Toronto-born Niel Golden is a talented percussionist specializing in the subtle yet powerful, tuned, paired, hand drums called tabla. Niel played guitar as a teen, hauling it along on an overland trek from Europe to India in 1972. Whetting his appetite for exotic music, he began his studies in world music and attended York University upon his return to Canada. While at York, he first studied mrdangam with Trichy Sankaran, and then tabla with Bob Becker of the world renowned percussion ensemble, Nexus. Niel received his honours B.A., specializing in ethnomusicology, and soon after became the disciple of the tabla master, Pandit Sharda Sahai, the fifth generation leader of the Benares style of playing. Pandit Sahai taught regular two month intensive summer tabla classes in Toronto throughout the 1980's and Niel spent as much time he could learning from his Guru during those months.
In 1986 he became a resident of Victoria. Diving into the vibrant music scene, he helped form the world, folk fusion trio, New Earth. Their self-titled CD took them to Seville, Spain where they represented Canada for 6 weeks at Expo '92. Moving in a new direction, 1993 saw the creation of Djole. Blending African, Indian, Western and other world music, their first CD, "Indiscretion" earned them a Juno nomination as best global recording of 1995. Niel is a skilful and versatile performer, accompanying Indian classical music's vocal, instrumental and dance styles as well as playing tabla solos. In both 1990 and 1995 Niel returned to India to further his tabla studies receiving a Shastri Indo-Canadian grant to do so. He has also collaborated with many Canadian and International artists, including composer Robert Rosen, Kokoro dance, Joseph "Pepe" Danza, Celso Machado, Harry Manx, Andre Thibault, Daniel Lapp, The Gettin' Higher Choir, Xavier Rudd, Rhiannon, Gina Sala and Sal Ferreras to name a few. Working with composer and orchestra director Moshe Denburg for the past 18 years, Niel is a member of his Vancouver Inter-Cultural Orchestra. The orchestra performed as part of the 2000, 2001 & 2002 West Coast Sacred Music festival finales and for the Dalai Lama at the Celebration of Peace concert in 2004.
In Victoria, Niel is also known as a darabuka or Egyptian tabla player. Under the guidance of Egyptian drummer Mohamed Sadek, he was the support drummer in the Middle Eastern group The Sahar Ensemble . The Ensemble was a regular feature for a number of years in the very active Belly Dance/Raks Sharki community of Victoria and Vancouver Island. Niel has continued to play this style of music and often accompanies dancers in concerts and workshops.
Niel has played with slide guitar, blues artist Harry Manx, performing at concerts and festivals across Canada and appears on his Juno nominated CDs "West Eats Meet" and "Mantras for Madmen". He has also been part of "Mystic Journey" evenings in Victoria which feature improvised, world music along with the poems of Rumi and Hafiz. In August of 2003, Niel also had the experience of performing with and being the co-presenter with Russill Paul at Hollyhock on Cortes Island and in Vancouver. Niel began 2005 playing at the Festival au Desert near Timbuktu, Mali with the Ottawa based Indo-folk group, Galitcha. He has also had the opportunity of recording and performing with Xavier Rudd and appears on his CD "Food in the Belly". In November of 2007, Niel performed his tabla concerto "Kusumamaya" with Trichy Sankaran at the Imagined Worlds concert presented by the Vancouver Inter-Cultural Orchestra in Vancouver. Niel is currently a member of a new world music quartet with Ken Hall, Wynn Gogol and Enrique Rivas known as SAFFRON. He also performs with David Kaetz and Alex Olson as DNA. Niel’s trio THREE WORLDS with Brad Prevedoros and Greg Joy recently released their self title CD which was recorded in Niel’s home studio.