ADVERTISEMENT

'Can Be Cool & Classical': Meet Indian American Carnatic Musician Aditya Prakash

Spotted by late Pandit Ravi Shankar, Aditya became the youngest musician to tour and perform with the sitar maestro.

Updated
Indian Diaspora
5 min read

Indian American Aditya Prakash is known as a young Carnatic classical music virtuoso with an emotive voice.

Growing up surrounded by various art forms in the backdrop of his mother's Bharatnatyam school in Los Angeles, and with his father’s support, Aditya took to mridangam and vocals, soon finding stages in India and the United States.

Live at Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. 

(Photo Courtesy: adityaprakashmusic.com)

"I would wake up to hearing rhythmic foot-slapping. I would wake up to rehearsals in our living room. I was just used to the sounds all the time. There would never be silence in our house. It was always filled with music, dance, rhythms," he tells The Quint.

Performing With Pt Ravi Shankar & Breaking the Wall Between His Identities

Spotted by late Pandit Ravi Shankar, then high schooler Aditya became the youngest musician to tour and perform with the sitar maestro, at venues such as Hollywood Bowl, Carnegie Hall, etc.

With Ravi Shankar at his residence. 

(Photo Courtesy: adityaprakashmusic.com)

Speaking about his growing-up years in California when he was a rare South Asian at school, Aditya tells us he was afraid of being too different, keeping his Indian music identity and American identity separate, and how being accepted to tour with the maestro changed all that.

"My desi friends and I felt like outsiders. We wanted to fit in, and felt embarrassed about our Indian culture when we were in an American social setting. I was embarrassed to share Carnatic music with my friends. The few times I did, they would say 'this is weird, what is this'. I did want to share this with my friends or western audiences. There was a wall built between my identities."

Live in Guadalajara, Mexico. 

(Photo Courtesy: adityaprakashmusic.com)

"When I was 13, 14, or 15, Pandit Ravi Shankar – I used to call him Guruji – lived in Encinitas, California, which is not far from Los Angeles. He really encourages artists. When I was 15, he called my parents and asked them if I could prepare a set of 20-30 minutes at his house. When I went there, I got nervous, there were quite a lot of people, some legendary Hindustan musicians, some American people, a really diverse audience. But he (Ravi Shankar) was so engaging, warm, and humble," he says.

Aditya Prakash Ensemble – Coming Together of Jazz and Carnatic Music

In college at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Aditya founded the Aditya Prakash Ensemble with his friends – a group that frames his emotive Carnatic vocal style around jazz instrumentation.

His time at UCLA studying music and founding his ensemble became the perfect vehicle to straddle two deep music cultures.

The Aditya Prakash Ensemble. 

(Photo Courtesy: adityaprakashmusic.com)

Carnatic in Dallas, Texas. 

(Photo Courtesy: adityaprakashmusic.com)

ADVERTISEMENT
"My roommates and best friends at the time were Jazz musicians. We found a lot of similarities in the ideologies. Naturally, we started practising together and started trying things, and we found such a special space which came out with improvisation with both forms of music – Jazz and Carnatic."
Aditya Prakash

"That experience, when I was able to perform at a Jazz Club with my own music and see my friends having a great time and connecting to the music, it was a whole new high for me; my identities were getting closer. I was becoming more proud to share my music," he adds.

"I was starting to accept that I can be cool and a classical musician."

Aditya Prakash. 

(Photo Courtesy: adityaprakashmusic.com)

Making Sense of the Volatile World Through His Music

Aditya has processed the uncertainties of the pandemic, combined with rage and political rhetoric in the US and India, contemplating and composing, allowing the turmoil to enter his composition, ‘Battlefield’.

"Music is the centre of my life. So whenever I'm around music, I only see the beautiful and the uplifting. But at the same time, when I turn on the news, it's only chaos, tension, and division. It was my privilege that I turn a blind eye to these issues. That kind of hypocrisy disturbed me, as well as the hypocrisy of the leaders and the power politics of both countries I call home – the USA and India. That got me to question the idea of beauty in music."

What Next for the Virtuoso?

Aditya now spends his time creating music between Los Angeles and Chennai and continues to perform with artists like Akram Khan, Karsh Kale, Anoushka Shankar, etc. He has enthralled audiences on stages in numerous countries and festivals, and can be heard on all major streaming platforms.

He released 'Lord of the Cave' in 2021 and 'Virahe' in January 2022 and is now working on a new album with Tigran Hamasyan.

His production 'Home' for Singapore-based Carnatic vocalist Sushma Soma, releasing on 8 April, is based on the theme of humans' relationship with nature. Aditya's forthcoming four-city US tour is to commence this spring, from 23 April to 28 May.

Live at the Getty, LA. 

(Photo Courtesy: adityaprakashmusic.com)

(Savita Patel is a San Francisco Bay Area-based journalist and producer. She reports on Indian diaspora, India-US ties, geopolitics, technology, public health, and environment. She tweets at @SsavitaPatel.)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

Read and Breaking News at the Quint, browse for more from us-nri-news

ADVERTISEMENT
Published: 
Edited By :Saundarya Talwar
Speaking truth to power requires allies like you.
Become a Quint Insider
25
100
200

or more

PREMIUM

3 months
12 months
12 months
Check Insider Benefits
Read More
ADVERTISEMENT
Stay Updated

Subscribe To Our Daily Newsletter And Get News Delivered Straight To Your Inbox.

Join over 120,000 subscribers!
ADVERTISEMENT
More News
×
×