On a cold Hyderabad evening, I was attending a show by Pandit Jasraj and his group, at the grand back drop of the Chowmahalla Palace on the occasion of Pandit Motiram Pandit Moniram Sangeet Samaroh. That was where I heard this young teenager sing, for the first time. His Bandishes were perfect, but when I overheard him talking to someone with a slight accent, I realized he is not from India. It was surprising as his Hindi, during the performance, was authentic and crisp! A few years later, as I was attending my first cultural function here in Vancouver, the name Akhil Jobanputra sounded very familiar. It took me only a few moments to realize that the young boy I had heard in Hyderabad, hails from Vancouver. So when I had the opportunity to talk to him about his journey, it was every bit special.
The Truly Global Roots
Akhil was born in Vancouver, Canada, and raised by his single mother. But, his roots are truly global. His Indian-origin grandparents hail from Uganda, in Africa, and fled to Canada to avoid persecution during a political unrest. His grandparents were very fond of classical music and they took him to his first singing classes at the tender age of three years, to guru Asha Lohia, in Vancouver. While his traditional coaching continued, he frequented visits to temples with his Nanima and picked up Bhajans from her. He started training in Pt. Jasraj School of Music in Vancouver, and found Neeraja Aptikar as his guru.
Later he was coached by felicitated classical singer Pt. Sanjeev Abhayankar. It was through these associations he visited Hyderabad to perform in the music concert.
How did the Indian Classical Music find such strong roots in a Canadian teenage boy, I wondered! However, he sincerely believes it was music who found him. Although he tried Piano, Choirs, as well as Tabla, it was classical vocal he kept on pursuing.
Of course, his dedication to music alienated him. In the western society, while the average teenager is playing soccer or PS4, this boy woke up early and did his riyaaz. He was a victim of bullying, and that just drew him even more towards his music.
A connoisseur of Indian culture
Through his love for music, Akhil discovered India far away. If you meet this boy in person you will never believe his upbringing is away from India. He has a deep understanding of Indian religions, customs, cultures, and philosophies.
His riyaaz paid off as his mastery in singing were noticed by Pt Jasraj himself.
In Akhil’s own words, “when I was very young, Bade Guruji (Pt Jasraj ) came over to my house and explained to me and my mom that music will always serve to fill in wherever there is a void in my life. That has been a saying that I’ve taken forth throughout my whole journey so far, and has helped me to get where I am today.”
Riyaaz metamorphosed into saadhna, and now he practices the bhaavs and the little nuances only a skilled vocalist can master. And he is all of 19.
At this young age, he has performed along with the Maestro Pt Jasraj himself in several noteworthy concerts in India like Sawai Gandharva Bhimsen Mahotsav in Pune, India. In 2011, he performed at the Pandit Motiram Pandit Maniram Sangeet Samaroha which marked his first performance in India at the age of 14. The past summer, he completed his first tour which consisted of 3 concerts across the UK.
Akhil is already teaching classical music while he is in Vancouver. Apart from that, he is an undergrad student at the University of British Columbia where he is studying Human Geography.
He now regularly performs in the classical circle in Canada. He has only one way to go, and that is forward.
Here are some of his videos:
I will quote Rumi, while I wish Akhil all the best in his future endeavors!
You were born with potential.
You were born with goodness and trust. You were born with ideals and dreams. You were born with greatness.
You were born with wings.
You are not meant for crawling, so don’t.
You have wings.
Learn to use them and fly.