With over 25 years of performance experience at venues including the United Nations (Geneva), the Fillmore (San Francisco), Fox Theater (Oakland), Pattee Arena (Monterey), the New School (New York), Birmingham Museum of Art (Birmingham), Prague Castle (Prague), and NBC Bay Area television (San Jose), Mosaic Fellow Arjun Verma has emerged with a unique voice on the sitar—both within the tradition of North Indian Classical Music, and through his innovative cross-genre collaborations.
Arjun has spent his entire life steeped in the tradition of North Indian Classical Music. The son of internationally performing sitarist Roop Verma, who was a disciple of Ali Akbar Khan and Ravi Shankar, Arjun began learning sitar from his father at age five.
As a teenager, Arjun was deeply inspired by the preeminent sarode maestro, Ali Akbar Khan, and he ultimately moved to the San Francisco Bay Area to study directly with Ali Akbar Khan for eight years. Since the Maestro’s passing in 2009, Arjun has continued his training under the able guidance of Ali Akbar Khan’s son, Alam Khan. Arjun has also received guidance from Smt. Annapurna Devi.
As a musician of the Maihar Gharana (style) of Hindustani classical music, Arjun’s playing is based on the music of Maestro Ali Akbar Khan. He has developed innovative sitar techniques inspired by the Maestro’s style, and is also influenced by sitarist Nikhil Banerjee. Arjun’s playing also incorporates musical elements drawn from his long apprenticeship with his father, Roop Verma. The combination of these influences results in a style encompassing the deeply contemplative as well as the exhilarating elements of Indian Music.
Arjun began performing at the age of seven, and has played concerts in the United States, Europe, and India, including performances with Pandit Swapan Chaudhuri, Sri Alam Khan, Pandit Sharda Sahai, Ustad Shabbir Nisar, Bob Weir, Salar Nader, Nilan Chaudhuri, Indranil Mallick, Anirban Roy Chowdhury, Sean Panikkar, Andriana Chuchman, and members of the Houston and St. Louis Symphonies.
Arjun has performed in front of dignitaries including former United Nations Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali and spiritual leader Morari Bapu, and has been awarded a Creative Work Fund grant (2018—Haas Foundation) as well as a Shenson Fellowship (2007—San Francisco Foundation) to support his work.
Combining western classical music with Indian classical music, Arjun was the featured sitar soloist for the world premieres of Jack Perla’s River of Light (2014—Houston Grand Opera) and Shalimar the Clown (2016—Opera Theatre St. Louis).
As a composer, Arjun has written commissioned works for documentary film, opera, and live performing arts, and has arranged numerous works of Indian classical music for ensembles of both Indian and non-Indian instrumentation.
Arjun’s music has received critical acclaim from leading publications, including the New York Times, Sruti Magazine, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and the San Francisco Chronicle.
In addition to performing, Arjun teaches sitar and North Indian Classical Music at the Ali Akbar College of Music and the East-West School of Music.
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