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"...the controlled virtuosity of Swapan’s (Tabla) playing always implied that if he cared, nothing could stop him. What display he put on...!" —San Francisco Chronicle, USA
Esteemed the world over for his purity of sound, depth of knowledge, rhythmic creativity, and dedication to teaching, Maestro Swapan Chaudhuri is considered one of the greatest living musicians and tabla virtuosos of our time. He continues to accompany all the eminent classical instrumental and vocal musicians of India in addition to collaborating with artists of every world music tradition and genre. His dedication to teaching tabla worldwide has brought him global recognition and defined him as a true master. He has made tabla more accessible, enabling this North Indian classical drum to take its rightful place as one of the most versatile and sought after instruments on the planet.
As a soloist, Swapan’s nuanced and lyrical ability to bring even the most complex and challenging compositions to life gives audiences a rare glimpse into the depth and majesty of tabla’s vast repertoire. Both his accompaniment and his recordings are prized for their clarity and improvisational beauty. Two records, Legacy (1997) and Passing on the Tradition (1998), were nominated for Grammy awards, on which Swapancollaborated with Asha Bhosle and Maestro Ali Akbar Khan.
Swapan is cherished and honored in his homeland of India, where in 2011 he was awarded a National Lifetime Achievement Award, the Bharat Ke Sangeet Ratna, by the Art & Cultural Trust of India. He is a recipient of the prestigious Sangeet Natak Academy Award (1997) from the Government of India. Internationally, Swapan is the recipient of the American Academy of Artists Award and is nominee to Percussive Arts Society Hall of Fame, distinctions reserved for only those musicians who have attained the highest level of artistry.
As Director of Percussion at the Ali Akbar College of Music for over 30 years and Department Chairperson / Senior Faculty of the World Music Program at the California Institute of the Arts for the past 20 years, Swapanji has taught tabla with an unmatched level of dedication. It is an extension of the kind of intensive and dedicated teaching that was bestowed upon him by his own legendary Guru, Acharya Santosh Krishna Biswas of the Lucknow Gharana (music school), whom Swapan learned with since the age of five in Kolkata, India. It was his early development as an accompanist to the great sarodist Maestro Ali Akbar Khan that led him to become the accompanist of choice for India’s greatest classical artists including Pandit Ravi Shankar, Ustad Vilayat Khan, the late Pandit Nikhil Banerjee, Ustad Amir Khan, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, Pandit Jasraj, L. Shankar, Dr. Balmurli Krishna, Pandit Birju Maharaj, Dr. L. Subramanium, Lakshmi Shankar, Pandit V.G. Jog, and many others. In 1981, Swapanji was invited to the United States by Maestro Ali Akbar Khan to serve as Director of Percussion at the Ali Akbar College of Music in San Rafael, California, where he continues to teach today.
Swapanji’s meteoric rise as a performer and teacher of Classical Indian music led to international musical collaborations with such renowned artists as Stevie Wonder, Mark O’Connor, John Handy, Larry Coryell, John Santos, the Lian Ensemble, the reputed Persian musicians Alizade and Kayhan Kalhor, the African drum master, Malenga, and the renowned guitarists, Vlatko Stefanovski and Miroslav Tadic.
He has been the featured artist at the San Francisco International Music Festival (2010 – 2012), the Los Angeles County Museum of Art exposition on the city of Lucknow (2011), the Darbar Music Festival in London (2008 – 2012), Global Encounters at Carnegie Hall (2007), and numerous international music festivals of cities including Sao Paolo, Rio de Janiero, Sydney, Tokyo, Toronto, Kuala Lampur, Stuttgart and Berlin. He has composed for several percussion ensembles, featuring up to 20 world percussionists, which have received tremendous appreciation from Western as well as Indian audiences.
He is associated with many American and European Universities as a visiting professor, and maintains a rigorous touring, teaching and recording schedule throughout the year.