Los Angeles-based vocalist Aditya Prakash has recently released his new album “Diaspora Kid,” a reference to his cross-cultural upbringing in Los Angeles, California. Prakash says the album, the third from his band — Aditya Prakash Ensemble — is about “finding my roots in my ever-changing environment, filled with a diverse array of inspirations and moving through the melting pot of cultures I grew up with in Los Angeles through the lens of the Indian classical voice.”
The album covers a wide variety of sounds — from rhythmic Carnatic grooves over a brass band (“Greenwood”), to an alternative rock Radiohead-inspired feel (“Wave for an Ocean”), to an aggressive Tigran Hamasyan-inspired modal jazz tune (“The Warrior”), to an Irish fiddle-inspired sound (“Irish Song”) to a hip hop rap vibe (“Up in Flames”), to a funky Indian folk feel (“Ambiga”), and finally the pure Carnatic (“Roots — Ramakali”).
Although firmly rooted in Carnatic music, Prakash says his style is heavily inspired by North Indian classical music, Sufi music, Western classical, jazz, flamenco, and hip hop. He says the “depth” of his Carnatic training “allows for him to bridge the gap between the rich, sacred and ancient art form and today’s interconnected, diverse environment.”
It was while growing up in Los Angeles that Prakash began to learn Carnatic music. He told this correspondent how his parents played a role in making sure that he and his sister were involved in Indian classical art. So it was through Carnatic music, Bharatanatyam and trips to India “to absorb the sights and sounds,” that Prakash became culturally Indian.
But that was just one facet of his life.
At school found Prakash said he found himself to be like any other American kid, so much so that he kept his cultural side a complete secret. Prakash studied Carnatic music from childhood, but kept that passion apart from the public persona he had for his friends. “I was socially American and culturally Indian,” Prakash told India Abroad in a phone interview from Chennai, where he was is training music with his teacher.
Balancing the two worlds in this way leads one to isolation, a feeling of being separate from both cultures,” Prakash noted, but added that it also “drives the creative to find ways to bring these worlds together.”
It was at UCLA that Prakash started giving voice to his multicultural upbringing. It was while studying ethnomusicology and music at UCLA that he met likeminded musicians and the Aditya Prakash Ensemble was born. And so did his crossover journey. It is these distinct sounds and separate voices that make the base of Prakash’s music.
According to Prakash’s website, his band seeks to bring to the fore the roots from which both Indian classical and pop traditions have evolved. The Ensemble has created an outlet for the Indian classical and jazz aesthetic to shine forth in an accessible, modern, playful yet powerful and dynamic way.
Prakash’s talent was first noticed, when, at age 15, he was personally selected by Pandit Ravi Shankar to tour with him. That gave him an opportunity to not just perform at respected stages like Carnegie Hall and the Hollywood Bowl, it gave him confidence and enhanced his sense of self. Since then, has worked in cross-over genre music, touring and performing throughout the U.S., Europe and Canada, as lead vocalist with Anoushka Shankar, Karsh Kale, Salim Merchant and MIDIval Punditz.
Apart from the Aditya Prakash Ensemble, Prakash is founder of the J.A.S.S. Quartet which create original compositions inspired from the styles of Indian classical, folk, jazz, funk, blues and hip hop. He regularly composes for acclaimed dancer Mythili Prakash’s productions, the most recent of which was “MARA,” amongst other collaborative music projects.