Let’s not go the Indian winner of a Grammy unnoticed amid the Hollywood glamor of the Grammy Awards 2017. Though legendary singer George Michael’s electrifying performance and Beyoncé’s baby bump stole the show with social butterflies in the event, the only Indian winner stood out gloriously and looked his best in a traditional silk kurta.
Sandeep Das, a noted Indian American percussionist from Boston, won a Grammy in the World Music category as part of the music album ‘Sing Me Home’ recorded by Silk Road Ensemble, an American-Chinese group of artists. Sitarist Anoushka Shankar, who lost out the Grammy to him, was another nominee in the same category. A gold medalist in English literature from Banaras Hindu University, Sandeep Das made his stage debut with none other than Sitar maestro Pundit Ravi Shankar in India in 1986.
Sandeep Das’ initiation into Indian music at the age of 8 is an interesting story worth knowing. A teacher of Sandeep’s school complained that Sandeep disturbed the whole class by tapping the desk with his hands even during study hours. The complaint was a blessing in disguise for Sandeep Das. His father bought him a pair of tabla and put him under the tutelage of Pundit Shiv Kumar Singh instead of scolding him.
After the first year of training, Sandeep’s father approached Pundit Kishan Maharaj in Varanasi, a renowned master of the Banaras Gharana in those times, to bless his son with lessons on tabla. The tabla maestro examined Sandeep in various ways to check if he deserved to be his disciple. On successful testing, he euphorically said, “Sandeep has tabla in his blood and I will teach him.” That’s when the 9-year-old Sandeep Das’ embarked on a journey to make it big in the world of Indian music, and his journey still continues.
A lot of dedication and perseverance has gone into the making of what Sandeep Das is today. For instance, he used to travel from Patna to Banaras every Friday evening, stay overnight there and return home on Sunday for the first few years while training under Pundit Kishan Maharaj. He never spent a single holiday at home until they relocated to Varanasi.
In 1991, Sandeep Das shifted to Delhi to scale his career as a professional percussionist. His first foreign tour took place the same year. He wowed the audience, including Indian Americans, with his performance in USA during the tour. He also performed in Trinidad and Tobago. He also won the national drumming championship three times.
In the initial years of his ascending career, he shared the stage with such eminent figures of Indian classical music as Shubha Mudgal, Pundit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, and Ustad Shujaat Khan. Gradually, he became a known face in the popular music festivals of India and international concerts abroad. Today, Sandeep is recognized for his compositions in Indian and western genres of music.
Not many people know that Tarang, the theme music for Blind Sight, a documentary on the first Everest climb by six blind climbers, is a masterpiece from Sandeep’s repertoire. His first nomination for a Grammy in the World Music Category was for his recording ‘The Rain’ in 2003.
Dallas Concert at Montgomery Arts Theatre on February 25-27 is one of Sandeep Das’ upcoming concerts in USA. He will also perform at Harvard University on March 1.
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