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From Ali Akbar Khan to EPIPHANIES: Meet Arjun K. Verma

Updated: Mar 1, 2023

Arjun K. Verma will feature as lead sitarist during Sanskriti, the North Bay Hindu Center's annual festival of classical Indian dance and music, on Saturday, March 11 at the Osher Marin JCC in San Rafael. Proceeds benefit the newly inaugurated Śrī Shakti Temple in Petaluma.

Arjun K. Verma sitarist

ARJUN K. VERMA, sitarist, was trained by the legendary Maestro Ali Akbar Khan.

With over three decades 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), Arjun 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.

Arjun K. Verma sitarist and father Roop Verma sitar
Arjun (10 yo) with his father Roop Verma in upstate New York, playing sitar. Photo Courtesy of Arjun Verma.

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, George Brooks, Nilan Chaudhuri, Indranil Mallick, Anirban Roy Chowdhury, and members of the Houston and St. Louis Symphonies.

Arjun K. Verma sitarist

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 Mosaic Silicon Valley commissioning grant to compose for Philharmonia Baroque (2020—Sangam Arts), a Creative Work Fund grant (2018—Haas Foundation), and a Shenson Fellowship (2007—San Francisco Foundation) to support his work.

In 2022, Arjun collaborated with the London Symphony Orchestra, Chinese composer Yu-Peng Chen, HOYO-MiX and an international team of musicians to record as a featured soloist for the soundtrack to Genshin Impact - Sumeru. Arjun was also the featured sitar soloist for the world premieres of Jack Perla’s River of Light (2014—Houston Grand Opera), Shalimar the Clown (2016—Opera Theatre St. Louis), and Arjun’s own Bach in Bengal (2022—Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra).

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 K. Verma sitarist EPHIPHANIES album

In 2021, Arjun released a solo album, EPIPHANIES, exploring his very personal relationship with the sitar and Indian classical music. Recorded with cutting-edge studio technology, this album was released in HD and Ambisonic (surround) formats, raising the bar for the sound of the sitar.

Arjun has also recorded with GRAMMY-winning jazz arranger & pianist John Beasley, in addition to numerous recordings for Disney television.

Arjun’s music has received critical acclaim from leading publications, including the New York Times, Times of India, 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.

Please join NBHC in welcoming Arjun K. Verma to Sanskriti on March 11. Make sure to buy your tickets today by clicking here.

NBHC Sanskriti Shakti Annual Festival of Classical Indian Dance and Music

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