Berklee Indian Ensemble to Release Debut Album, Shuruaat, on July 15
After engaging millions of fans through its viral live performances, the Berklee Indian Ensemble, a group acclaimed for honoring Indian traditions while boldly experimenting with a cross-pollination of genres, cultures, and multidisciplinary art forms, will release its debut album, Shuruaat, on July 15.
“It is fitting that Shuruaat, which means 'beginning' in Hindi, displays our journey so far, and the one we’re about to begin,” said Annette Philip ’09, the ensemble's founder.
The album highlights the pinnacle of Indian artists, including Grammy-winning tabla maestro Zakir Hussain, renowned singers Shankar Mahadevan and Vijay Prakash, and Bollywood superstar Shreya Ghoshal, alongside original student compositions influenced by everything from jazz and progressive rock to Sufi and Middle Eastern music. A studio version of the ensemble's popular 2019 live performance of Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy's “Unnai Kaanadhu Naan” at Berklee NYC is also featured on the album.
Watch the Berklee Indian Ensemble perform “Unnai Kaanadhu Naan”:
With over 280 million streams on YouTube, the ensemble, which recently signed a distribution deal with Sony Music India, is one of the most popular global acts to emerge from Boston. The group became a viral sensation with its groundbreaking 2014 homage to Grammy- and Oscar-winning composer A. R. Rahman’s “Jiya Jale," earning more than 50 million views and leading to the ensemble playing sold-out shows in the U.S., Canada, and India.
Driven by its mission to identify, support, and nurture South Asian global artists of tomorrow, the ensemble, under Philip's leadership, has provided students and alumni with real-world experiences, performance and touring opportunities, industry placements, scholarships, and mentorships.
In today's divided world, Philip sees the group—whose current lineup includes artists from India, Jordan, Israel, Nigeria, Indonesia, Norway, the U.S., and beyond—as bridge builders, prioritizing musical cultures and the people who make them without the restrictions of genre or form.
“There is a unique power when musicians from different cultural and musical backgrounds make art together with vulnerability and openness in a space that celebrates their similarities and differences,” said Philip. “The music that gets created in this space comes across viscerally and allows a song in a foreign language to feel completely relatable because of the human connection, making you want to be part of it.”
That message of unity is echoed throughout Shuruaat, which offers 10 tracks that feature 98 musicians from all over the world, of different ages and beliefs, coming together to evolve through music.
“Through the ensemble, I felt more connected to my own roots,” said keyboardist Shai Portugaly B.M. ’17. “I could relate to the vocal nuances in Indian music from the perspective of the Middle East, which I had never really felt connected to, even though I am from Israel. I really love this music, and the ensemble is a huge part of who I am today.”