Delhi to Damascus

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Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, a timeless Sanskrit shloka, translates to “the world is one family.” This principle has driven humanity to cross boundaries, both literal and metaphorical, for centuries. Embodying this spirit, the Delhi to Damascus project—both as a touring initiative and the debut album of the HUM Ensemble—is a poignant celebration of the shared historical and cultural tapestry between India and the Middle East.

At the core of the Delhi to Damascus musical journey are the legendary Silk Road trade routes, historically significant pathways that extended across continents, connecting the East with the West. These ancient routes did more than just facilitate the exchange of goods; they were instrumental in creating a cross-cultural dialogue that enriched civilizations on either side. Over the centuries, this vibrant exchange fostered profound connections through shared traditions in art, music, and language.

This deep cultural intermingling is exemplified in the shared heritage of Sufi music traditions, which resonate deeply within both Indian and Middle Eastern cultures. Sufi music, known for its spiritual depth and emotive power, serves as a bridge, uniting diverse communities through its universal themes of love, devotion, and unity. Alongside these musical traditions, the ancient scripts of the Indo-Iranian and Indo-European families, such as Sanskrit, have played a pivotal role in linking these civilizations. These scripts not only carried religious and philosophical texts but also served as mediums for the exchange of scientific knowledge and literary works.

The impact of these exchanges is profound, illustrating how the Silk Road was more than just a commercial highway; it was a lifeline of cultural and intellectual exchange that shaped the societies it touched, leaving a legacy that continues to influence the modern world. Through the Delhi to Damascus project, this rich history is celebrated, reviving the spirit of interconnectedness that the Silk Road epitomized.

Leading this ensemble is the virtuoso Tabla Maestro Sandeep Das, whose mastery over the tabla is renowned globally. He is joined by Rajib Karmakar, a distinguished sitar artist, along with other acclaimed musicians from around the world including Suhail Yusuf Khan – Sarangi & Vocals, Tamer Pinarbasi on Qanun, Jay Gandhi on Bansuri, Ehsan Matoori on Santoor, Nazih Borish on Oud, Kamaljeet Ahluwalia on Santoor and others. Their collaboration is a testament to the unifying power of music, transcending geographical and cultural barriers.

The Delhi to Damascus concerts and album feature an eclectic mix of instruments quintessential to both Indian and Middle-Eastern music. The repertoire is a soul-stirring blend of new compositions and intricate arrangements that draw from traditional Indian ragas, melodic Arabic maqams, philosophical Sufi poems, vibrant folk rhythms, and the poetic charm of thumri. This blend creates a soundscape that is at once foreign and familiar, highlighting differences only to artistically transcend them.

Critics and audiences alike have praised the project for its transcendent qualities. Reviews often highlight how Delhi to Damascus engages the listener in a mesmerizing journey that celebrates new beginnings, profound poetry, faith, romantic longing, and divinity. It is more than a musical performance; it is an invitation to a spiritual odyssey inspired by the ideal of inclusivity, empathy, and a shared global community.

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One reviewer noted, “The synergy between Sandeep Das’s rhythmic prowess and Rajib Karmakar’s melodic sitar performances is not just heard but deeply felt. It’s as if each note they play weaves a richer narrative of our shared human heritage.” This sentiment echoes throughout the responses to their performances, where the audience often finds themselves enveloped in a musical dialogue that fosters compassion and understanding.

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The success of Delhi to Damascus can be attributed to its foundation in the belief that music can bridge the widest of divides. It is a celebration of how historically interconnected we are and a reminder of how arts can be a catalyst for unity and peace.

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In conclusion, Delhi to Damascus stands as a remarkable example of cultural fusion, where every performance is a testament to the enduring spirit of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam. Through their music, Sandeep Das, Rajib Karmakar, and their fellow musicians not only pay homage to this ancient philosophy but also breathe new life into it, inviting us all to see the world as one harmonious family.

Delhi to Damascus Reviews

The Sydney Morning Herald

“Profoundly beautiful music”

Songlines Magazine

“The playing is flawless”

Downbeat Magazine

“A roadmap for irresistible aural adventures”