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Kanak Hota "Indian classical music performance at Chicago Cultural Center", desiTalk (March 9, 2007), Vol. 3, Issue 125, pg. 18. 

Indian classical music performed at

Chicago Cultural Center

By Kanak Hota

As part of the series, "Music with outboarders," the Chicago based Sandal Wood Sitar Music Ensemble gave a spectacular public performance of Indian classical music at the Chicago Cultural Center on Friday, March 2, afternoon.

Musicians Carl Monaco at Sitar, his wife Gigi Wong-Monaco at swarasangam,tamboori and percussion, and Dharminder Singh at Tabla entertained the audience with their scintillating performance. The repertoire consisted of classical Indian ragas and original compositions and a highly entertaining medley -a fabulous fusion of the Western tunes in classical Indian rendition. Most remarkable was Carl Monaco's playing of Hamsadhwani and raga Bhupali on the sitar with the synchronized accompaniment of swarasangam and tambori from Gigi and tabla from Dharminder Singh. Before playing a raga, Carl used to explain to his audience the intricacies going into the making of a raga, the most suitable time to play it and how it ascends and descends in nuances. He also explained the complex working of the tabla that compliments the tonal richness and grandiose movement of classical ragas played on traditional Indian instruments like sitar or veena. "Tabla is unique and complex; there is a lot of mathematics involved in how it works" said Carl. He introduced Dharminder Singh to the audience who later invited the audience to realize the sounds involved in a train engine as it starts, gains momentum, passes over a bridge and finally reaches a destination through the bits his dexterous hands played over the tabla.  

All three musicians are on the faculty of Chicago's only accredited school of Indian music, Sadhana School of Indian Music. Clar Monaco began his sitar studies with Mushtaq Khan (Indore Gharana) in 1993 and continues as a disciple of world-  renowned artist Pandit Ronu Majumdar (Maihar Gharana). Clara is also a Sitar teacher in Chicago area.

GIGO Monaco has studied Indian music since 1995 & accompanied many Indian, Afghani and western artists in concerts and recordings; Dharminder Singh is a priest at the Gurudwara Temple in Crown Pointe, Gigi Wong-Monaco, born and raised on the island of O'ahu, Hawai'i USA, began her instruction in Indian classical music in 1997 with Patric Marks. GiGi plays a variety of Tanpuras, including the Swarsangam. She also plays Indian percussion, such as the Manjiras, Kartals and Dandia sticks. GiGi is a B.F.A. graduate of the University of Hawai'i and M.S. alumnus of Wilmington College, Delaware. She also plays the Hawaiian ukulele and keyboards.

Dharminder Singh came to the USA in 1995 from the Punjab state of India. At age 14, he began his study of tablas with his uncle, Mohinder "Ladu" Singh and continued with Pandit Jawaher Lal Sharma of Patialla, India. As a soloist, Dharminder has appeared on WVLP radio. Other performances include the anniversary program of Dr. Martin Luther King, and the Valparaiso University Annual International program, both in Valparaiso, Indiana. Dharminder is a priest of the Sikh Religious Society of Indiana.


Clar and GiGi Monaco, the founders of Sandalwood Sitar music Ensemble are avid players of a variety of traditional musical instruments from India including sitar and swarasangam. The culturally diverse musicians with their ensemble have been performing since 1998 around the Chicago area, including California, Washington State, Wisconsin, and Indiana; and at numerous venues such as Navy Pier-  Grand Ballroom, Old Town School of Folk Music, House of Blues, Millennium Park, Sri Venkateswara Temple (Calabasa CA) and more. They recently played for the Chicago-  Lahore Sister Cities Inauguration with Mayors Daley and Mehmood at the Chicago Cultural Center. Since 2003, founding members Clar and GiGi Monaco perform weekly at Khyber Pass Restaurant in Oak Park. 

© Clar Monaco 1977-2016 / All rights reserved.

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