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Players: Ajit Singh, electric sitar
Material: An Indian who first began studying classical sitar as a boy, music flows within Ajit Singh’s blood. His first teacher was his late grandfather, Thakur Mahadev Singh, who some called the Saint of Sitar. Following this came instruction from his pop, Ranjit Singh, whose mastery of the sarod left audiences breathless. An uncle also used to play, and the family often played host to Singh’s idol, the legendary Ravi Shankar. Thus, it’s no surprise that Singh’s playing follows in these footsteps. Classical Indian folk music is the legacy he proudly shares with the world. Besides teaching, Singh’s oeuvre includes compositions for film and theater.
Musicianship: Singh’s talent shines with every note. He bends and plucks his strings with the calming assuredness of a Pandit, which, incidentally, he is. Though he dabbles in the tabla as well as the sitar, this livestream beamed from France was performed solo. Subsequently, he played a recorded loop to provide the necessary backbeat. It functioned as the perfect bed of rice to the tikka masala of Singh’s live instrumentation. His singing voice is guaranteed to massage your chakras.
Performance: It is in this department that Singh requires particular help. Starting 20 minutes late creates a negative first impression. Suddenly popping up, he peppers the audience with a monologue. Limited proficiency with English makes this even more frustrating. Singh then vanishes, minutes passing before he resurfaces. Once he begins playing, the neck of his instrument persistently obscures his face. A wiser camera angle would alleviate this blunder. Making up for this flaw are video inserts of natural wonders. Majestic waterfalls, windswept plains, awe-inspiring cliffs, and sun-dappled oceans pair perfectly with his meditative notes.
Summary: Indian folk songs are, by their nature, emotionally uplifting. It’s equally heartening to see a master sharing his culture and personal experience through the power of modern technology. It is a gift that anyone can experience such enlightenment with ease. That said, Singh ought to reshape his presentation so it conforms better to his platform of choice. A few tweaks would make Shiva proud.