Musical match made in heaven

The irony of an Indian classical musician performing Western music may not be appreciated by conservatives at home, but Veena's sitar performance  had audiences almost singing along.

Published: 22nd May 2022 05:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 20th May 2022 09:45 PM   |  A+A-

Veena Chandra (R) and Reena Esmail

Veena Chandra (R) and Reena Esmail. (Photo| Special Arrangement)

Veena Chandra and Reena Esmail are a musical match made in heaven and perform on earth. They came together at the Ithaca College Choir last week, where the notes of choral music rose and fell to the ragas from sitar strings and the drumbeat of the tabla.

The irony of an Indian classical musician performing Western music may not be appreciated by conservatives at home, but Veena's sitar performance, along with son Devesh Chandra on the tabla, had audiences almost singing along. Choral music is performed by a group of singers  with or without accompaniment, or even a complete orchestra.

Reena was only 13 years old when she wrote her first piece for the choir at her Los Angeles school. Last week’s concert was a rendering of her 'This Love Between Us: Prayers for Unity' and 'Women in Song'. 

The Indian-American Reena, the composer-in-residence at the Los Angeles Master Chorale and Seattle Symphony, is an Artistic Director of the NGO Shastra that promotes cross-cultural music collaboration between India and the West. The Dehradun- born Veena is the founder director of the Dance and Music School of India in Latham, New York state, for the past 31 years. 

When she performs or  teaches, Veena shows no signs of her 78 years on earth. She owes her name to her father who was also her guru. He was an eclectic genius who could play the sitar, flute, tabla, harmonium and the banjo with equal skill. He loved the sitar, a passion passed on to his daughter, whom he named after another instrument, the veena.

Veena's performances are known for her skill in the meend (bending the strings) and producing vocal sounds on the sitar. Her musical resume is impressive, having performed all over the world; she is both a composer and choreographer. After her father’s death, her guru and husband was sitar maestro Satish Chandra, a disciple of Pt Ravi Shankar, who would invite her to his concerts. Her next guru was Ustad Vilayat Khan Saheb. With such a pedigree, Veena has become one of the preeminent ambassadors of Indian classical music in the West.

Her lecture-demonstrations and concerts at numerous halls and festivals in the US and India - she taught sitar and sociology at Agra and Dayalbagh universities - are well-attended.

She is a performing pioneer in promoting Indian classical music in the US - the first sitar player to be featured at national music and film festivals like the Great New York State Fair in Syracuse, Michael Moore's Traverse City Film Festival, Michigan, and conducted the first all-female Indian Classical Music recital with Anuradha Pal on the tabla in 2007.

A popular course for American students at her academy is Indian classical dance. Veena has collaborated with dancers such as Odissi guru Sanchita Bhattacharya and Kathak doyen Pt Kishan Mohan Maharaj.

“It is like going to a garden and picking out flowers. You know you want to pick flowers and as you go there you just pick and decide how many and of what kind. It ends up taking its own shape and form,” she reveals about not preparing beforehand about what she is going to play before a concert. Veena says music is so powerful that even her dog goes into a trance when she plays. Only goes to prove that music is man’s best friend.


Disclaimer : We respect your thoughts and views! But we need to be judicious while moderating your comments. All the comments will be moderated by the editorial. Abstain from posting comments that are obscene, defamatory or inflammatory, and do not indulge in personal attacks. Try to avoid outside hyperlinks inside the comment. Help us delete comments that do not follow these guidelines.

The views expressed in comments published on are those of the comment writers alone. They do not represent the views or opinions of or its staff, nor do they represent the views or opinions of The New Indian Express Group, or any entity of, or affiliated with, The New Indian Express Group. reserves the right to take any or all comments down at any time.

flipboard facebook twitter whatsapp