Jasdeep Singh Degun Shines as First Sitar Virtuoso to Claim Prestigious Award

by Manjari Singh

In a groundbreaking moment for classical music, British musician Jasdeep Singh Degun has etched his name into history by becoming the first sitar player to claim the prestigious Royal Philharmonic Society Award for Best Instrumentalist.

Hailing from Leeds and of Sikh origin, Degun expressed profound gratitude for the recognition, describing it as “an absolute honour.” Speaking to BBC News, he emphasized that the accolade not only celebrates his own achievement but also symbolizes the growing recognition of Indian classical music within the broader classical landscape.

“This prize is a testament to the hundreds of Indian classical musicians in this country,” Degun remarked. “It feels like we’ve really stepped forward into the classical psyche, which is wonderful.”

The ceremony, held in Manchester for the first time in its 35-year history, saw Degun being lauded for his outstanding contribution to classical music. His compositions, including the acclaimed fusion work “Orpheus,” which blends Indian and Western classical music, have garnered widespread acclaim.

Reflecting on his journey, Degun shared anecdotes about his debut album, “Anomaly,” released under Peter Gabriel’s Real World Records in 2022. He recounted how a chance connection through tennis led to Gabriel’s appreciation of his music, ultimately paving the way for his signing.

Composer Illia Razumeiko, part of Degun’s creative circle, described the award as “a miracle,” emphasizing the unexpected yet joyous recognition for their work. This sentiment echoed throughout the classical community, with the BBC Singers and the Manchester Classical festival also receiving accolades.

The decision to host the ceremony in Manchester was not arbitrary but stemmed from the city’s vibrant musical landscape. James Murphy, the chief executive of the Royal Philharmonic Society, highlighted Manchester’s creative energy and passionate music community as pivotal factors in the decision.

“It’s a very creative and fertile city,” Murphy remarked. “There’s an incredible music-loving community here, and Manchester has welcomed us with open arms.”

Indeed, the convergence of diverse musical traditions and the celebration of innovation have made Manchester a fitting backdrop for recognizing trailblazers like Jasdeep Singh Degun. His historic win not only honors his individual talent but also marks a significant milestone in the ongoing evolution of classical music, embracing diversity and pushing boundaries with every note.

Manjari Singh

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