Tabla Maestro Sandeep Das Who Walked Away With The Grammy In The Global Music Category In Conversation With Subhash K Jha
What are the best reactions you have received to the Grammy from India and in the West?
Shubha Didi ( Shubha Mudgal ) has been rooting for me since she heard about the nomination. She has been messaging, twitting and talking to me constantly. She is so happy. And I am just grateful to have known her the longest in my musical journey. She is my favorite sister and super star singer. Amaan bhai ( son of Ustad Amjad Ali Khan ) and Ayaan bhai have also wished me very sweetly. So has their mother Subhalxmi Khan ji. Looking forward to speaking with Ustad ji soon. Some Tabla players have also shared their joy in various ways.For the West too this is a formal recognition of the Silk Road Ensemble in many ways though Yo-Yo Ma is such a super star.We have been congratulated by a wide strata of the western world.
Tell me about your journey from India to the US?
My first trip to the USA was in 1990 with Shujaat Khan and thereafter I have been playing here regularly since then. It was about 18 years back that I was invited to play with Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble with The New York Philharmonic. That started a new journey in my life where I experienced a new musical experience in the western classical world also opened my life to music from other parts of the world like Azerbaijan, Iran, Syria etc. It opened my eyes to the fact that nothing that I thought till then was only mine was actually only mine , rather it is all part of a shared heritage. Nothing grows in isolation.
Who is your biggest influence?
Yo-Yo himself has been the biggest influence in this half of my career. He is for me the greatest human being that I have met in this life. With him I am learning to be human first. Every travel and concert tour , performance I learn something that changes my life in the most positive way. For the last 18 years I have now played and performed with some of the biggest classical orchestras of the world and at the most prestigious concert venues for music.
Coincidentally on the same night when you won the Grammy Dev Patel won the BAFTA award. Sense of cultural pride?
I think it is a victory for our culture and heritage. Lots of Bollywoodpersonalities are making their presence felt in the West. We Indians with our classical heritage are outnumbered!
This was your third Grammy nomination. Quite an achievement for an Indian musician. Do you think your struggle for recognition has been manifold because of where you come from?
I am really grateful for what I have , yet since I don’t come from a family or lineage of musicians it is always difficult to establish yourself. Unlike others who start from 10 you have to start from scratch but that makes me very proud that wherever I am today it is due to the blessings of my Guru Pt. Kishan Maharaj and Shiv Kr. SIngh , my parents and blessings of everyone else. And Yo-Yo Ma has been the biggest influence in how I see this world and react to it more than anything else for the past 18 years.
How do you feel when you are compared with Tabla maestro Zakir Hussain?
There is no comparison between him and me. He is our Idol and a super star. I am merely a fan and learner. Have learnt all my life from people like him. Kumar Bose, Anindo Chaterjee, Swapan Choudhury.
Zakir Saab, Anoushka Shankar, Vishwa Mohan Bhatt … how do you react to your peers and colleagues making such a strong global impact?
The More the Merrier! We all learn from one another and from the paths that each one charts.
Tell me about your future plans?
I just wrote a new piece called King Ashoka on a new commission for the Silk Road Ensemble which we premiered in a few South Asian Countries. Looking forward to playing it in March in Boston and then touring to the middle east. I have also been invited to speak at the prestigious Art Abu Dhabhi summit by the Canales Project. I am continuing to teach students from diverse ethnicity as China, Japan , Usa and of course Indian. A very close to my heart is our organization HUM. Where me ad my friends are supporting 6b visually impaired children to learn music. Our support from German firm Lanxess is coming to an end so have to start begging for funds all over again.
How much do you see the Trump regime affecting your future in the America?
In difficult times artists need to work harder. Make more art and spread love. Love will win.
Super proud and happy. We can only get better! But there is much more to India than just Bollywood and Cricket. Our Classical arts have already been there and see it all yet our media doesn’t care. Where are the pages on art and culture in our newspapers? Atleast in the Doordarshan and AIR days the classical arts were given a substantial importance but where is it now in the private media? Wouldn’t it be nice to have them share some responsibility again?