Classical Music Alive and Well in the GTA

“The classical music scene is thriving in the Greater Toronto Area,” exults Nishant Parekh, referring to the just-announced launch of the Sampurna concert series by Mississauga-based Sur Sangum Foundation.  “The GTA is the fourth largest metropolis in North America, with a sizable South Asian presence, so it is heartening to see more and more interest in shastria sangeet,” says Parekh, who is on the Executive Committee of Raag-Mala Toronto.

Sur Sangum is indeed a welcome addition to the many organizations promoting Indian classical music in and around Toronto – groups like Raag-Mala, which has presented concerts and lecture-demonstrations since 1981, and the Hamilton-based Malhaar Group, which was formed in 2001.

Sur Sangum started as an online group with the objective of bringing subcontinental music enthusiasts together on one platform,” says Founder-Director Junaid Zuberi.  “We have organized many performances with North America-based artists since we went live in 2015.”

The group’s inaugural concert in the Sampurna series is on March 3rd and will feature the much-loved vocalist Vidushi Ramneek Singh.  Ramneek sings in the gayaki of Indore Gharana, the best-known exponent of the Gharana being the legendary Ustad Amir Khan.

Even casual listeners will recognize the late maestro’s distinctive singing style in old films.  Google him, and one will find many songs that can still thrill listeners – like the title song of “Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baje” (based on raag Adana) and “Tori Jai Jai Kartar” (based on raag Puriya Dhanashree) from Baiju Bawra.

Ramneek will present a program that includes khayal, as well as lighter classical forms such as thumri and bhajan.  She will also launch her latest CDs at the event.

Sur Sangum’s concert in March is by no means the first classical musical event of the year in Southern Ontario.  Hamilton’s Malhaar group, which has been presenting music appreciation sessions for many years now (30 sessions so far) had its first listening session of 2018 in mid-January.

The group, which has two major festivals a year – Springfest in May and Arohi in September – holds free sessions in volunteers’ homes, and each one focuses on a different raag; in January it was the morning raag Bhairav.

Speaking of raag Bhairav, the brilliant vocal duo Pandit Rajan and Pandit Sajan Misra, launched their world tour “Bhairav se Bhairavi Tak” last November in Varanasi.  The year-long tour, which includes a concert at Angkor Wat in Cambodia, will have its North American premier in Toronto on April 7th at the Aga Khan Museum.

“The Misra Brothers have performed a number of times for us, and we are really proud to launch our 37th season with their North American premier,”, says Raag-Mala’s Parekh. Raag-Mala’s concert season has six to seven mainstage presentations, as well as several bathaks, which are intimate recitals in a house setting.

Mohamed Khaki
President, Raag-Mala Toronto

When and where?
Sampurna Series presents Ramneek Singh in concert
Saturday, March 3rd at 5pm
Maja Prentice Theatre, 3650 Dixie Rd, Mississauga
Tickets: Junaid Zuberi 416-833-4113