Johnny Kalsi

Biog & Discography

Johnny Kalsi was born and raised in Leeds in UK. As a youth, he became increasingly interested in music, although his parents had other aspirations for him. Johnny first learnt the art of the Tabla at his local Gurdwara from the Late Prof. Gurmeet Singh Virdee and slowly became intrigued by the sound of the Dhol Drum. Being in a time where there where not any Dhol schools, Johnny Kalsi took to teaching himself the complex beats of the Dhol and essentially redesigning the traditional beats of the Dhol to his own specifications. Taking the North Indian Tabla Gharana (House) Style of playing and Dialect (which he had earned from his Tabla skills), Johnny adapted this technique to work on the Dhol Drum. Living in the UK his exposure to a variety of genres embraced both traditional Indian music as well as western influences. His style became a blend of rhythms utilising a mixture of both Eastern and Western instruments.

In 1984, Johnny Kalsi played in a local band called "Mela Group" that gave him the most important experience and confidence. Later in he pioneered the sound of Dhol with UK Wedding DJ's. He was The First Dhol player to perform as a "Solo" Live Act with DJ's. in 1989 joined the pioneers of Bhangra, Alaap. It was at this point he found himself touring all over the World for many years but still coming back to the wedding scene. After performing numerous weddings and international shows, Johnny Kalsi aspired to begin teaching the art of playing the Dhol Drum to youngsters. He went on to establish The Dhol Foundation in 1990, by setting up independent weekly classes in small community centers & church halls. As The Dhol Foundation grew Johnny began to open classes all over the UK and eventually the classes went global and spread over to Canada. At their strongest the classes grew to over 300 students and 14 establishments. Parallel to this Johnny Kalsi became well established in the Western music industry and landed a publishing deal with Peter Gabriel's Real World Records. It was with this  experience Johnny Kalsi took Bhangra to the next level and emerged the traditional sounds of the Dhol with influences all over the world. While working along side Mr Gabriel himself Johnny Kalsi became the Ambassador & the Face for the WOMAD festivals all over the world.
Johnny has also played with a whole range of music groups, from the golden age of Bhangra as well as the Bhangra Superband, Alaap & Channi Singh OBE, to more eclectic sounding groups such as Trans-Global Underground, The Imagined Village and The Afro Celts Sound System to which today he is a Director. 

The amount of performances The Dhol Foundation have done are uncountable after 30 plus years. The experience of various performances are undeniable to the World Music industry. The amount of friends and collaborations they have performed with have made memorable occasions many times over for millions of people. Touching the lives and hearts of fans & people that have witnessed a Dhol Foundation performance to it's fullest potential, have gone away wanting to take a piece of the band home.

Full production & their own albums produced by Johnny Kalsi himself introduces collaborations of wonderful artists. Musicians, Singers and collaborative producers that bring a small piece of their own magic to spread on a TDF album. Traveling with the band around the globe has given the opportunity for TDF to tour the music and expose it to millions of others. From festival goers to one off gigs, the response has been incredible and credible to the band.

Now 5 Albums later in 2019, 5 Royal appointments,

Johnny received a Fellowship from the Leeds College of Music in 2016. He is also a Patron for Future Leaders Youth Program and an Ambassador for Diabetes UK.


Established in 1990

Johnny Kalsi & The Dhol Foundation began as a weekly workshop teaching the art of playing the North Indian Dhol Drum to students.

350 Student at it's peak with 8 classes in UK and 2 in Canada.
In 1997 Johnny Kalsi produced a debut album “Big Drum Small World” that was released in 2001. One track made the Hollywood Scorsase’s film, Gangs of New York.
3 Years later they released another album “Drum-Believable”.
Along the career, they have produced for many Bhangra artist and done session work for Peter Gabriel and even joined him on tour.
“Drums & Roses” in 2007 and the more recent “Drum-Struck” in 2011 has proved to be a huge crowd pleaser.
End of 2011 TDF Opened the Royal Variety alongside Stomp & the Japanese Drumming outfit Kodo.
In 2012 David Arnold asked Johnny Kalsi & The Dhol Foundation to perform for the Olympic Closing Ceremony in a stand alone performance. Mid Year they were on Channel 4 for Stand up to Cancer with Alan Carr & Davina McCall & helped raise over

In July 2013 Johnny Kalsi & The Dhol Foundation will be opening the Queen’s Coronation Celebration at Buckingham Palace for 3 nights.

Movies & TV Music:

Gangs of New York
The Incredible Hulk
Tomorrow Never Dies Rabbit Proof Fence
Last Temptation of Christ
CSI Series 3
Sea Monsters
Discovery - Jesus in the Himalayas
Discovery - Indian Air Force Pilots                                             
N.Geographic - Extreme Water Sports


Afro Celt Sound System
The Imagined Village
Trans-Global underground
Peter Gabriel
Avril Lavigne
Nelly Fertardo
Cheb Khalid
Angelique Kidjo
David Arnold
Mairead Nesbitt (Lord of the Dance)
Kaiser Chiefs
Natasha/Daniel Beddingfield
Saini Surinder
Adnan Sami
Sid Shriram