Sounds of the East: Sandpoint Curry brings world-class Indian music to the Panida

By Lyndsie Kiebert
Reader Staff

Most North Idahoans know local restaurateur Pete Hicks for his deliciously warm and filling meals at Sandpoint Curry. Fewer know that Hicks’ ties to India go all the way back to when he was born in New Delhi. 

Partho Sarothy, Abhijit Banerjee and Somnath Roy will play Sounds of the East Oct. 11. Courtesy photo.

Though he ended up doing the bulk of his growing up in the United States, Hicks always knew he wanted to go back. The youngest of four children, he said he was the only sibling with no memories of his birthplace.

“I only had their stories to tell me about the county I was born in,” Hicks said.

After high school, he headed to India and joined an Indian fusion band that toured the world.

“[The band] kept bringing me back to India,” Hicks said. “That was where I learned to cook the food, as well as the love of the culture and make many friends over the years.”

One of those friends was Partho Sarothy, who Hicks met during one of his first trips to India in 2002. Hicks wanted to learn classical Indian music, and Sarothy — being a world-class sarod player — was the guy to meet. Hicks said they formed a friendship that has persisted for nearly two decades and, as a result, Sarothy and two other classical Indian musicians — Abhijit Banerjee and Somnath Roy — will play the Panida Theater on Friday, Oct. 11 for a Sounds of the East authentic Indian music concert.

All three artists are known as leading musicians in India. Sarothy has played venues like Carnegie Hall and Kremlin Hall, as well as Royal Albert and Queen Elizabeth Halls in London. Banerjee is a highly sought after tabla — a type of hand drum — player, and Roy is a world-touring master of South Indian percussion. Together, their ensemble represents the best skill and experience Indian music has to offer.

This will be the second time Sarothy and company will take the Panida stage. In 2016, Hicks said the Sounds of the East crew played an incredible performance, which he was able to record. He said that recording has played on KRFY the week leading up to the Oct. 11 show.

“You can hear the crowd gasp as they play,” Hicks said of the recording. “I knew it was going to be good but it even blew my expectations out of the water.”

Hicks has always harbored a love for Indian culture — particularly the music. He said very few people reach the level of expertise that Sarothy, Banerjee and Roy have achieved, and that such skill is obtained through hours of daily work over decades. He said classical Indian music is unique in that many compositions are very stringent and made up of only a few notes. Once musicians master the rules of those compositions, he said they become the basis for extremely emotive works of art.

“The music they play is hundreds of years of tradition passed down from generation to generation,” Hicks said. “That gives the idea that it will be boring, but it is all a platform for on-the-spot improvisation, used to bring life to an old container.”

Sounds of the East • Friday, Oct. 11; doors at 6 p.m., show at 7 p.m.; adults $20, youths 1-12 $10. Panida Theater, 300 N. First Ave. 208-263-9191, Tickets online, at Eichardt’s, Evan’s Brothers or Sandpoint Curry.

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