I had the pleasure of recently hearing the band, VidyA, at Yoshi’s Oakland. VidyA, which means knowledge in Sanskrit, intertwines South Indian classical music (Carnatic music) and jazz. The result of this pairing of genres was intoxicating. They played original compositions from their recently released self-titled album, Vidya.
Bandleader/saxophonist Prasant Radhakrishnan told a melodious story with each note. It was beautiful, lush, warm and romantic. His band which includes David Ewell (Marc Cary, Howard Wiley) and Sameer Gupta (Marc Cary) were very succinct. There were great moments of call and response between Prasant and Sameer as well great solos from each player throughout the evening.
“At age 13, bandleader/saxophonist, Prasant Radhakrishnan – now 26 – began rigorous studies with Carnatic saxophone pioneer and maestro Kadri Gopalnath and has earned acclaim among the elite musical circles of Chennai, the mecca of Carnatic music. He has performed hundreds of concerts across India, North America and Japan, both on his own and with Gopalnath. While Radhakrishnan has immersed himself deeply in his Indian cultural roots, as a first-generation American, jazz is also a native art form for him. He became intrigued with jazz in high school; later, as a student in the Jazz Studies program at the University of Southern California, Radhakrishnan began creating compositions integrating the two musical worlds, ultimately leading to the Carnatic/jazz tapestry of VidyA. So for Radhakrishnan, jazz and Carnatic music are an entirely holistic pairing. The sound of VidyA is one he hears in his mind’s ear and seeks a way to re-create, as he continues to delve into these disparate, yet complementary elements of his Indo-American identity.”
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Photo Credit: James Knox