Tabla expert Sandeep Das is victorious but regrets that Indian media pays such little attention to culture and heritage.
Tabla wizard Sandeep Das has just done India proud. Along with his group — The Silk Road Ensemble — Das has won the Grammy for Best Global Music at the Grammy awards held at the Staples Centre in LA on Sunday night.
The tabla player, whose first live performance on stage was at the age of 15 with Pt Ravi Shankar, learned to play the tabla from legendary musician Pt Kishan Maharaj in Varanasi at nine years of age. His 23-year-long career has seen him release over 40 albums, two of which were nominated for the Grammy Awards. Also proficient in the drums, Sandeep has performed at iconic international venues such as London’s Royal Albert Hall, and the Carnegie Hall and Kennedy Centre.
Also an established solo musician, he now plays and performs with World Music collecting Silk Road Ensemble, that was formed in 2000 by Grammy-winning Chinese-American cellist Yo-Yo Ma.
Speaking right after the victory in Los Angeles, an exultant Sandeep said, “I am very proud of the Grammy because I’m representing India on a global platform. This was my third Grammy nomination, and we did it this time! So yes, it feels good. I was also very happy because I was the only one on stage wearing our traditional Indian kurta-pyjama ensemble. Everyone else wore suits.”
Sandeep wonders why there is so little respect for Indian heritage in India. “I get so much love and respect out here.
I’ve performed at some of the most prestigious venues in the West and been invited for guest lectures at the most distinguished universities in America. But the Indian media has largely ignored my efforts,” he rues.
Sandeep, regarded as the most accomplished tabla exponent after Zakir Hussain, regrets the incessant focus on cinema and cricket in Indian media. “Ironically, classical heritage is dying in India while it is being celebrated in the West. The media in India wrote about Karan Johar lecturing at the Harvard Business School, but no one took notice that I was invited to teach ‘Arts In Education’ at Harvard,” he says.
“I am so proud to be holding the Grammy in my hand right now, but there is not one single Indian media person over here. I am being asked, ‘Where are the Indian journalists? Aren’t you from India?’,” says Sandeep, who has made Boston his home with wife Tripti and daughters, Sakshi and Sonakshi.
Says the proud father, “Sakshi is an Odissi dancer while Sonakshi is a tabla and golf player, just like me. I find a lot of similarity between playing the tabla and golf. They are both about hitting the ball in the right hole.”
Sandeep is not just looking at the West to foster his talents. He is a keen observer of talent in India as well. ”I’ve incepted an organization called Hum to sponsor needy musicians. We are currently looking after six visually impaired musicians from India and are interested in doing a lot more for talented young classical musicians from India. For that, however, we need the focus to be shifted away from Bollywood,” he says.