Through an opening of heart and good fortune, Marcus met one of India's great master tabla drummers, Ustad Diam Ali Qadri and the guru-student story began . . .Marcus Wise is a top-tier tabla player, poetic and genre-bending. An ambassador of Eastern classical music, he makes Indian sounds accessible to American music fans, collaborating with folk, jazz, gospel and pop artists.
He has performed and recorded with such artists as The Doors’ John Densmore, sitar player David Whetstone, R&B singer Alexander O’Neal, classical Indian musician Nirmala Rajasekar, jazz artist Anthony Cox, cellist David Darling, sarod player Bruce Hamm and pop producer Jimmy Jam (Janet Jackson, Chaka Khan, Mary J. Blige).
One of the first profesisonal tabla players in the United States, Marcus has been playing for over 35 years. Born and raised in Minnesota, Marcus left home at 19, following the death of his brother in Vietnam and his father a year later. He hitchhiked to New York City, flew to Paris and spent some time in Spain before traveling to North Africa, Persia and India-- an experience that changed his life. Marcus returned to India in 1975 to apprentice with tabla player Ustad Diam Ali Qadri. They had met when Ustad was a visiting artist at the University of Minnesota, and Marcus was invited to study and live at his home in Jaipur.
It has been 35 years since Marcus first went to India to learn to play the tablas and 37 since he first started studying percussion with Celso Maldonado in Minneapolis. Since then, he has toured around the world, performing in front of the Dalai Lama in 1989, when he received his Nobel Peace Prize, and making notable appearances on MTV (the 2000 reunion of The Doors) and VH1’s Storyteller Series. Marcus has made recordings with world-renowned guitarists Dean Magraw and Steve Tibbetts and has accompanied Minnesota Poet Laureate Robert Bly and Coleman Barks on their spoken word projects.
Although there were no musicians in his family, Marcus’ father and brother were both writers. Sharing their affinity for the spoken word, Marcus has worked extensively with poets and playwrights. Strongly connected to the Minneapolis arts community, he has composed music for the Guthrie Theater’s 1991 production of Medea and played for the opening of the Walker Art Center in 2005. Marcus still makes Minneapolis his home and continues to perform, record and teach tablas privately from his home.