Musician aims to bend Vancouver’s ears to classical South Indian sounds

Published: February 13, 2013


Curtis Andrews

Percussionist Curtis Andrews acknowledges that south Indian music is not nearly as popular as north Indian, and would like to be part of changing that. Submitted photo

Local musician Curtis Andrews wants Vancouverites to come out and discover something new with his South Indian classical music concert Saturday night.

“[People should] come to hear instruments they’ve never heard and to hear new music, actually, that’s being written based on ancient forms,” said Andrews.

“[I’m trying] to bring [the music] outside of the [Indian] community and have it for people that might just want to come out and hear some new music in the evening.”

Saturday’s performance at the Western Front in Vancouver, titled Sangati, features Andrews playing the mridangam — an ancient Indian percussion instrument — alongside some well-established South Asian musicians, like Vidyasagar Vankayala on vocals, Seattle’s Prabha Sivaratnam on violin and Karthiga Parmeswaran on the veena.

The performance will be a fusion work, accompanied by Vancouver jazz players such as Jared Burrows on guitar and Colin Maskell on flute and saxophone.

“They can expect to hear some exotic music or music you don’t hear very much in Vancouver,” said Andrews.

According to Andrews, North Indian music is much more well known than the South Indian sounds he’ll be playing.

He said North Indian music rose to fame with The Beatles and particularly George Harrison.

“He did a lot to popularize the music of North India and the sitar,” said Andrews, referencing Beatles albums from the late 1960s. “Over the decades it’s just something that more and more people started to become conscious of.

“And with that a lot more people were migrating from the northern parts of India to North America, Europe, England, so they bring those traditions with them. South Indians, they’re not as populist [and] within Vancouver the population of South Indians is very small.”

So while many people have heard of the tabla and sitar, Andrews hopes to expose Vancouver to the lesser-known South Indian sounds with his mridangam.

“Just so it’s more in people’s conscience that something as beautiful as this exists,” he said.

And the music has got something for everyone.

“It’s not part of my heritage at all — this is something I was drawn to,” said Andrews.

He’s been playing the mridangam for about 13 years now and learned from Sri Trichy Sankaran in India and Canada.

“I heard him playing and it totally twisted my musical ear in a different way because I’d never heard this,” Andrews said of the first time he heard Sankaran — his “guru” — play the instrument.

“Rhythmically it opened up a whole new universe of possibility so I’ve just kind of followed it since then and continued it.”

The show starts at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Western Front at 303 E. 8th Ave. Tickets are available at the door for $15 or can be purchased online at

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