Rhythm of tabla born in Bihar

Patna boy wins Grammy for Indian classical & world music fusion

By Dipak Mishra in Patna
  • Published 14.02.17
Sandeep Das (in kurta) exults with his team after winning the Best World Music Album for Sing Me Home at the Grammy Awards in Los Angeles on Sunday night. (AFP)

Patna, Feb. 13: When Sandeep Das was just eight years old and studying in St Xavier's High School in Patna, his father Kashi Nath Das, a postal department employee, received a note from one of his teachers.

"The teacher complained that Sandeep was always trying to create music on his desk with his hands and his father should take him to a doctor. The teacher said Sandeep was always disturbing the class and never concentrated on studies. Sandeep's father, however, did not take him to a doctor. He purchased a tablaand brought him to me," said Shiv Kumar Singh, a tabla player based in Patna.

That was the beginning of the musical journey of Sandeep, 46, who won the Best World Music Album with Yo-Yo Ma for The Silk Road Ensemble - Sing Me Home - at the 59th Grammy Awards in Los Angeles last night. Sing Me Home is a fusion of Indian classical and world music.

Sandeep's first teacher, Shiv Kumar Singh, now 73, knew the boy would make it big someday.

"I did not admit him immediately when his father brought him to me. I asked Sandeep to replicate me on the tabla. He replicated it at the first go. It takes almost a month for anyone to do that. I had told his father that the boy will be renowned nationally one day. Little could I gauge that he would make it this big internationally," said Singh, who is in touch with his pupil he taught for four years till Sandeep moved to Varanasi to learn the craft under late Pandit Kishan Maharaj.

Tablaplayer Raj Kumar Nahar, 50, who knows Sandeep since his childhood, said the Grammy winner showed early signs of excellence.

"Sandeep was so impressive that late Pandit Kishan Maharaj tied him a ganda (thread) when he was just 13 (a ganda is tied by a guru when he is convinced that his student has reached a level of excellence)," he said, adding: "Don't forget Sandeep's debut was with Pandit Ravi Shankar,"

Sandeep's last performance in Patna was in June 2015 at the Bharatiya Nritya Kala Mandir in memory of his guru Maharaj.

Originally from Chandannagar (Chandernagore) in Bengal, Sandeep's family shifted to Patna in the 70s.

Though Patna is the hometown of Sandeep, he used to flit between the Bihar capital and Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh during his schooldays to learn the tabla from Kishan Maharaj during his off days. After schooling he shifted to Banaras Hindu University. His father took a transfer to Varanasi for the sake of Sandeep.

"Sandeep graduated with English honours (first class) from BHU but preferred to pursue tablaplaying as a profession and shifted to Delhi," said Gautam Das, his elder brother who is based in Ranchi.

Immediately after winning the Grammy yesterday, Sandeep rang up his relatives, including Gautam. "He was partying all night in Los Angeles. He said it was a tribute to Indian classical music," said Gautam.

In Delhi, Sandeep performed with the best-known classical artists such as Amjad Ali Khan, Shubha Mudgal, Shiv Kumar Sharma and Hari Prasad Chaurasia. "He was very close to singer Subha Mudgal. She is the one who tweeted first about Sandeep's Grammy win," said Gautam.

Sandeep moved to Boston, US, where he has been living for the past four years. He found recognition in the US and got favourable reviews for his performances in leading newspapers there.

He has been teaching his art in many colleges and universities in the US. "It makes him sad that he had to go abroad to bring recognition for Indian classical music," said a relative of his, hoping that Sandeep will visit India soon to share the joys of his international recognition.