SoNA welcomes Indian drum master Sandeep Das



Northwest Arkansas Symphony:

“Continental Connections”

WHEN — 7:30 p.m. on February 26

WHERE — Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville

COST – $35 – $57


FYI — The concert also includes Grażyna Bacewicz’s Overture for Orchestra and Schumann’s Symphony No. 2.

Fans of orchestral music may not be familiar with the name of tabla master Sandeep Das or the music of Dinuk Wijeratne’s Tabla Concerto. But on September 26, they will learn “that the tabla can speak – almost as if it had a language”, says Das, and that Wijeratne’s concerto is “one of the best works of the 21st century”, according to SoNA Maestro Paul Haas.

Das will perform with the Northwest Arkansas Symphony Orchestra under Haas, adding the Walton Arts Center to other high-profile venues like Carnegie Hall and the Royal Albert Hall and SoNA musicians to a roster that includes Yo-Yo Ma and Paquito D’. Rivera.

“I know we are going to hear a lot more about Dinuk Wijeratne in the years to come, [too]says Haas, “and I’m thrilled to be able to bring this music to you. »

Das grew up in the small town of Patna, India.

“How I got into music is a fun story,” he says. “One day, when I was about 8 years old, I was expelled from school with a note from my teacher. I had disturbed the class by banging on my desk, and when I was asked to stop , I started tapping my foot! They suggested that I be taken to a doctor.

“Fortunately, I had a smart father, and instead of taking me to a doctor, he gave me my first pair of tabla, and my lessons started the same evening.”

Das was quickly immersed in the Indian drumming tradition that dates back to the 1700s.

“My guru, Pt. Kishan Maharaj, was a legend of North Indian classical music, in the same way that Bach, Beethoven and Mozart are revered as legends of Western classical music,” he explains. . “I learned the tabla in the traditional Indian guru-shishya parampara, a system where the shishya, or student, lives with his guru (teacher) as a member of the household while he learns.

“For 12 years I lived with my guru in Benares, an ancient Indian city known as a historical and contemporary center of intellectual, spiritual and artistic learning,” Das continues. “Music was taught to me not just as an art form, but as a way of life. Guruji taught when and how he wanted. I even learned sitting in the garden, riding and on stage with him during of a concert.”

The turning point for Das came around the time he was completing the equivalent of his undergraduate studies in India.

“I passed an exam that qualified students for one of the best management training schools in our country,” he recalls. “To my surprise, I got great results and got an invitation. When the results came in, you had to decide that day if you were packing your bags to leave.

“All of a sudden, I was faced with a huge decision – would I go to this institution that almost guaranteed a top management position, or did I want to pursue music, which had no assurance of a stable or successful life Not knowing what to do, I called my father and all he got was a very simple question: “What will make you happy?”

“In my heart, I knew what the answer was, and that was the start of the next chapter of my journey.”

Das says that up until then he had balanced both his formal academic education and his “side-by-side” musical pursuits.

“I decided to try and focus solely on music for a year, and see what would happen. If that didn’t work out, I would give up music completely and fall back on my studies and a lifestyle. more conventional,” he says. . “With that in mind, I took my guru’s permission and moved to New Delhi. find another career to pay for. But, as if God was testing me, just as I was about to quit, a gig or gig came along that kept me going a little longer.

“Since I had 12 years of solid musical training behind me from my guru, every gig I played left an impression that eventually resulted in more gigs,” Das adds. “Slowly my name began to move not only in the mouths of musicians and presenters, but also in entire musical circles on a local, state and eventually national level. One thing led to another, month after month, years to years. , And here I am.”

Das says the concerto he will perform with SoNA is “one of my favorite pieces that was written for the tabla. Classical North Indian music, which is the tradition where the tabla comes from, has a rich heritage of melody, rhythm and improvisation that is over 6,000 years old. The concerto is an amazing blend of this world and the world of Western classical music.

“There are conversations between the tabla and the first violinist, the tabla and the drums, and many others on the side”, he describes. “Although most of the composition is fixed, it still gives me the incredible freedom to improvise, embellish and color the piece according to my inspiration at the time. At the same time, it also leaves me with responsibilities; I can’t go crazy It’s a delicate balance of improvisation, reaction and response to the voice of the orchestra as we move together in conversation with each other.

“If you want to know what I mean, you should come to the concert,” Das concludes. “Beyond that, I have always found great joy in sharing my instrument and my music with others, and I hope everyone will enjoy getting a glimpse of a very unique and diverse musical tradition that ‘they might not have met before.’

Sandeep Das says he moved to Newton, Massachusetts about a decade ago and lives there with his wife. One of his daughters works in Washington, DC, he adds, and the other is currently in college in New York. (Courtesy picture)

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