetheless a song that I would rank among the very best to bear this group’s highly respected moniker. The sky is the limit for the Toronto Tabla Ensemble, and no matter what they issue in the near future, they’ve given us no reason to doubt their credibility as an elite member of the Canadian musical hierarchy.

Sebastian Cole