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News |  12 Oct 2018 20:59 |  By RnMTeam

South African born Indian orchestral violinist Sumeet Sarkar's journey to Hollywood

MUMBAI: Born in South Africa, Sumeet Sarkar started playing the violin at the age of four with various musical influences in the Western Art tradition. Having performed across the world at some of the most prestigious stages, he has been exposed to many genres of music. Known to be South Africa’s first Indian orchestral violinist, after performing with the Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra and South African National Youth Orchestra where he had been awarded the Protea Award for outstanding abilities by Archbishop Desmond Tutu 2011, Sumeet has come a long way and looks forward to the continuous journey.

Sharing the seed from his interest bloomed, Sumeet says, “Having grown up as a child listening to A.R Rahman one day, Bach another day and then Miles Davis or Bobby McFerrin, put me in an undiscovered land the more time proceeded. There have always been influences from those I have worked with or look up to in the industry, but my personal sound has been something I aim at organically. I love making my own instruments through synthesis and surrounding myself with machines and modern music tech, but at the same time practicing my violin and recording myself 100 times in the studio to sound as a symphony orchestra. I always wanted to see life in my music and the more I travel, the more I'm attracted to the sounds of the world and enter the realm of the East to a Bengali boy, who was born in Africa but decided to travel West to later land up in India, was a road not taken. A longer Millage and Layover to go ‘home’ had equipped me with many skills as an artist.”

Then began his work in the field, “I started working as a film composer based in Los Angeles, where I have been given opportunities to have my emotions co exist and collaborate with other directors and artists through my upbringing and training. The variety of what the world can offer with its music is often generalized in a short period, but I aim at creating balance with music to picture with my experience and context of the art of scoring music to film. I see myself as a story teller and innovator carrying the message of my mentors and ideas that can create a harmony at play.”

He toured multiple times with the Switzerland Jugend Orchestra under the Baton or Sir Roger Norrington. He (Sumeet) had completed his Diploma in Performance at Trinity College London before setting out to travel to the US alone and pursue an alternative part of his music career. Sumeet had been accepted into Berklee College of Music in 2012 under various scholarships by the South African Music Rights Organization (SAMRO) and Berklee itself. This education proved beneficial for him, as he says, “Many compare a life of academics to ‘raw talent’, but I believe there is a middle ground to being experienced where I can reach higher limits and break them ambitiously.”

Continuing he says, “Unlike a medical or law degree where the qualification is needed first before experience, music is the opposite and these institutes required a high level of performance abilities and throughout the degrees I was able to travel to 25 countries with my music.”

However, he could also see the way beyond the degrees, “I could not imagine myself dwelling a life in academics alone or be able to survive where I am without the theoretical training and onboard experience. Other than having a canvas to break rules, having trained formally has rooted me with the skills to work with others in a professional setting and support my own music with abilities to compose, perform, record and edit my works in studio before going live and showcasing practice at play.”

>He had initially begun as a jazz violinist and pianist and later developed as a film composition and engineering major through his studies in Valencia Spain. This had not been a challenge to balance his performance skills as he found a balance between being a session player and composer and this had brought a demand in Boston as he had collaborated and studied with various artists including Vijay Prakash (Slumdog Millionaire), Pablo Ziegler (Multi Latin Grammy award winner), Esperanza Spalding (Grammy), Howard Shore (Lord of the Rings) at the Boston Symphony Hall and Berklee Performance Center.

However, bringing him back to his roots, Indian Classical Music does hold a special place for him, as he says, “I had first learnt Indian Classical Music with two mentors of mine Mt Aditya Srinivasan (Tabla) and Satish Raghunathan (Vocalist) from Chennai, in Valencia Spain, prior to returning to the US to collaborate further. What was once assumed to be "flavors", became a colors and new language for me. A technique to use in Western Art music to simplify various rhythms or scale runs that one might prove difficult. Having an open mind into both sides along with the harmony of jazz and Western Art music helped me grow my own unique voice.”

Throughout the year of 2018, working as a full time film composer and session musician in Los Angeles, Sumeet had perused one more step further with his passion for technology and became an artisan of coding his own musical applications for private clients including Lili Haydn to accelerate their workflow and create simpler ways of composing with machines. He hopes to be able to present his Virtual Reality inventions that help orchestra music at the NAMM festival of 2020 once the software is fully developed.