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SEJAL KUKADIA - BIOGRAPHY

Her Early Life

 

Sejal Kukadia was born and raised in upstate New York. She belongs to a Gujarati family producing several doctors and engineers. So choosing music as a career became a rarity in the family. She was exposed to  Indian classical musical instruments since her childhood. She initially started to learn Tabla in her hometown of Latham under a local Tabla player who happened to be a friend of the family. It was through his encouragement that her interest in the instrument got a push.

 

sejal

 

Though not belonging to a musical family, it was during her junior high school that Sejal Kukadia took up to musical instruments. During Sejal’s college years she started getting serious about her decision of pursuing her career in music seriously. Soon she managed to attend an Indian percussion concert in Manhattan and it was then that she firmly decided to learn Tabla.

 

Her Training

 

In order to be trained, Sejal decided to move to India after taking up a four year long apprenticeship. Here she came under the influence of Pandit Divyang Vakil who is regarded as a very renowned Tabla player. She was the only American under her guru but joined in by other female trainees. Despite being an outsider, she completely immersed herself into the course. For the same, she practised regularly for many hours, interacting with other students and Tabla players and also attending more musical concerts.

 



 

During her apprenticeship period she attended the Rhythm Music Institute in Ahmedabad. Sejal recalls: “Tabla is a difficult instrument. For me, the challenging part was the practice and the discipline. We were required to practice 4-6 hours a day. Once you decided to receive this training, you had to adapt to the lifestyle as well. All of the students were not allowed to have much of a social life. I remember maybe seeing one movie in the theater the entire time I was there. Not visiting relatives and family.”

 

It was during the same period that Sejal also authored a book. Tabla Taalim: A Study in North Indian Percussion captures an in-depth essay about the Tabla and the techniques to play it.



Sejal Kukadia as a Teacher

 

Sejal Kukadia has been the disciple of Pt. Divyang Vakil since the initial phase of her training. Currently, she teaches at the Taalim School of Indian Music on a regular basis and also performs for them. Here, Indian and American students in the USA learn Tabla under her.

 

Sejal has also authored another book named ‘Rhythm of Tabla’ which is a useful guidebook for understanding and learning the Tabla. It includes an in-depth biography of eminent Tabla players, differences between Gharanas, practical instruction for beginners and much more than that.

 

Sejal Kukadia plays in Pandit Divyang Vakil’s Tabla Triveni. This is an Indian Classical Tabla trio troupe which performs all over the country. She is a member of ‘Divahn’, which is an all female Middle Eastern fusion band that travels in India and abroad. Also, she is a part of the world’s only female Tabla ensemble Taalika which is organized by the Taalim School of Indian Music. She performs for this ensemble along with Jin Won of Korea and Heena Patel. In 2009, she moved to Long Island where she teaches students and performs in area ensembles and as a soloist.

 

Taalika

 

Sejal Kukadia still believes in constant improvement and learning to execute more improvisations while playing. She, in an interview of 2012 says, “As I am still very much a student, I have a long way to go on the road of classical music. As a faculty member at the Taalim School, I feel that I am accepted and recognized as a good teacher and a role model to young women who are studying tabla. We have several female students at our institute who say that one of the reasons that they started learning tabla was because they saw that the teacher was a woman!”

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