Akshara Music Ensemble
Akshara is a dynamic music ensemble bringing together world music traditions on the rhythmic and modal foundations of Indian classical music. In 2015, Akshara’s Mohana Blues won the ‘Best World Traditional Song’ award at the 13th Annual Independent Music Awards. Along with NYC’s brightest musical talent, Akshara Music Ensemble’s leader and composer, Bala Skandan, presents surprising and delightful interpretations of traditional ragas like Kamboji, Mohana, Gambira Natai and Shanmugapriya arranged for Carnatic, Hindustani, and Western classical and folk instruments.
Bala Skandan: Mridangam (percussion), Konnakkol (vocal percussion) Initiated into the Carnatic percussion art of Mridangam, and the violin at age six, Bala Skandan is a classical Indian music polymath. Having emerged as a respected Mridangam exponent, he has performed with the doyens of Carnatic music, including Shri TV Gopalakrishnan, Shri N Ravikiran, Carnatica Brothers, Bombay Sisters, and has been acknowledged by the New York Times for his “superb musical accompaniment.” As leader of Akshara Music Ensemble in NYC, Skandan’s orginal compositions embrace Hindustani and Carnatic styles, as well as world music traditions. Skandan is a prolific educator in Carnatic music, teaching students in mridangam, kanjira, solkattu, and violin. Skandan has received tutelage under noted Carnatic gurus including, Guru Karaikudi Mani of Chennai (Mridangam), Smt. T Rukmini (Carnatic violin), Shri Seetharama Sharma (Carnatic vocal) and Shri T V Gopalakrishnan (Kanjira).
Arun Ramamurthy: Violin Arun Ramamurthy is a versatile violinist who is making his mark in Indian Classical and World music.Trained in Carnatic music initially by the distinguished violinist Anantha Krishnan, and then later by the celebrated violin brothers, Dr. Mysore Manjunath & Sri Mysore Nagaraj, Ramamurthy has become one of the most in-demand violinists in the US. He has carved a niche for himself as a multifaceted artist, performing in both traditional Carnatic & Hindustani settings as well as bridging genres with his own creative cross-over projects.
Trina Basu-Ramamurthy: Violin Influenced by the classical traditions of Europe and India, folk and jazz traditions of America, and creative improvisation Trina Basu has established herself as a performer, composer, educator, and thought leader. In addition to the Akshara Music Ensemble, she has performed and recorded with renowned artists across Indian classical, and popular western genres including Mos Def, Gil Scott Heron, Susan McKeown, Urban Bush Women, and Adam Rudolph’s GO: Organic Orchestra.
Nitin Mitta: Tabla (percussion) With a reputation for technical virtuosity, spontaneity, clarity of tone, and sensitivity to melodic nuances,Nitin Mitta has distinguished himself among the foremost tabla players of his generation. An exponent of the Farukhabad Gharana, Nitin received his early training in Hyderabad, India, from Pandit G. Satyanarayana, and later Arvind Mulgaonkar in Mumbai. In addition to being a dynamic soloist, he is a highly sought after accompanist who has performed with some of the most celebrated Hindustani classical musicians, including Pandit Jasraj, Dr. Prabha Atre, Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, and Ustad Shahid Parvez, as well as many noted Carnatic musicians, such as Lalgudi G.J.R Krishnan and Lalgudi Vijayalakshmi. Nitin recently collaborated with MacArthur Fellow and Grammy nominated jazz pianist Vijay Iyer and Carnatic guitarist R. Prasanna to produce Tirtha, an album blending elements of contemporary jazz with the North and South Indian traditional ragas and compositions.
Jay Gandhi: Bansuri (flute) Identified as an outstanding disciple of the world renowned bansuri maestro, Padmavibhushan Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia, Jay Gandhi initially trained in vocal music under Smt. Kum Kum Sanyal, and later bansuri under Pt. Ronu Majumdar, Pt. Vijay Raghav Rao and Pt. Raghunath Seth. Inspired to gain deeper knowledge of both the gayaki ang (vocal style) as well as tantrakari ang (stringed instrument style), Jay has also taken guidance from Pt Vidyadhar Vyas (vocal), and Pt. Nayan Ghosh (Sitar, Tabla). In 2004, he completed an Individual Major in Jazz Performance at Oberlin College/Conservatory of Music (Ohio), studying privately under such Jazz luminaries as the saxophonist Gary Bartz and trumpetist Marcus Belgrave.
Max ZT: Hammered Dulcimer Lauded as the “Jimi Hendrix of Hammered Dulcimer” by NPR, and a “Force of nature” by New York Music Daily, Max ZT is an innovator of the hammered dulcimer. Taking his roots from classical Irish folk music, Max has transplanted his compositional techniques to both Senegal, where he studied the Mandinko technique with the Cissoko griot family, and to Mumbai, India, where he received a grant to study under the Santoor maestro Padmavibhushan Pt. Shivkumar Sharma. Max has shared the stage with some of the most influential international musical leaders of the century including Pt. Ravi Shankar, Jon Bon Jovi, Karsh Kale, Bela Fleck, Victor Wooten, Tinariwen, Jimmy Cliff, and more.
Dave Eggar: Cello A musical prodigy as a child, Dave Eggar began playing the cello and piano at age three. By the age of seven, Dave had performed on Broadway and with the Metropolitan Opera. He debuted at Carnegie Hall at the age of 15. Dave is a graduate of Harvard University and the Julliard School’s Doctoral Program. A virtuoso of many musical styles, Dave has performed and recorded with artists in numerous genres including Evanescence, The Who, Michael Brecker, Josh Groban, Coldplay, Beyonce, Pearl Jam, Fall Out Boy, Dave Sanborn, Kathleen Battle, Ray Lamontagne, Roberta Flack, The Spin Doctors, Dianne Reeves, Brandy, Carly Simon, Phil Ramone, Hannah Montana, Duncan Sheik, Sinead O’Connor, Bon Jovi, Manhattan Transfer, Corinne Bailey Ray and many more. His list of awards and accomplishments includes accolades from Time Magazine, ASCAP, the National Endowment for the Arts, Sony Records Elevated Standards Award in classical music, the Geraldine Dodge & Leonard Bernstein Foundations, and at 15 was the youngest winner in the history of the Artists International Competition.
Amali Premawardhana: Cello Amali Premawardhana is the Cello Teacher at Primoris Academy and a graduate of the Manhattan School of Music. During her studies, she had the privilege of working in master classes with such greats as Yo-Yo Ma, Ron Leonard, and in orchestral workshops with world-renowned orchestral conductor, Kurt Masur. Her professional performances have taken her to major venues in New York City including Carnegie Hall, Avery Fisher Hall, and countless venues across the United States and Western Europe. While performing brings Amali much joy, she finds great inspiration in teaching and sharing her love for music with her students.