Samuel J. Dass, or Sam as he is fondly known in the music circle, was born on the 16th of March, and started his love affair with the Sitar at the tender age of 7. His first guru was his father, Mr. Jabamalai Dass, who drilled in him the basics of sitar playing. He then joined The Temple of fine Arts Malaysia, where he learnt the finer nuances of this traditional art-form from Mr. Maheswaran Orme. At the same time he also sought the guidance of Giani Bachitar Singh, who inculcated in him the characteristics of the various Hindustani Raagas. He also underwent training from Mr. Raj Kumar Sharma and Professor Haridev of Chandighar University under whom he was able to obtain the ‘Sageeth Bushan’ which is equivalent to a senior diploma in music. In the year 2002, Sam had the good fortune to study the finer intricacies of the sitar under the world renowned sitar maestro Ustad Shahid Parvez in Pune ,India. He was under Shahidji’s guidance for 7 months and his talent was acknowledged by the senior musician himself.
Sam has been proclaimed as one of our times most exciting sitar players and has left audiences around the world mesmerized by his style of ‘gayaki ang’, meaning literally “to ‘play as though sung”. He has done much for Hindustani music in Malaysia, infusing both classical and contemporary genres in sitar recitals and coming out with inventive & creative albums. Sam has an uncanny ability to bring alive the subtle nuances and melodic beauty hidden in the soaring notes of the ragas in elegant and even cheeky interpretations. Imbibed with catholicity and flair, his style, although traditional in nature, has an artistic intelligence geared to the refinements and sophistication needed in the modern world.
Defining Sam as a sitarist would be of great disservice to an individual who has added immensely to the expansion of Indian music in Malaysia. He has been performing since he was a teenager and has strove to introduce music genres that were quite alien to the masses. Over a decade ago, he initiated ghazal (light classical music native to northern India) and taught himself to play the santoor (hammered dulcimer) into concert halls here. During this journey, he became the first Malaysian musician to turn away from classical Indian group music recitals and opted for instrumental solo concerts in Malaysia.
As a composer, Sam has released 7 albums to date. They are Sitarasa, Sitarasa Nostalgia, Vrajalila, Biography of Swami Sivananda, Vidiyal, Raga Moods and Prana
The two honours that he was awarded at the Cameronian Arts Awards 2004 – for the best original composition and best solo performance categories under his band Prana – is a belated recognition much deserved.
Sam has had the good fortune of playing with some of the top musicians in Malaysia and abroad. He recently represented Malaysia for the World Championship of Performing Arts in Hollywood, Los Angeles, USA. He won 7 gold medals and one silver medal for the eight categories he took part in. He also won 7 Champion of the World plaques and was the only one from the Malaysian team to be chosen to compete in the Grand Championships which was held at the world famous Palladium Auditorium. Besides the US, Sam has also performed in Australia, Singapore, Brunei, New Zealand, Taiwan, Korea and India.
Sam’s dedication to this ancient art form is total and the art world is richer by his experience, expertise and most importantly, devotion.