Aditya Prakash

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Tell us about your work.
My roots are deeply embedded in Carnatic music – the sound of my childhood environment. It was the first language I knew and the medium through which I negotiated the multitude of sounds around me. My mother, Viji Prakash - a pioneer in the Indian classical arts, started the first Bharatanatyam dance school in Los Angeles in the 1970’s. From 1999 onwards, I spent all my summer and winter vacations studying intensely with master musicians in Chennai, India. Currently I am under the mentorship of two of the leading exponents of Carnatic music, TM Krishna and RK Shriramkumar. 

Born and raised in LA, the influences of rock, jazz, hip hop and funk were absorbed into my musical psyche. My first collaboration with sitar maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar at the age of 16, and later on with Anoushka Shankar, Karsh Kale and acclaimed dancer and choreographer, Akram Khan, were impetus to push boundaries and innovate within Indian classical music.  I have gained immense performing experience performing with these artists, taking me to venues such as Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Disney Hall, Kennedy Center to name a few. I am currently touring as vocalist with Akram Khan in his final solo production, XENOS, which tours internationally from 2018-2021. 
My education in ethnomusicology at UCLA, where I met some of my now closest friends and collaborators in Aditya Prakash Ensemble, allowed me to shape my own journey and live my vision of bringing my deep-rooted tradition and cultural inheritance in dialogue with my experience growing up American. Not only was I able to find common ground with styles seemingly disparate, but also discover new spaces within my own form. In placing my Carnatic aesthetics in dialogue with a familiar musical genre such as jazz, I seek to open up a new space for Carnatic music appreciation and education, and breakdown notions that it is a niche musical form.

Aditya Prakash Ensemble has recorded two albums- The Hidden (2012) and MARA (2016) and is in the process of releasing a new two-part album (part-sponsored by the Herb Alpert School of Music at UCLA), set to release in the Spring and Fall of 2019. The Ensemble has performed at notable venues across the globe such as Esplanade Theatres by the Bay, Singapore (2016 and 2018), The New Parks Festival (six-city India tour), The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion (LA), The Ford (Hollywood), The Getty Center, and Kennedy Center Millennium Stage to name a few. 

How old were you when you knew you wanted to be an artist (or agent), and where were you?
I was an artist as a kid, performing concerts when I was 13. But I did not know I was an artist, I was just doing what I was trained to do. At the age of 16 I became aware that art is something I would pursue seriously due to a conversation with Pandit Ravi Shankar. After my tour with him I asked him for any advice for me as a musician, and he told me that I must give myself to music. I have the talent, a unique voice and the drive and I must go for it full-time and devote myself to music. He even told me to not worry about college, and that music should be my main focus because I have that calling. This reaffirmation from such a giant in the field of music was all I needed to know that music was my calling. 

"If you were on an island and could only bring three things, what would you bring?"
1.    I Am That – a book by Nisargadatta Maharaj
2.    A really good pillow- because sleep is important!
3.    A small portable keyboard so I could noodle around with music – write and sing while staring out into the ocean

What is the best advice you’ve gotten in your career thus far?
Mastery comes with power and power comes with discipline. Submit yourself to a discipline. An organized and regular practice regime, although boring and tough at times, is the key to those moments of unadulterated bliss and freedom while performing or creating. I got this advice from Akram Khan, who I am lucky to be working with. 

Name an artist you’d love to meet and why?
Up until a month ago, it was Tigran Hamasyan. But the universe heard my wish and Ive not only met him but now I am working on my new album with him! He has been a huge inspiration for me musically. He gives his tradition a unique voice, through his own voice without compromising on the depth of either. 
I’d love to meet Jonny Greenwood (and the whole Radiohead band for that matter) In the studio, to see their process of producing -making soundscapes and creating such amazing, innovative and incredible sounds. 

“If I weren’t doing this I’d…”
Be sitting on a cliff staring out into the vast expanse all day

What are your 3 goals for the rest 2019?
1. Practice on a regular schedule every day
2. Improve my vocal range and mental stamina during concerts
3. Get more organized 

What are you working on now?
A new album project with Tigran Hamasyan, and just going deeper in my Carnatic vocal craft. I finished an album with Aditya Prakash Ensemble and it is set to release in Spring 2020 under Ropeadope records, pretty excited about that!