Story: Liz Searle
To most Burngreave residents, Kamalbir is known for working in Ellesmere Road Post Office. However, he is also famous around the world as a performer and composer of classical Indian music.
Kamalbir reveals that ‘the musician part of me is the dominant part but I try to keep it hidden from the public. I am always singing in the Post Office but I keep my eye on the door and if someone comes in, I stop.’
I asked Kamalbir how he began his musical career. His father is a classical singer, who in turn taught the young Kamalbir to sing. After looking in vain for a sarangi (a bowed, stringed Indian instrument) teacher, he took up the flute at age ten and the violin at sixteen. While studying medicine, Kamalbir entered the ‘All India Radios’ music competition – comparable to the BBC Young Musician of the Year – and won the gold medal.
Smiling modestly, he admits that it was a big shock to win. Although his interest in music did make concentrating on his studies more difficult, Kamalbir gained his degree and is, as well as a Postmaster and an international musician, a qualified doctor. Kamalbir recounts how he has always followed the progress of his idol Jagjit Singh, still number one in India at the age of 65. Jagjit Singh sings ghazals, Urdu poetry set to music, in a lighter style that brought it into public attention. The two men met when Jagjit Singh came to the UK and have kept in touch ever since.
Kamalbir has worked on the albums of Indian legends such as Anup Jalota and British artists Kula Shaker and David Essex. The ‘Bride and Prejudice’ soundtrack included his violin pieces and recently he has provided Sheffield Theatres with music for ‘A Handful of Henna’.
So what’s next for Kamalbir? He may be heading back to the West End to perform the score of ‘A Handful of Henna’ and is also considering running music workshops for Burngreave residents.
If you are interested in learning about Indian music contact Kamalbir email@example.com or on 07980 968 486 (evenings and weekends).