Building on new forms
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.
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)
Trina is a multifaceted violinist and teacher based in Brooklyn, NY. Growing up in Miami, Florida, she was trained in Western classical music from the age of six and later studied Indian classical music and jazz, all of which have been significant influences in her playing. Her music explores intersections between east and west, urban and nature, her own life stories and the world she lives in. She co-leads. Karavika, a contemporary string ensemble, inspired by Indian and American folk and classical traditions. Quickly gaining critical acclaim, All About Jazz praised their debut album as “a liquid and organic brew that sounds inevitable, as if it’s existed forever…A dynamic sonic blend of uncommon mesmeric beauty.”
Trina’s unique and expressive style has brought her to notable stages around the world performing with artists such as Urban Bush Women, Mos Def, Gil Scott Heron, Ed Sheeran, Imani Uzuri, Marc Cary, Adam Rudolph’s Go: Organic Orchestra, Dr. Mysore Manjunath, Krishna Bhatt and Brooklyn Raga Massive of which she is a co-founder and artistic director. She is a recipient of the Indo-Shastri Canadian Institute fellowship which brought her India in 2007 to study Carnatic violin with Vittal Ramamurthy and Padma Shankar. She has also studied with sitarist Nalini Vinayak, trumpet player Longineu Parsons and violinist John Blake, among others. Trina is a graduate of Florida State University in Music Therapy and is a certified Suzuki violin teacher.
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.
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.
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 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.
Suryaksha Deshpande has taken tremendous efforts in balancing his academic career and Tabla training. 1977 born Science Graduate, Suryaksha is a disciple of renowed scholar and performer Pt. Arvind Mulgaonkar of Farrukhabad Gharana (senior disciple of Ustad Amir Hussain Khan Sahab). He has secured First Rank all over India in Tabla Alankar (Masters Degree) Exam held by Akhil Bhartiya Gandharva Mahavidyalaya. He is also a recipient of the prestigious National scholarship awarded by the Dept. of Culture. Govt. of India He is an 'A' Grade artiste of All India Radio and Doordarshan. He is a recipient of the Fellowship for Junior Artist by The Dept. of Culture, India. He has accompanied many great artist in India and abroad. He has successfully conducted many workshops & amp; lecture demonstrations. A blend of the Traditional Tabla of Farrukabaad Gharana, the expansion process of Delhi Gharana and influence of Laghu is clearly observed in his Tabla. A thoughtful and robust solo, a balanced accompaniment to Vocal Music and an appropriate accompaniment to instrumental music are some of his specialties. Suryaksha currently works at Taalsadhana in New Jersey as a Tutor.