Grammy Winner Vijay Prakash Works with Berklee Indian Ensemble to Deliver Spellbinding Show
A couple of days prior to his sold-out show at the Berklee Performance Center, acclaimed Indian singer Vijay “Utsav” Prakash spent time with student vocalists in the Berklee Indian Ensemble, with whom he’d share the stage, helping them them prepare for the concert and giving them words of encouragement and advice.
“You have to feel great about your own music and your own voice and tonality. Only that will make you unusual,” Prakash, who won a Grammy for A.R. Rahman’s “Jai Ho” from the Slumdog Millionaire soundtrack, said, adding that what matters today is how different an artist is, not just how talented he or she is. Failing to embrace one’s own uniqueness is a mistake: “As long as you’re [feeling] inferior about your art, your art can never reach the listener,” he said.
Prakash believes there is a connective current of charisma—what he calls the "delivery boy"—that carries the voice and delivers it to the heart of the listener, but if a singer isn’t self-assured, then this connection won't happen. “You have to be so confident. Love what you’re creating and your 'delivery boy' will be really loyal to you, and the listener will enjoy what you’re giving to them.”
If that’s the case, then the delivery boy was busy during the November 19 show, called Aaroh: Vijay Prakash Meets Berklee, which featured traditional Indian songs as well as original student compositions and showcased dancers from the Boston Conservatory.
“Mr. Prakash was always present, intellectually, spiritually, and emotionally as an artist. He inspired us all by by his versatility, fluid improvisation, and effortless vocal mastery,” says Annette Philip, director of the Berklee India Exchange, an initiative to support cultural conversation about Indian music through artist residencies, musical collaborations, and performances.
The 44 students in the Berklee Indian Ensemble, which performed with Prakash, sang in five Indian languages: Hindi, Tamil, Bengali, Kannada, and Sanskrit. Prakash, a renowned Kannada singer who performs in several languages, worked with them in the days leading up to the show.
“Every so often, you meet people who carry greatness within, and with that often comes the aura of intimidation and unapproachability,” says ensemble member Harshitha Krishnan, a sixth-semester professional music major. “However, Vijay Prakash was delightfully surprising. He walked into the room with all the enthusiasm of a kid in an amusement park ... and enveloped us in a warm hug of excitement and anticipation.”