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Mungal Patasar

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Mungal Patasar is an internationally celebrated musician who has created a unique genre of world music that draws on all the elements of the musical culture of the Caribbean. His life’s work has been a complete dedication to music. He was born in 1946 into a musical family in Trinidad. Both his parents were singers and his father sang classical Indian music and his brothers were drummers and singers. By the age of eight, Patasar was playing harmonium, dholak and dhantal, and played clarinet in his school’s military band.

Mungal Patasar got his first sitar at age 27 and secretly practised for eight years. In 1978, he participated in, and won, the Mastana Bahar talent competition. In 1979, he turned to Indo Calypso-Jazz. A few years later, at age 40, he went to India to pursue his studies in sitar at Banaras Hindu University. India was a whole new experience for Mungal Patasar, with a gruelling training schedule and visits to the homes of India’s ancient classical music traditions. After graduating with several academic degrees, he returned home to enrich the music with his own understanding of the ancients.

One of the most toured artistes of the Caribbean, Patasar Mungal has appeared in major festivals worldwide, the last being the Roskilde festival in Denmark where he played to an audience of about 90,000. Locally, his most recent performance was at the Tobago Jazz festival. In Paris in 2000, Mungal’s music was described as the ‘new world music’- the music of the new millennium, having its roots in Indian Classical ragas with motifs of reggae, calypso and including other Caribbean rhythms.

The next year, 2001, Mungal launched his CD “Dreadlocks” in Paris where within a week the title song “Dreadlocks” hit the top twenty on the European charts. At the Montreaux Jazz festival in Switzerland that year, he was quoted as saying “Europe is my doorway to the world, India my memory, Trinidad the rock on which I stand. My music is a divine gift that belongs to all.” Noted musician/singer Joan Armatrading while doing a film for the BBC in Trinidad and Tobago, commented that the music of Mungal Patasar and his band, Pantar, stands out as the most cohesive fusion music in the genre of world music. For its 40th anniversary, Amnesty International chose Mungal’s song “Roshni” among its CD collection of the international top twenty-seven.

Mungal retired as Director of Culture in the year 2002. After six years as a freelance musician in Europe he joined the UTT as Advisor to the President. He was later promoted to the position of Distinguished Master Artiste in Residence a position which represents the most senior artiste at the University.

He has an honorary degree from the University of the Trinidad and Tobago and has been honoured for his contribution to music with the national award of the Hummingbird Medal (Gold).