The 26-year-old artist and one of CBC’s Top 30 Under 30 Hottest Classical Musicians has made many historic records with his exceptional gift of playing the sitar
Sharanjeet Singh Mand, a 26-year-old artist and one of CBC’s Top 30 Under 30 Hottest Classical Musicians, has made many historic records with his exceptional gift of playing the sitar. He was the first Indian classical musician in history to give a solo performance at the Juno Awards in 2018, and also performed for the Prime Ministers of India and Canada in 2015 in Vancouver, during PM Narendra Modi’s visit. It all started as a challenge to prove himself of being capable of pursuing music, but soon Mand found himself delving deeper and deeper into the art of playing sitar, to the point where he “knew that this was what [he] was looking for, and that the sitar is what made life complete.”
Music was not part of Mand’s childhood; in fact he was more of a studious child growing up. Belonging to a military family, he spent the first 15 years of his life as a student interested in studying science. However, upon taking music as an elective and being told that music was not meant for him, Sharanjeet stepped into the musical world in 2008 and found that it was his calling. He recalls, “Only since I started pursuing music did I experience real depth in life. In our daily lives, we have tasks we need to do, but there is always a quest for a deeper purpose in life, where you will find lasting contentment. I found this through music.” Mand’s first performance was at the age of 16 at the Mother Teresa Homage Concert in New Delhi, India.
The sitar has been around for centuries, and is known to be a very versatile instrument, as it has many forms in which it can be played. Mand plays a form called Vilayatkhani, and has been a pupil of well-known sitar maestro Pandit Harvinder Sharma for 10 years. In this form, the sitar is played as though the music is being sung, and thus is meant to be mimicking the human voice. Through the sitar, Mand has gained a greater understanding of Indian folk traditions, spiritual and devotional music, and many other genres of music. Growing up, the sitar player recalls having a “peculiar taste in music, including opera and western classical music which was mostly unheard of in India at the time.” Mand’s curiosity and love for all forms of music has lead him to be the first ever sitarist to play Aria Opera ‘Ave Maria’ on sitar.
Currently, Mand lives in Surrey, BC, and has been teaching music, delivering lectures for various institutions such as the University of British Columbia and the University Of Fraser Valley, travelling internationally to perform, and composing his own music. “Life has been adventurous with music and has given me a unique perspective on existence. I believe music translates everything into beauty – every experience, good or bad, if looked at through the eyes of music, can have beauty. I believe it is a blessing that I can view music this way,” says the talented artist.
Mand has started an organization called Gurukul Canada, to give people a platform to learn and grow their passion for music. He has 20 dedicated students in Canada who come from various walks of life, and with the desire to extend the love for music to anyone who may take the slightest interest in it. “I want to grow Gurukul into a self-sustained utopia for musicians, and people who are inclined to music at the global scale. I hope to make this a common space where people can practice music freely, and also hope to invite masters all over the world to come teach music. Music and art only prosper when people are given freedom and liberty, and that is the essence of Gurukul Canada,” he expresses.
He firmly believes that music is an art form that can allow expression, and can be a medium to find our purpose in life: “In my opinion, every human being is born with a unique perspective, and music gives you the voice that allows you to express your perspective and share it with the world.”
Mand is truly wise beyond his years, and his talent, passion for music, and leadership in growing the musical community inspires people all around the world.