Indian Classical music is indivisible from the mythology and spiritual practice of India. Those who seek to become great maestros, therefore, must also embrace the philosophy of the subcontinent. Perhaps this is why, though many aspire, few accomplish the status of Pandit or Ustad, the highest honour a student of this music can attain. Coupled with this study of philosophy is the rigorous discipline imposed upon the disciple by his master, a discipline which many find too difficult to endure.
Shambhu Das has been through it all and has come out with flying colours.
Shambhu has had his share of accomplished students as well . In 1966, when Beatle George Harrison expressed an interest in learning the sitar, after a few initial lessons from Ravi Shankar. George was placed under the tutelage of Shambhu, who helped him to develop his fingering and other practice techniques. It was not easy for George and Shambhu to concentrate on sitar, however, at the Tajmahal Hotel in Bombay, where thousands of jubilant Beatles fans constantly banged at the door, and so one night the two fled to the relative quiet of Dal Lake, in Kashmir. Accommodations were made on a luxurious house boat on the lake, surrounded by the Himalayan Mountains, and each day Shambhu compelled George to practice for many hours. Then in the evenings, along with George's wife Patty, they would relax on the houseboat. This routine went on for many weeks, and during this time the two formed a close relationship. In 1968, George personally requested Shambhu to play on and assist in the making of the album Wonderwall. George and Shambhu continue to be friends, and often exchange letter's and photographs.
Like most of India's accomplished musicians. Shambhu, prior to his master's degree, also studied tabla and vocal techniques in his native Banaras. This extra training has allowed him to attain an even fuller understanding of all the complex facets of his music. Following the early days in Banaras. Shambhu moved to Bombay. to study under Ravi Shankar, and then in 1970 he was brought by Pandit Shankar to North America to expand the knowledge of Indian music through lectures, classes, and public performances.
Shanbhu is among the founders of the Indian Music department at York University, Toronto. and lectured and taught sitar there for many years. This department is now chaired by Mr. Trichy Sankaran, the famous master of the south Indian drum, the mridangarn. In addition to his work at York University, Shambhu has played many live shows in India, Europe, Canada, and the United States. He often appeared on C.B.C Television and on radio.
It has not been easy for Shambhu Das, however. In 1992 he had to face the devastating loss of his only son in a car wreck, and it was only after a long return to India, and time spent in many monasteries, that he was able to regain his passion for music and for life. Several years later, Shambhu suffered a major heart attack, and it took a talk from Ravi Shankar himself to convince Shambhu to return again to his music.
Sometimes a tragedy , though crippling to the psyche, can energize, if the energy is properly channeled. Two years after the death of his son, Shambhu produced two cassettes entitled Dhyanam and Shanti Vani. These cassettes are currently being used in Yoga centers throughout Canada and the United States, and are also advocated by Sri Chinmoy of the United Nations Meditation Center of New York. Shambhu has also CO-written a book, along with his friend Mr. Samprasad Mojumdar entitled Music and Meditation. The aim of this book is to increase the understanding of Veda Mantra Meditation and it's relationship to Indian Classical Music for the Yoga community of the world.
Shambhu's latest project is yet another sign that he is well creatively. Entitled Bhakti-Shakti-Mukti, it is a fusion of India Classical and Western ideas of music. It seems that, in spite of his rigid training, Shambhu Das is something of a rebel. This fusion music is designed to appeal to a younger generation of listeners. It is music which retains the elements of Indian classical music which are relaxing, and meditative, yet at the same time it is very rhythmic, and exciting.
Of a recent performance, called Nada Brahma, or "Sound is God",an IOAL reporter in Toronto, wrote "Sound of Sitar Shambhu Das ' Spiritual Quest Devastating personal tragedies have only energized this talented musician"
Currently Shambhu Das resides in Toronto, Canada. And continues to share his musical gift with his students, and the community at large. He seeks always to expand his own musical skills, and to spread the message of world peace through a proper understanding of music. A plan is right now in progress for a free Music Appreciation Session, featuring monthly concerts for lovers of this ancient and complex music.