From playing tabla on the school desk of Patna to walking up the big stage at the Staples Center in Los Angeles to collect the Grammy Awards, Indian tabla player Sandeep Das, 46, has travelled a long and distinguished journey.
“Sing Me Home”, an album which has contribution from Patna-born Das, won the Best World Music Album at the 59th Grammy Awards on Sunday. Das is part of Silk Road Ensemble, a collaborative effort by Chinese-born American Yo-Yo Ma to bring together performers and composers from more than 20 countries.
Das’ journey has not been easy.
“As a schoolchild, he would travel from Patna to Varanasi by train on weekends for his tabla classes with Pt Kishan Maharaj,” said septuagenarian Shiv Kumar Singh, who was Das’ first guru.
“Das first came to me as a seven-year-old. In order to assess, I asked him to repeat after me the first ‘mantra bol’ on tabla — ta, ta, ta. He did it almost as good as me. I immediately knew the child was meant to go places, and look where he has reached now,” said an ebullient Singh.
He reminisced how under his tutelage for four years the boy blossomed as a tabla player before finally moving on to take lessons under Pt Maharaj of Varanasi.
Ashutosh Kumar, an associate professor at B S College, Danapur, who studied with Das from class 1 to 10 at the St Xavier’s high school, Patna, recollects how Das used to play tabla between classes on the school desk. “That was when his father, the late KN Das, saw potential in him and took him to Singh, his first guru,” said Kumar.
“Sandeep was fun-loving. We had the best of times together, sharing samosas in school canteen to even mocking at our friends. He was an avid sportsman, especially in soccer, and an equally brilliant student too. That he got the gold medal in MA English at the BHU was a testimony to his academic brilliance,” added Kumar.
Das last came to Patna in January 2015 when he gave a solo performance for an hour at the Bharatiya Nritya Kala Mandir. Prior to that, he came for the silver jubilee function of his school batch (1985).
Das has not forgotten his first guru despite reaching the pinnacle of success. “He spoke to me last night and even today takes online lessons from me. That he has been giving me Rs 5,001 every Guru Purnima shows his love for me,” Singh signed off.
Das has humble moorings. His father was an engineer at the BSNL here before he was murdered in 1995.
Das is married to Tripti, a banker in Boston, USA, where he is now settled. They have two daughters — Sakshi, an Odissi dancer, and Sonakshi, who plays the tabla.