‘Wah! Taj’ boy Aditya now a tabla maestro

A still from the Wah!Taj commercial.

The little boy in the ‘Wah! Taj’ commercial alongside tabla maestro Ustad Zakir Hussain is all grown up now. Over the years, Aditya Kalyanpur has carved a niche for himself and climbed the ladder of success steadily.

Trained under the legendary Ustad Allah Rakha Khan, today Aditya is the founder of New England School of Music in Boston, has taught at Harvard Sangeet School, Boston and also established the Shyamal Music Foundation (SMF) in Mumbai.

He was recently in the city to pay tribute to his guru Ustad Allah Rakha Khan as part of his 100th-year birthday celebrations. Aditya spoke to Surupasree Sarmmah about his memorable moments with his guru, his love for Bengaluru audience and his future projects.

Which are your favourite compositions of your guru?

There are several compositions and there are a lot of them which are now very popular. People have been playing those for decades in their respective concerts. All his compositions are very special to me, it is difficult to choose one.

What are your memorable moments with Ustad Allah Rakha Khan?

One of the fondest memories was when he recommended my name for the ‘Wah! Taj’ advertisement and I got a chance to play with Ustad Zakir Hussain. That was a very special moment for me. Another memory that I will always cherish was when I became the official disciple — the ‘ganda-bandhan’.

What are your thoughts about the Bengaluru audience?

It is always a blessingand an honour to perform in Bengaluru. There are great connoisseurs of music here. Every musician looks forward to presenting their artforms in this city. I have played here many times and every time I have got a lot of love and blessing from the audience.

You were only eight years old when you made your stage debut. How has been the journey so far?

My journey has been marvellous. God has been really kind, I must say. I don’t come from a family of musicians. I was the first one who took up music as a full-time profession. There are ups and downs in every journey but I like to enjoy every moment.

How did you grow an interest in the tabla?

When I was two and a half years old, I used to go and play a tabla which was at home. I was drawn towards it. I used to pick up musical patterns that I heard on the radio or television. My parents realised that I had a flair for this instrument and that’s how I started. There was nothing else that I dreamt of. I can say I was born to play tabla.

You have performed with many legendary musicians as well as international performers like Katy Perry and Larry Coryell. How was that experience?

For the tabla to be recognised in that genre of music is a great achievement for Indian classical music. It is great to see that the tabla has reached the jazz, pop, rap and rock world. Every genre of musician wants the tabla to be played or recorded for them. To be able to blend the sound of the tabla with these genres is challenging but fun and inspiring.

Any projects in the pipeline?

I am currently working on an album with a cellist from New York. We just recorded our album and we are now in the middle of mixing and masking it. It is in it’s final stage of production and should be out soon. 

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‘Wah! Taj’ boy Aditya now a tabla maestro

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