York father and daughter team up at Small World Music Festival

Nominated for a 2005 Juno Award for world music album of the year, autorickshaw is a relatively new fusion ensemble that has gained acclaim from audiences, critics and peers alike. The band is comprised of four of Canada’s most exciting and musically pioneering young artists: York alumna, vocalist, pianist and percussionist Suba Sankaran (BFA ’97, MFA ’02), tabla player Ed Hanley, bassist Rich Brown and percussionist Debashis Sinha (see story in the Feb. 28 issue of YFile).


Right: Band members of autorickshaw, including Suba Sankaran (far right)

This Friday and Saturday, Sankaran will be joined in concert by a special guest: her father Trichy Sankaran, a professor in the Music Department of York’s Faculty of Fine Arts, and a renowned mrdangam (South Indian drum) player. Together with autorickshaw and guitarist Kevin Breit (who is also a sideman for award-winning pop/jazz singer Norah Jones), they will be entertaining audiences at the 4th annual Small World Music Festival, which runs until Sunday at various venues around Toronto.

An award-winning teacher and founding director of Indian music studies at York University, Trichy Sankaran has earned worldwide recognition for his artistry. Considered one of India’s most esteemed musical ambassadors, he is a master percussionist who is credited with having raised the mrdangam and kanjira (South Indian frame drum) to the status of solo instruments.

Trichy Sankaran

Trichy Sankaran has been featured in unaccompanied performances and broadcasts both in India and the West, and appears regularly with Karnatak (linguistic region) artists in North America and on concert tours in India.

Left: Trichy Sankaran

In addition to these traditional settings, he also frequently performs with jazz, electronic and African music ensembles, and is well known for his compositions for Toronto’s contemporary gamelan ensemble The Evergreen Club. His recordings include Laya Vinyas (1990), Sunada (1993), Lotus Signatures (1997) and Ivory Ganesh Meets Doctor Drums (1998).

The Small World concerts will showcase Professor Sankaran’s recently premiered composition “Nalinakanthi” and a special mrdangam solo piece, titled “Sankirnavani.”

Along with her autorickshaw gigs, Suba Sankaran regularly performs world music with her father’s group, Trichy’s Trio, Renaissance vocal music with Voyces Past and jazz with the FreePlay Duo, and sings a cappella ’80s hits with Retrocity. She currently directs choirs at York University, the Royal Conservatory of Music and Toronto’s Earl Haig Secondary School.

Billed as an Indo-jazz ensemble, autorickshaw’s music lies on the cultural cutting edge. Using Indian classical rhythms and melodies as a departure point, their compositions infuse elements of improv and jazz.

Even the ensemble’s name suggests a coming together of old and new, as vocalist Suba Sankaran points out: “The autorickshaw, a common mode of transportation in India, combines the traditional human-powered rickshaw with the modern ‘auto’ component.”

Autorickshaw’s successful marriage of musical styles will fill the Al Green Theatre at the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre, 750 Spadina Ave. (at Bloor St.) at 8pm on Friday and Saturday.

You can check out this home-grown talent at this year’s Small World Music Festival at www.autorickshaw.ca and www.trichysankaran.com. For more information about the festival, visit www.smallworldmusic.com.

Trichy Sankaran will also be performing in York’s Music at Midday series on Oct. 19 from 12:30 to 1:30pm in McLaughlin Performance Hall. He will be joined by electronics musician, York grad Evan Ritchie (BFA ’95). This concert will feature South Indian drumming, including traditional solo improvisation on the mrdangam and kanjira as well as electro-acoustic explorations. Admission is free.

This article was submitted to YFile by Mary-Lou Schagena in the Faculty of Fine Arts.