Acclaimed sitar player Sharanjeet Singh Mand at his studio in Surrey. (Photo: Tom Zillich)

MUSIC

VIDEO: Surrey sitar player earns national acclaim

Years ago, Sharanjeet Singh Mand went on a hunger strike in order to get his hands on the instrument

When he plays the sitar, Sharanjeet Singh Mand’s fingers seem to fly on the fretboard.

The Surrey-based musician has been playing the instrument for about a dozen years, and also teaches others.

“It is a difficult instrument to play,” Mand, 26, said with a smile as he demonstrated his sitar-playing skills at his Newton-area studio.

In August, CBC Music named Mand among Canada’s top 30 classical musicians under the age of 30.

The recognition makes him smile, no question.

“It’s a milestone in my life,” Mand said. “And it’s the first time an Indian classical musician has been on the list, and that should open so many doors for other musicians, other ethnic musicians. That is something I’m really happy about.”

Born and raised in India, Mand moved to Canada in 2014.

While in high school, someone challenged him to play the sitar at a time when he was studying science, not music.

“I used to listen to opera and classical music as a young child, and I eventually asked my parents for a sitar,” he recalled.

“I fasted and didn’t eat in order for them to get me a sitar,” he added. “I was doing a hunger strike – that is how much I wanted it. I was doing well in science and they were concerned about me playing music, so they were reluctant. But as soon as I sat with a sitar, I just felt complete. It was very beautiful for me.”

In July, Mand performed at Surrey’s Fusion Festival with Vancouver-based guitarist Michael Averill. The two will again collaborate on Saturday, Sept. 28 at Guildford Town Centre, as part of a B.C.-wide Culture Days celebration, from 1 to 5 p.m.

“This collaboration is an attempt to break barriers and connect different ends of this world through music,” says a post at culturedays.ca. “Apart from playing their original compositions, they will also present a little talk about their music and collaboration. The performance will include a song where the audience can sing back.”

Presented by Surrey Civic Theatres, the afternoon event in Guildford will also feature a hint of a Salsa Night in Surrey dance, a preview of Axis Theatre Company’s production of Th’owxiya: The Hungry Feast Dish, and a performance by young musicians involved in Surrey’s Band-Aid youth musician workshop.

Later on Sept. 28, at New Westminster’s Massey Theatre, Mand will be a featured performer during the eighth annual Mushtari Begum Festival of Indian Classical Music and Dance. Event details can be found at mbfestival.ca.

Mand plays the gandhar pancham style of sitar – a “singing sitar” that imitates the human voice.

He teaches six to seven hours a day at his studio.

“I love teaching,” he said. “I have 20 regular students – I call them shishya – who are dedicated to learning. I also teach online, and I try to go to India once a year because I have a lot of students there. I go there to teach and also to perform.”



tom.zillich@surreynowleader.com

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