Professional guitarist and multi-instrumentalist Chris “Seep” Seepersaud is a firm believer in teaching inclusively in music education. As a public school teacher, he established a multi-cultural curriculum, but wanted to reach a larger community. With this goal in mind, he founded Seepersaud Studios in 2009 with his wife, Therese, to open up the world through music.
“I made the studio to make the musical learning journey more comfortable, more powerful and more palatable for every individual,” says Seepersaud. “The recording studio becomes secondary to one-on-one music lessons that are multicultural and based on popular, spiritual and world music. To me, Stevie Wonder is just as prolific as Beethoven.”
Classes at the studio allow him to share his unique musical point of view and particularly his passion and expertise in Indian classical music. The studio is home to more than 40 students, including established and touring musicians like Rachel Hillman, Lili Forbes, and Jacob Grimes.
Seepersaud and his wife will present workshops on both Indian music and jazz vocals at the upcoming Northside Stage MusicFest on July 18.
“Northside Stage is amazing and is putting forth an effort to include different cultures in this event,” says Seepersaud. “At this venue, they’re going to have Indian, jazz, bluegrass and world music. That’s the full spread of Tallahassee right there.”
Seepersaud’s parents immigrated to the U.S. from British Guyana. By age 5, he was squirreling away their cassette tapes of 1960s Indian film music to bring to show-and-tell at daycare. Though he started on piano, guitar and sitar were where he found his groove.
He says it was the late Michael Bugter-van Loon, an FSU musician, that gave him his first guitar lesson. Seepersaud immediately connected with the guitar’s strings and the fingertip sensation. He released his first jazz EP at fourteen years old and remembers playing fast and loud for impromptu rap battles in his garage.
“I tell my students to put their eyeballs in their fingertips when they play,” says Seepersaud. “From the guitar, I used to imagine I was playing the sarode or sitar or saxophone.”
He remains appreciative of current mentors and gurus Gayatri Melkote and Prabha Bhaskar, both Tallahassee musicians with expertise in Indian classical music. He’s also been able to play with several Grammy-nominated artists including George Porter, Jr. and Brian Stoltz of the Funky Meters, Le’Andria Johnson, and Aston Barrett.
Seepersaud continuously works to perfect “ragas,” a melodic form that he likens to a “psycho-acoustic hypothesis.”
Each form has a history hundreds of years old and is passed down from guru to teacher. He has spent the better part of a decade learning the Mawra and Sohini ragas. One of his teachers compares this exploration to reading a map, eventually getting closer to the final location, walking through the door and entering the trance-like state that many musicians experience when they access melodic depths.
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