Argos Christmas advert: Meet drummer Nandi – star of the ad
She is quite simply a drumming sensation. Even in the back of her parents’ car, nine-year-old Nandi Bushell can’t stop tapping along to the radio. Now the musical prodigy’s performance on the year’s most enchanting Christmas advert – drumming along to Simple Minds hit Don’t You (Forget About Me) for the Argos commercial – is winning legions of new fans and the hearts of TV viewers. Having picked a set of toy drums as a reward for doing well in a maths test when she was five, Nandi has been obsessed with the instrument ever since. She practises every day before and after school and hopes to make a career in the music business.
“I saw a drum kit and I said, ‘That’s what I want’,” explains Nandi. “I knew right away. When we got home Dad played on his guitar and we jammed along. But in about two weeks I was getting better than him!”
Her software development manager father John admits: “She had no trouble picking up the beat and rhythm right from the age of five. She had a natural talent, so we arranged tuition and she just gets better and better.’’
Videos on social media of her drumming along to Nirvana, Prince, Rage Against the Machine and the Red Hot Chili Peppers have won her 80,000 followers, including a host of famous musicians. The miniature rocker’s recent take on Nirvana’s grunge hit In Bloom enjoyed nearly 10 million views on Twitter.
But Nandi, from Ipswich, is completely unfazed by her new-found celebrity – even jamming with musician Lenny Kravitz before a gig.
The Argos advert features a little girl, Nandi, and her doting dad.
He is played by professional actor and drummer Omar Abidi of the band Fightstar. Thumbing through the Argos catalogue, Omar notices his daughter has put a ring around a page featuring a drum kit.
Suddenly, the kitchen table splits open and he finds himself in front of the very same child-size kit – living out his rock star dreams.
Seconds later, he’s playing along to the Eighties Simple Minds classic, Don’t You (Forget About Me).
However, the star of the feel-good advert is the little girl in red pyjamas, played by Nandi, who hears Omar’s playing and appears on the stairs. She is spellbound… then, suddenly, another little drum kit appears next to him. Nandi slides down the banister and joins her on-screen dad for a drumming duet, hitting every beat as Simple Minds singer Jim Kerr sings his heart out. Suddenly, the pair are centre stage at a concert in front of an adoring crowd.
At home, John, 38, says: “She just loves playing drums and learning new techniques and skills. She takes it all in her stride, but doing the Argos advert was very special.”
Nandi had auditions with four drumming dads before Omar, 38, was chosen as her on-screen partner.
The chemistry between them was obvious and he discovered she could easily keep up with his fast drumming. Filming took place in Bulgarian capital Sofia earlier this year, providing another great experience for Nandi and her family.
“It was really good in the studio,” says Nandi. “We rehearsed for about a day and then they explained to me what I had to do. It was just good fun. I really liked jamming with Omar.”
Real-life dad John and his wife Lungile, 34, send both their children – Nandi and younger brother Thomas, six, who plays guitar – to a local rock club to learn more songs and practise their skills.
Nandi, a huge fan of the Jack Black movie School of Rock, has already reached grade six on the drums and expects to pass top grade eight before she is 11.
For her mother Lungile, who was born in South Africa and has Zulu heritage, watching her develop has been a joy. Lungile works as a supporter for battered women, an emotionally draining but rewarding job.
“It is always very lively at home,” says John. “Nandi could play the drums all day long. She just loves having the sticks in her hands. We are both delighted with her success.’’
The couple met 14 years ago while Lungile was working in Britain and later lived in South Africa, where their two children were born. John’s job brought them back to England seven years ago.
Even before the advert, Nandi was already gaining an international reputation through her Instagram and YouTube performances.
But the Argos commercial has propelled her to a new level. One of those reaching out to the youngster is Simple Minds’ own drummer, Cherisse Osei, said to be the best female drummer in rock.
“Cherisse asked to meet up and so I went to a drum shop in Wembley last Saturday and jammed with her for a bit,” says Nandi. “She said my drumming in the advert was good and she wanted to see me play.
“It was amazing seeing her and watching her play. She was so nice to me. At the end she gave me some drumsticks and signed them. For me it was a really special day. One day I want to be as good as her.”
US musician Ahmir Thompson, known professionally as Questlove, drummer for the award-winning hip hop band The Roots, also contacted Nandi through Instagram and sent her a new set of drums to help her perfect her talents.
When US rapper Anderson Paak played at the O2 Academy in Birmingham earlier this year with his group, The Free Nationals, Nandi had an opportunity to drum while he sang. Lenny Kravitz has also had an impromptu jamming session with her at the 02 in London before a show.
Nandi, who previously appeared in a John Lewis ad playing Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody alongside three other talented youngsters, gets hundreds of thousands of hits on social media.
Her parents have been sharing videos of her drumming since she was six. Where it will take her is anyone’s guess, but even at this tender age she has shown a rare talent. But they are adamant her new-found fame must not affect school.
John said: “Nandi’s schooling is most important. If more opportunities come up they need to fit in.”
He added: “Nandi loves to perform, it is her happy place. She takes everything in her stride, she finds it all really fun but I don’t think she realised just how much fun it was going to be.”
John and Lungile are now faced with a tricky dilemma of what to get their children for Christmas.
While there is likely to be a musical theme on the lists to Santa, Nandi already has several drum kits and admirers keep giving her cymbals. So it may not be such an easy year for Father Christmas!
“All I want to do is play the drums and make people happy,” says Nandi.
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