The Collegian
Tuesday, August 04, 2020

Indian sitar maestro performs, teaches at Richmond

Sitarist Chirag Katti captivated a diverse audience with his performance of North Indian classical music at the Carole Weinstein International Center Commons Wednesday, Sept. 18.

Katti, 28, is known as India's youngest sitar maestro. He is based in Mumbai and signed by Saregama H.M.V., India's oldest and biggest record company.

Katti's concert at University of Richmond was one stop on his seventh U.S. tour, which began the first week of September and will continue through the end of the month. The tour includes performances at colleges, music organizations and festivals.

Each concert on the tour has a different program because the classical pieces Katti performs are intended to be played at specific times of the day. Katti said he had selected pieces based on each concert's specific start time.

Mayuresh Abhyankar, a research scientist for University of Virginia Health System, accompanied Katti on tabla (a percussion instrument) for the concert at Richmond. Katti said he toured alone but asked different tabla players to join him in each city, "to encourage local talent."

The day before the concert, Katti instructed each of the four Richmond students who are taking sitar lessons this semester.

"Through teaching, you get to learn a lot," Katti said. "You learn many things about your instrument, and sometimes about yourself--your patience."

Because Katti began learning sitar from his father as a young child, he said there had been many techniques that he picked up easily. But when he teaches, he realizes that even the basics, such as the proper way to sit while playing, can be difficult for many students, he said.

Freshman Liang-Yun Cheng began playing sitar more than two years ago when she attended Woodstock School, an international school in Mussoorie, Uttarakhand, India. She now takes lessons at Richmond and said she had enjoyed learning from Katti last week.

"It was very different from what I'm used to," Cheng said. "It gets a little awkward to change your habits for a new teacher."

Cheng said that at her lesson, Katti had focused on technical aspects of performance that she had not previously emphasized. "It was really nice to have him here," she said.

Katti's performance was the kickoff to this year's Global Music Series at Richmond, co-sponsored by the Department of Music, the Office of Multicultural Affairs and the Office of International Education.

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Andy McGraw, music professor, directs the Global Music Series. His academic focus is Southeast Asian music, which has some cultural similarities to Indian music because its origins are geographically close.

Before the concert, McGraw said he appreciated Katti's high level of skill.

"That's what blows me away about this music," McGraw said. "They shred through these virtuosic passages and think nothing of it. It's so inspiring and unique to see these guys express themselves so deeply, then just saunter offstage."

McGraw worked with Nirmal Bajekal to organize Katti's concert. Bajekal instructs sitar lessons and a global ensemble focusing on Indian vocal music at Richmond.

Katti continued to teach sitar lessons for Richmond students this week. Before he continues on his tour, he will perform at the Festival of India at the Greater Richmond Convention Center Sunday, Sept. 29.

Contact staff writer Catherine Sinclair at

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