Prakash Joshi
Vancouver Folk Music Festival - 2006

Vancouver Folk Music Festival – 2006
By Prakash Joshi

The Vancouver Folk Music Festival is produced annually by the Vancouver Folk Festival Society, online a registered non-profit society. The 29th Music Festival held during the three days, capsule 14, 15, and 16th July, 2006 at Jericho beach attracted, as usual musicians from as far as Australia, New Zealand, U.K., Denmark, India and of course numerous artists from the North American continent as well.The six stage festival had a line–up of artists who renewed the spirits of the audience for yet another year with the dedicated assistance of 1200 volunteers.


I had the pleasure of interviewing one such artist who has mesmerized the crowd with his fingers on Tabla for last twenty-five years. His name is Sirishkumar Manji. Sirish was born in Tanzania and brought up in Uganda. He was taught music by his late father, Pandit Bhagwanji Bharadwaj (ragi), who in turn learnt from the great singer Pandit Omkarnath and Master Vasant Harmonium player. His first performance was at the age of 7 in Uganda and later landed in London, England due to the “blessings” of Idi Amin Dada, pursuing his dream in music and finally starting a music school. England, further gave him an opportunity to work with International musicians and directors like Ennio Morricone, Richard Blackford, Danny Brilliant, Rolf Harris and Kiki Dee.

His strong Indian classical music background has been a great asset as he has been able to accompany some of the best Indian artist like Ustad Sultan Khan-sarangi, Kiranpal singh-santoor, the late Pandit Maniram-singer, Sri Jayshree Banerjee – sitar and Pandit Pratam Narayan-singer.

Sirishkumar’s work in films include, playing percussion for the music to the film City of Joy”, “Crucial Tales” and “Lives of Jesus”.

His contribution to theatre includes Shakespeare’s Globe {Augustine’s Oak} Royal National theatre {Waiting Room} Royal National Theatre {Peer Gynt}.

As witnessed at the Vancouver Folk Music Festival, Sirishkumar though was invited just to accompany the famous vocalist from England, Najma Akhtar and her band found himself playing with various bands like “The Angel Brothers” from England.

Sirishkumar has developed into one of the most sought-after tabla players.

The fusion of east and west at work in music was further demonstrated by an outstanding performance by Pandit Vishva Mohan Bhatt and Salil Bhatt who played the mohan veena . This is a new creation made of pine, mahogany and rosewood, the body resembles the arch top, a familiar guitar but has 19 strings: three melody, four drone and 12 sympathetic which exerts considerably more pressure than the six on a guitar. It’s played with the same mizabs (wire picks) as the sitar, but the other hand holds a polished steel rod, reflecting the influence of the Hawaiian guitar.

It has already been added to the list of Indian classical instruments and was featured in Meeting By the River, CD that captured Bhatt and Ry Cooder playing together one evening and won the Grammy Award for World Music.





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