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Mushtari Begum Festival

When Your Ears Begin to See, ... the Eyes Listen...

2016 Artist Lineup

Sharanjeet Singh Mand- (India / Canada)

Sharanjeet Singh Mand, hailing from Chandigarh, Punjab, India, represents the youngest generation of Ustad Vilayatkhani School of Sitar, giving his first performance at the age of 16 at a Mother Teresa Homage Concert in India. His dedication towards his instrument and to music has made him into a cherished composer and instructor of music for his students both in India and Canada.

Sharanjeet is widely known as a Sitarist with impeccable style and flair, and his performances have enthralled audiences in India and Canada alike. A young and energetic maestro, his style of performance is laced with fast taans and soulful gayaki ang.

 Among many accomplishments, medals and recognitions, Sharanjeet has been credited to be the first ever sitarist to play the opera "Ave Maria" on Sitar, and was present to perform a Sitar solo during India's PM Narendra Modi's historical Canada visit in 44 years with Canadian PM Stephen Harper.

Sharanjeet is a dedicated student of sitar with Pt. Dr. Harvinder Sharma, a senior disciple of Ustad Vilayat Khan. At such a young age, he has composed many musical pieces for plays, dramas, and for his students at the Tansen Sangeet Mahavidhyalay (Indian) as a piano teacher. He has conducted musical workshops at various institutions including Fraser Valley University. He is a prime member of the Indian orchestra named Naad - The Resonnance, along with his many collaborations with stalwarts of Indian and Western Classical music.

Sharanjeet currently resides in Surrey and is involved with music programs at Douglas College and Fraser Valley University. 

Kaushik Sivaramakrishnan- (India  / Canada)
Carnatic Violin

Kaushik Sivaramakrishnan is a disciple of the Violin Vidushi (master) Smt. Radha Narayan. He has accomplished the style of innovative playing showing elements of emotion (bhava) and improvisation (manodharma) producing a soul-elevating experience for the listeners and appreciators of the music.

Kaushik started learning violin from the age of 3 years, and has been giving public performances since the age of six, giving him the status of a child prodigy. He has travlled to USA, Canada, Bahrain, Dubai for performances apart from traveling extensively within India.  Kaushik has been awarded many top scholarships and 1st place medals in music competitions.

What the press say about Kaushik Sivaramakrishnan:

"The arsenal of every vocalist was put on the frontlines to battle it out on the closely fough Inter Hall Easter Vocals. four hours of this musical feast saw the veteran, Kaushik Sivaramakrishnan (RK) emerge victorious yet again" - The Scholars Avenue, IIT KGP (2011)

"For those who don't know him, he is the Violin Gawd of KGP. His name echose in Nethaji and Kalidas (auditoriums in IIT KGP) whenever he gets on the stage. He is simply genius and he never admist it be humbly saying it's just a different instrument" - Online Fornight Journal of IIT (2011)

He will be accompanied on the Mrindangam by Abhishek Iyer. 

Abhishek is a passionate student of music and has been learning Tabla from his guru Tabla Maestro Cassius Khan for the past 8 years. Since the last 4 years, he has been performing as a Tabla player for a number of events that include dance and musical performances for both North and South Indian programs in Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver. He is also a serious student of Mridangam under Sri Neyveli Narayanan in Chennai. Abhishek has in fact evolved a unique style of playing, incorporating Mridangam based rhythmic  pattern on the Tabla to accompany Carnatic Music. This year Abhishek will be performing as a Mrindangam accompanist for the first time on a festival stage, and how fitting it is that it is the MBF run by his Guru. He is also learning Carnatic vocal under Sri Ashwin Iyer of the Toronto Brothers as well as Sitar and Violin on the side. Abhishek studied software engineering from the University of Alberta. He is currently working as a project engineer in Edmonton, Alberta.

Amika Kushwaha - (Canada)

"Amika weaves magic into her movements..."- Cassius Khan

Amika Kushwaha is a serious student of the Lucknow Gharana (school) of Kathak and has been a companion of her ghunghroos (dancing bells) since childhood. As a young child growing up in Saskatoon, Amika has consistently wowed her audiences in her advanced skills in Kathak dance, and through her dedicated practice and determination she has become one of Canada's stalwart Kathak performers and is internationally recognized by her peers in both music and dance.

Kathak dance requires immense strength, perfection and grace. Kushwaha is one of the few performers in Canada who displays this art form with live musical accompaniment, which is a rare treat in this country. Her speciality is her uncanny intuition on stage; from her darting eyes to her quick feet, able to create intricate patterns and interweave this dance form with literally any form of music, allowing her to interface with dancers of other genres. 

Amika has performed and collaborated in notable festivals such as the Next Step Dance Festival, the Indian Electronica Festival, The Robson Valley Music Festival, the Vancouver Island Festival, the Vancouver Folk Music Festival amongst many other organizations. She has choreographed Kathak to Thumris, Ghazals, Qawwali, Dhol, Electronica, Tap, and popular Hindi film songs, all while staying true to the art form.

Amika's advanced knowledge of the discipline has made her a well-synchronized Harmonium (Indian reed organ) player. Apart from having the ability to create on-the-spot complex musical patterns, her intuition on following the voice is par excellence. She has played in numerous folk music festivals in Canada, alongside Cassius Khan. She is celebrated for her abilities on her sonorous and melodic Harmonium playing, and is an expert Lehra accompanist for Tabla soloists and Kathak dancers alike. Her Harmonium expertise is well captured in Cassius Khan's album "Mushtari: a live concert", which was nominated for the 2011 Western Canadian Music Awards.

"... Amika Kushwaha played the Harmonium skillfully...suddenly whipping out unimaginable melodies from her fingers. I felt goose bumps through the entire time..."  - EJazz News

Alongside Cassius Khan, Amika Kushwaha was awarded the "Salute to Excellence Award" from the City of Edmonton in 2005, and recently reciever the "Shakti Award for Artistic Excellence" in 2016.

In addition to dancing and performing music, Kushwaha is a professional engineer with an M.Sc. in Chemical Engineering, and is a Kathak dance instructor in Western Canada, teaching various levels and ages of Kathak students. She is married to Ghazal/Tabla artist Cassius Khan and resides in New Westminster, BC Canada.

Amika is featured in Nanak Foods internationally released Halwa TV Ad where she serves a tray of sweets to her uninspired husband Cassius Khan. Her expression in the ad was so liked by the audience that whenever people met her they would immediately praise and mimic her expressions!

Amika is also the Artistic Director of the Mushtari Begum Festival of Indian Classical Music and Dance.


Pandit Salil Bhatt - Jaipur, Rajasthan, India

Salil V. Bhatt represents the tenth generation of the famous Bhatt lineage, where music has been flowing for more than five hundred years. Salil is the son of the legendary slide player and India's GRAMMY AWARD winner Padmashree Pt. Vishwa Mohan Bhatt.

Pt. Bhatt is the creator of the Mohan Veena, a revolutionary instrument which has been hailed as a discovery in the Indian classical music scenario.

Salil has been mastering the Mohan Veena for more than twenty years. He is the foremost disciple of Pt. Vishwa Mohan Bhatt and one of the youngest and most promising exponents of the Mohan Veena. Salil with his soulful and vibrant music is receiving accolades from the listeners and the press alike.

With a Masters degree in music and an A - grade of the All India Radio, Salil has performed throughout the country as well as abroad and is a regular performer for the A.I.R. & National television network, along with other prime television channels. Salil has been the celebrity artist in various channels such as Star T.V. [Good Morning show], Zee T.V. [Morning Zee], Aaj Tak, Star News, Zee News, D.D. 1 [Subah Savare], D.D. 1 [Sanskritinama], DD Metro [Good Morning Metro].

Salil's music albums 'Legendary Legacy', 'Revival of Gavti', 'In Harmony', 'Swar Shikhar', ‘Revitalise', ‘Sopaan', ‘Slide to Freedom', ‘Out of the Shadows', ‘Carnatica's Veena Jugalbandi' etc were instant hits.

Asides from the "Star Of India" award he has received the title of "Tantree Samrat" as well as a nomination for the Canadian Juno Awards for his collaboration with "Slide To Freedom."

Salil reflects the dynamic style of rendering the classical nuances on the Mohan Veena in his concerts. His style incorporates the authentic and systematic exposition of Classical Indian Ragas and the embellishments of the World Music as well.

Salil's baaz [style] assimilates the 'gayaki' [vocal] and 'tantrakari' [instrumental] representations which makes his playing complete with innumerable variations. Salil specializes in playing high-speed taans demonstrating his great skill on the Mohan Veena. Trained by his mentor Pt. Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, Salil follows the Classical Indian Raga authenticity to its strictest norms and creates the purest picture of every Raga he plays.

Cassius Khan - (Canada)
Ghazal & Tabla

"Khan is a Tabla Tornado..." - Vancouver Folk Festival 2011

The most recognizeable Canadian Indian Classical musician in the world, the globally renowned Cassius Khan is a master performer and exponent of the Classical styles of Ghazal singing, and the Tabla, the North Indian pair of drums. He is the sole disciple of the late Malika-e-Ghazal Mushtari Begum and Tabla maestro Ustad Rukhsar Ali. 

A charismatic personality both on and off stage, Khan is the only professional performing artist in the World who executes highly skilled Tabla compositions and sings traditional Classical Ghazals (Urdu poetry) and Thumris (classical compositions in Hindi) simultaneously. His talent has stunned audiences since most Ghazalists play Harmonium.

Combining Indian Classical singing with Tabla for a single artist, is a first in Indian classical music. Many noted Indian classical gurus have proclaimed that singing and playing Tabla in unison, such as Cassius Khan does, is a near impossible feat to master. Khan has etched his contribution into the field of Indian Classical music and has been crowned as the inventor of singing Ghazal and playing Tabla simultaneously.

Among his many accomplishments, Khan was awarded the "Salute to Excellence" Award from the City of Edmonton in 2005, co-composed the "Asia Music" segment in the 2001 World Track & Field Championships in Edmonton AB, and also made history as the first Indian Ghazal/Tabla maestro to be invited to perform at the 2008 SXSW, 2009 Canada Music Week, and the National Folk Alliance festivals. He has lent his talents to almost every genre of music and has been hailed as Canada's Multifaceted Musician.

Khan performs extensively internationally in Folk and World Music festivals and concerts, and has collaborated with many critically acclaimed musicians from around the world with personalities from the Grammy Award winning Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt and his son Pandit Salil Bhatt, to Blues legend Ellen McIlwaine and Jazz legend Stu Goldberg. In his life, he has also been blessed with the the opportunity to accompany Ghazal greats such as King of Ghazal, the late Ustad Mehdi Hassan, amongst other notable musicians.

Khan has also worked in the world of television; he is featured in an international TV commercial for Nanak Foods.

Khan's newest album "Mushtari: a live concert" was nominated for the 2011 Western Canadian Music Awards in the category of "World Album of the Year". Apart from performing music, Khan also teaches Indian Classical singing and Tabla. He is married to acclaimed Kathak dancer/ Harmonium player Amika Kushwaha, and they reside and teach music and dance in New Westminster, BC.

Cassius Khan is the Producer of the  Mushtari Begum Festival of Indian Classical Music and Dance. 

MBF Cassius Sound Clip