Ginger Beat sings life's journeys over the rhythms of Cuba, the Caribbean, and the American South.
Lead violin and saxophone fill the air as you dance, sing along, and soak in the vibes.
More than just a band, they are a kinesthetic experience delivering flavors from blues to bluegrass,
salsa to rock-and-roll, and a whole lot of driving groove. Their songs will shake your soles and your soul.
Band photo by Mark Kubik
Ginger Beat mixes it up with sole shaking dance tunes, soul travelers' grooves, and call outs to Boomers older and bolder. Ginger Beat musicians create a world community on stage, with talent that has performed collectively in Europe, India, Cuba, and South America, along with inner-cities and bluegrass country-sides of the United States. These are seasoned multi-instrumentalists who are rendering original, highly-crafted compositions. The sound is essentially acoustic, designed to rouse the listener with driving rhythms, played and sung through drums and voices. The solos come from stringed instruments, saxes and flutes, and keyboards. The stories come from life’s journeys. Some songs are sweet. Others are challenging. And they are all family-friendly and spicy fun!
The vision for Ginger Beat started back in the 1960s when founder Arjan Khalsa was fighting for civil rights and hosting the first ever Earth Day in his region. Arjan spent his teenage years playing rock and roll, classical, folk, world music, and jazz. As Miles Davis, Ravi Shankar, and Baba Olatunji filled his mind, The Beatles' explorations into Indian mysticism and cross-genre instrumentation filled Arjan’s soul. By the early 70s, Arjan was leading North Indian kirtan, chanting mantras with his harmonium, guitar, and mandolin. He was also making melodies on South America flutes with Bay Area Latina bands. Arjan was declaring himself as a multi-genre, multi-instrumentalist with a love for the world.
For forty years, starting in the late 70s, Arjan's primary energies were devoted to his family and his successful entrepreneurial career inventing technologies to help elementary students with disadvantages and disabilities. He performed in bands and choirs, lead kirtan in ashrams, and relished his role as the Raffi in his children's elementary school. Something special took place in 1984 when Arjan went to a midnight showing of Stop Making Sense, the Talking Heads movie, at the Varsity movie theater in Berkeley. David Byrne’s rhythms, story telling, and energy spun Arjan across the unique, movie theater dance floor for hours. Arjan determined to someday merge social activism, musical expression, and the utter joy of dancing.
Now, in the 2020s, Arjan is in his 60s - Back In The 60s - to quote one of his song titles. He is retired, "re-tired," with - New Treads - to keep heading north on life's highway. He has learned from his mentor friends who have guided him through life's trials and assured him that -We'll Walk Someday - walking down the road of life together. These are the themes of Arjan's musical dreams that bring him - Inside Out and Upside Down. Plunging into Cuban rhythms, jazz violin, gospel voices, and the whole Ginger Beat experience, Arjan invites listeners to dance to the pulses of a mature life story. This is the soundtrack for the Boomer Generation, a outreach for elder activism.
Arjan has studied at conservatories and with fine teachers over the years, across genres and instruments. Zakir Hussain, Jon Adams, Ali Akbar Khan, Vikram Singh, Ralph Towner, Jennifer Jolly, Bill Evans, Wes Corbett, Jayme Stone, Rueda Con Ritmo, and so many others have contributed to his understanding of composition, dance, guitar, mandolin, banjo, and keys. Brilliant friends and neighbors, most notably Kevin Feldman and Ryan Janos, have provided courageous feedback on new compositions and artistic direction. Most importantly, he has been able to attract a brilliant team of musicians who bring over 100 years of collective stage experience across many musical domains and on a broad variety of instruments. Arjan's vision is to write what this gifted group loves to play and what fans long to hear.
Learning from David Byrne
Arjan read David Byrne's book and was deeply moved by his music.
Baba Olatungi and Carlos Santana
Arjan explains how an African percussionist and a Latin American rock icon influence his songwriting.