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Among contemporary Indian Classical Musicians, Sandeep Das is one of the few artists to actively compose not only for the instruments of his native country, but the instruments of the West and countless other countries throughout the world. His innovative style often draws on the rhythm and grooves of the Tabla compositions he grew up learning, the traditional and folk music of India, and his deep-rooted memories and heritage, bringing all of these to life in a new context by drawing on ideas encountered across the globe. The results of these inspired creations have received critical acclaim, international recognition, and continue to dazzle audiences all over the world in frequent tours and live performances.  


Read on to learn more about each of his major compositions!

For inquiries regarding commissions, please contact us via our online form

Transforming Taal and Tihais


Vaishnavi: The Invincible Woman (2018)

Commissioned by the (Smithsonian) Freer|Sackler from Silkroad in honor of Julian Raby through a generous gift from Jeffrey P. Cunard. 

Performers: Sandeep Das (Tabla), Wu Tong (Sheng), and Jeffrey Beecher (Bass)

    Venue:  Meyer Auditorium @ the Freer|Sackler in Washington, D.C

       Date:  May 18, 2018   


Program Notes

Vaishnavi was inspired by a ninth century statue of Queen Sembiyan Mahadevi as the Goddess Parvati on display at the Smithsonian Freer|Sackler galleries in Washington, D.C (pictured on the right)She is the female aspect of the Hindu god Vishnu, and represents the primordial cosmic energy, the invincible feminine creative force, and the complete embodiment of Vishnu’s power.

The piece begins with an alapor improvisatory melodic solo, between the Sheng (Chinese Mouth Organ) and Bass that soon transitions into a powerful melody set in the 10-beat Indian rhythm cycle, Jhaptaal. An explosive tabla solo ensues, and the energy of the group culminates in a climactic tihai, an iconic Hindustani rhythmic figure that repeats three times and lands on a downbeat. 


The following recording features the debut performance with

Yo-Yo Ma & the Silk Road Ensemble in Washington, D.C. 

King Ashoka

King Ashoka (2016)

Commissioned by Yo-Yo Ma & the Silk Road Ensemble

Program Notes

King Ashoka is a musical depiction of the Mauryan emperor Ashoka’s tumultuous journey from a violent, destructive, and blind power-seeking warlord to a peace- spreading Buddhist. The story in this piece, however, is told backwards. It begins with the harmonious sounds of singing bowls and chanting that evoke the atmosphere of a peaceful temple, which slowly transform into a mournful cello solo representing the ruler’s lament over the destruction he has caused, and eventually give way to the chaos of warfare, here characterized by explosive percussive passages and complex tabla compositions.

The piece makes heavy use of Indian rhythmic concepts such as the 7-beat cycle Rupak and the 10-beat Jhaptaal. Equally unique is that it features several tabla compositions which have been arranged in such a way that while the tabla player is vocalizing the composition, percussionists will accent his speech with precisely-timed hits on their instruments, and then eventually join him rhythmically as he plays the piece on the drums.


The below recording features the a performance during the Silk Road Ensemble tour of Asia in 2017. 


Sandeep Das (Tabla), Kojiro Umezaki (Shakuhachi), Johnny Gandlesman (Violin), Colin Jacobsen (Violin), Shane Shanahan, (Percussion), and Joe Gramely (Percussion)

Venue:  National Center for the Performing Arts, Beijing

If You Shall Return

If You Shall Return (2016)

A collaborative composition with Kojiro Umezaki that appears on "Sing Me Home", the album for which the Silk Road Ensemble won the 2016 Grammy for Best World Music ALbum

Program Notes

If You Shall Return was inspired by both Japanese and Indian river songs about love

and the longing felt during prolonged periods of separation. 


Sandeep Das (Tabla), Kojiro Umezaki (Shakuhachi), Johnny Gandlesman (Violin), Colin Jacobsen (Violin), Shane Shanahan, (Percussion), and Joe Gramely (Percussion)

Mohini (2006)

Commissioned by the Carnegie Foundation and SILKROAD for the NHK Japan TV Station

Appears as the theme music for their 10 episode documentary on the Silk Road (2010)

Program Notes

Mohini was inspired by an eleventh century statue of the goddess Mohini (pictured on the right), a female avatar of the Hindu deity Vishnu, on display at the Delhi National Museum in India. The story goes that Vishnu took the form of a beautiful women to lure the stolen elixir of immortality from the vengeful Asuras (demons) so that it could be returned to its rightful owners, the Devas (Gods). She is also associated with maya, or divine illusion.

Performered/Arranged:  Yo-Yo Ma (Cello)


Performers: Sandeep Das (Tabla), Yo-Yo Ma (Cello), Colin Jacobsen (Violin), Jhonny Gandelsmann (Violin),  Nick Cords (Viola), Jeffrey Beecher (Bass), Shane Shanahan, (Percussion), Mark Suter (Percussion), Alim Qasimov (Vocals), Gulia Mashurova (Harp)


Srishti (2005)

Commissioned by the Silk Road Ensemble for a residency at Rhode Island School of Design


Program Notes

The inspiration for Srishti was uncovered during a residency of the Silk Road Ensemble at Rhode Island School of Design, when Sandeep Das witnessed a workshop where students were asked to look at a statue of the god Nataraja (pictured here) and paint, on a blank canvas, their personal interpretation of the image.

"Out of the initial chaos, a representative image emerged. I thought–– what would happen if I gave an empty musical canvas to my friends and colleagues in the form of rhythm? The result was Srishti."

– Sandeep Das

Nataraja, an aspect of Shiva, is the cosmic dancer believed by Hindu legend to have created the universe with the sound of his drum, and his eternal dance is said to simultaneously renew and destroy the very fabric of reality.

Srishti has been toured extensively, and in 2008 it was performed at the United Nations General Assembly Hall for the annual United Nations Day Concert. 

Inspired by these dual manifestations of creation, Srishti seeks to evoke a sense of primordial awakening through its increasingly complex rhythmic framework. As the sound of drums becomes ever more present, rhythm cycles based on the 14-beat Taal Dhamaar, 12-beat Ektaal, and 8-beat Keherwa take form to fuel its chaotic energy and growing excitement.

Performers: Sandeep Das (Tabla), Shane Shanahan (Doumbek), Mark Suter (Bongos), Joseph Grameley (Toms), and Dong-Won Kim (Jang-go)


Tarang (2002)

Commissioned by Yo-Yo Ma for the 36th annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival (2002)

Used as background music in the documentary "Blind Sight" (2008)

Program Notes

Meaning literally "currents" in Hindi, Tarang is the spellbinding tale of human tenacity and determination within, through, and against the ceaseless rhythmic flow of life. 


The piece begins with the hauntingly beautiful melodies of the Indian Raag Kirwani set to the 6 beat rhythm cycle Dadra. A series of percussion solos emerge to complement, soon cascading into a melodic solo and the 16 beat rhythm cycle Teentaal. Mounting energy culminates in a flood of isorhythm, polyrhythm, tihais, and exalted solos that have never failed to bring audiences leaping to their feet. 

"The infectious finale, Sandeep Das’ Tarang ended in euphoria. The seemingly never ending applause obliged the ensemble to give three encores."

The Inquirer, Singapore

Tarang has been toured at notable venues such as the Royal Albert Hall in London for the BBC Proms (8/15/04); Carnegie Hall, New York (4/10/05); The Kennedy Center, Washington, D.C (4/11/05); and Chicago Symphony Hall (4/8/05). 


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