Learn From the maestro

Sandeep Das

Sandeep Das


Grammy-nominated Sandeep Das is considered one of the leading tabla players today. One of the favorite disciples of the legendary tabla maestro Pandit Kishan Maharaj ji of the Benaras Gharana, Das has carved out a niche for himself around the musical world. His concerts have taken him to major centers of music around the globe, including Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Royce Hall, Royal Albert Hall, Hollywood Bowl and the Petronas Tower Hall in Malaysia.

Sandeep has composed for and performed internationally with the Silk Road Ensemble with Yo-Yo Ma since the group’s founding in 2000. With the Ensemble, he performed at the United Nations General Assembly Hall in New York in 2008, played the BBC Proms in 2004 and 2009, and is the only Indian artist to have performed for the Opening Ceremony of the Special Olympic Games in Shanghai.

Sandeep’s debut at the age of 16 was with the legendary Pt. Ravi Shankar.

Sandeep Das in Times of India
Sandeep Das in Times of India

In India and abroad, Sandeep performs frequently with stars of Indian music such as Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma, Pandit Hari Prasad Chaurasia, Dr. L Subramaniam and Ustad Shujaat Khan, among many others. Das’s talent for music and communication has allowed him to bridge the divide between Indian and Western classical music. In 1991, on his first trip outside India, Das performed with steel drum bands in Trinidad. In 2001 he performed a work composed by Kayhan Kalhor with the New York Philharmonic under the direction of Kurt Masur.

His own compositions have combined the two genres and have received rave reviews. “Tarang” was chosen as the theme music for “Blind Sight”, a documentary about the first Everest climb by six blind climbers, and his piece “Mohini” became theme music for the Japanese TV channel NHK’s 10-episode documentary on the Silk Road.

Sandeep has recorded music on more than 30 labels, including Virgin, Sony and Makar Records. His 2003 recording with Ghazal, including Kayhan Kalhor and Shujaat Khan, was nominated for a Grammy Award, as was the Silk Road Ensemble’s 2009 album Off the Map, which included “Sulvasutra,” a piece Evan Ziporyn composed for him. His 2006 Interview on the BBC’s Destination Music is still broadcast widely in Europe today.

Sandeep Das was educated at Banaras Hindu University and is a Gold Medalist in English Literature. He began learning tabla at the age of eight from Sri Shiv Kumar Singh and at age 10 become a disciple of Pt. Kishan Maharaj ; at the age of sixteen he performed with Ravi Shankar, and subsequently with all the stars of Indian music. He was three times the All-India drumming champion and is the youngest Tabla player ever to be graded by All-India radio.

He was awarded the Most Valuable Young Musician Award by the President of India in 2004. Also a cultural and educational entrepreneur, Sandeep founded HUM (Harmony and Universality through Music), an ensemble of world-class artists whose goal is to promote global understanding through musical performance and education.

Sandeep Das appears on the Silk Road Ensemble’s albums When Strangers Meet, Beyond the Horizon, New Impossibilities and Off the Map and A Playlist Without Borders. His compositions appear on the Ensemble’s albums Beyond the Horizon and New Impossibilities.Also The only Live concert DVD of the ensemble has his Piece “Srishti”  in the album “Live From Tanglewood”!

Journey-Benaras Gharana

First Guru Purnima
First Guru Purnima
A tradition of tribute to the Guru

Sandeep’s father noticed his talent in tabla and took him to his first guru Shiv Kumar Singh where he spent one year in training. He used to catch the beat of songs and play it on anything he could find like books, table etc. Being a big fan of Pt. Kishanji Maharaj of Benaras Gharana, he sought and requested the legendary tabla maestro to teach his son.
Sandeep recalls, “Guruji said he doesn’t teach everybody so first of all he will check if I am deserving. My father asked what he meant? Guru Ji replied-if it’s a small vessel it doesn’t matter if you fill it with tap water or take it to the river. It depends on the size of the container how much water it will contain. So I want to see if his mind is expandable or not. He first of all asked me to change certain things-I was playing in a certain manner and he said now can you play it this way? I did and after a 5 minute conversation with my father he suddenly stopped in the middle and said to me-now play what you were playing originally and I couldn’t. I had completely forgotten and only remembered what he had taught me. He was very happy and said –‘He has tabla in his blood and I will teach him.’

Sandeep learnt tabla under the Guru for 11 years and went on to become one of his favorite disciples. For the first few years, he would travel from Patna to Benaras every Friday evening, stay overnight at his guru’s home and then return on Sunday. He would never spend a single vacation at home. Later his father took a transfer to Varanasi, so that his musical education could continue unhindered.

Under Pt. Kishanji Maharaj, Sandeep not only learnt tabla but also valuable lessons in life.
“When I was 9 or 10 years old, we were practicing in a room and Guru ji got very mad at us. He said why don’t you people clean the room before you sit down to practice and he asked me to clean the room. I had never done it at home so I couldn’t sweep the floor nicely. He took the broom from my hand and taught me how to sweep the floor and mentioned to me that if you sweep the floor nicely you can also be a good tabla player. Words which at that time didn’t make sense to me. How did sweeping the floor relate to tabla but as I grew up I realized that the other things he was teaching us to do, even doing the smallest jobs perfectly, made the toughest jobs seem easy and that would also spill over in out playing.”

Pt. Kishanji Maharaj always discouraged his students from copying him. He would say, “As long as you are a Xerox you’ll never have any value. The moment you start playing, everybody should know which gharana you come from, but you must always have your own personality, your own thoughts imbibed in what you are playing.” Unlike many others, he advised his students to listen to every tabla player, but said, “Even if you like something, don’t try to play like them. Make it your own.It should sound that its Sandeep Das playing and not Sandeep Das copying or mimicking somebody else.”

Debut Concert with Pt. Ravi Shankar
Debut Concert with Pt. Ravi Shankar


Under his Guru’s guidance, Sandeep debuted on stage with legendary Sitar maestro, Pt. Ravi Shankar. He also won the national drumming championship thrice and became the youngest drummer ever to be graded by All-India radio.

In 1990, Sandeep moved to Delhi to continue his career as a professional tabla player.


Times of Oman | Song of the Silk Road
Times of Oman | Song of the Silk Roadhttp://www.timesofoman.com/News/Article-29094.aspxRepresenting the fine rhythmic traditions of India, top-flight tabla player and composer, Sandeep Das led the ensemble in Tarang, a piece he created ‘to bring common elements of rhythm from the Silk Road countries together’ in ways he imagined merchants and travellers interacted in days of old.

Times of Oman | Song of the Silk Road

Silk Road Ensemble Celebrates Cultural Harmony
The diverse musicality of the Silk Road Ensemble—some hyper-traditional, some simply hybrid—mirrors the endless variety along the ancient Silk Road itself. Indian tabla player Sandeep Das loves finding common ground with his colleagues.

“It’s the joy and the trust that help us do things together that seemingly seem different on the surface, but are definitely inherently one and the same thing,” Das said.

Silk Road Ensemble Celebrates Cultural Harmony

Verrassend samenspel van tabla-speler Sandeep Das ... (Gent) - Het Nieuwsblad
Verrassend samenspel van tabla-speler Sandeep Das … (Gent) – Het Nieuwsbladhttp://www.nieuwsblad.be/article/detail.aspx?articleid=blmco_20131128_001Fascinating sounds of instruments that we do not often encounter prevailed here, especially the tabla certain rhythm of the whole performance . We did not know that the combination of a wind instrument ( ney ) , a drum ( tabla ) and three string instruments ( kemencke , qanoen and sarangi ) could be so beautiful It was a unique concert that the bridge to the next edition of Europalia , where Turkey will be central.

Surprising interplay of tabla player Sandeep Das and ney Player Kudsi Ergüner

Sandeep Das: 'Angst voor elkaar vervangen door het plezier van het samenspelen' | MO*
Sandeep Das: ‘Angst voor elkaar vervangen door het plezier van het samenspelen’ | MO*http://www.mo.be/opinie/sandeep-das-angst-voor-elkaar-vervangen-door-het-plezier-van-het-samenspelenMaybe people do not even see it, but I cause quite a ripple in the water . I have no idea how far it will reach , but it is certainly the intention to continue .

Interview of Sandeep Das in Mondiaal Nieuws

New York Times Review:After 15 Years, Still a Mix of Dance and Dare

The New York Times Music Review: After 15 Years, Still a Mix of Dance and Darehttp://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/18/arts/music/silk-road-ensemble-celebrates-at-carnegie-hall.html?_r=0The breathless duet by his solo cellist Mike Block with the tabla player Sandeep Das during Vijay Iyer’s “Playlist for an Extreme Occasion” — from the ensemble’s new CD, “A Playlist Without Borders” — was another highlight of the evening. Half dance, half dare, it exemplified much of the interaction between the musicians, which turns any performance into a visual spectacle…

After 15 Years, Still a Mix of Dance and Dare

Los Angeles Music Review: THE SILK ROAD ENSEMBLE (Valley Performing Arts Center)

Los Angeles Music Review: THE SILK ROAD ENSEMBLE (Valley Performing Arts Center)http://www.stageandcinema.com/2013/10/25/silk-road-ensemble-vpac/The intersection in this case is Indian (Das) and Persian (Kalhor). So it was not just a playful competition among players but a conversation between two cultures. Kalhor played…

Los Angeles Music Review: THE SILK ROAD ENSEMBLE (Valley Performing Arts Center)

The Silk Road Ensemble: The Santa Barbara Independent
The Silk Road Ensemble: The Santa Barbara Independenthttp://www.independent.com/news/2013/oct/28/silk-road-ensemble/Block’s second solo came after the intermission and after star turns by Kayhan Kalhor and Sandeep Das, who played a lovely and intuitive improvisation. Block took the rather daring challenge of following Kalhor by improvising his own cello accompaniment to Das’s tablas, and it rocked.

The Silk Road Ensemble: The Santa Barbara Independent

Silk Road Ensemble Drones On : San Francisco Classical Voice
Silk Road Ensemble Drones On : San Francisco Classical Voicehttps://www.sfcv.org/reviews/cal-performances/silk-road-ensemble-drones-onOne of the highlights of Sunday’s concert was the entirely improvised duet between Kalhor and Das, named Jugalbandi, which is a term from Indian classical music that refers to a…

Silk Road Ensemble Drones On : San Francisco Classical Voice

Superconductor Classical and Opera: Concert Review: A Globe Girdled in Silk
Superconductor Classical and Opera: Concert Review: A Globe Girdled in Silkhttp://super-conductor.blogspot.in/2013/10/concert-review-globe-girdled-in-silk.htmlTwo encores followed, a thrilling sheng vs. tabla duel between Mr. Das and Mr. Wu and a raucous whole-ensemble blast through “Miserlou,” the old surf guitar favorite by Dick Dale and the Del-Tones. It was a thrilling, kinetic end to this whirlwind journey around the globe.

Concert Review: A Globe Girdled in Silk

Exploratory musicians turn inward - Music - The Boston Globe
Exploratory musicians turning inwards – Music – The Boston Globehttp://www.bostonglobe.com/arts/music/2013/03/04/trio-debut-exploratory-musicians-turning-inward/HCltD9xLj1uTWtBf58pJIJ/story.htmlThe new ensemble Eviyan has as its core three independent-minded composer-performers: Evan Ziporyn (clarinet), Iva Bittova (vocals, violin), and Gyan Riley (guitar). … The performance also benefited from the presence of two guests, the alert bassist Blake Newman and the tablaist Sandeep Das, whose virtuosic playing injected discreet surges of rhythmic adrenaline…

In trios debut exploratory musicians turn inward




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Silk Road Outreach Program
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