At 26 yrs of age, pianist Utsav Lal is a musician extraordinaire who has set a precedent in the world of music with his rendition of Ragas on the Piano.
Choosing to perform on an instrument that has traditionally been considered unsuitable for Hindustani Classical Music, Utsav’s innovative handling of a raga blends his diverse musical influences and has left listeners spellbound. His soulful renditions in traditional Alap jod jhala style are expressed with simplicity, sincerity and depth and have won him fans in every corner of the world.
Bestowed with the unique title of “Raga Pianist”, the musician is a delight to watch as he loses himself to his music, fingers follow the pace of the mind , as he unfolds the notes of the Raga to create a captivating musical experience. Lal’s playing with rhythmic intelligence and unfailing clarity of technique veers from delicately decorative to dazzling moments of improvisations.
In the words of music critic Terry Blain: “Lal’s dreamy embellishments and flights of fancy as the musical material slowly unravels emphasises the hugely different concepts of time and space in Indian music, compared to the tightly goal-directed, intellectualised structures of the western classical tradition, where improvisation is virtually unheard of.”
Lal’s musical creativity draws from his advanced training in western classical and jazz at the world’s best international music conservatoires along with the exploration of Dhrupad style under his Guru, Ustad F.Wasifuddin Dagar and instrumental style under violinist mentor Sharat Srivastava.
The young musician has had an extraordinary career performing across Italy, United Kingdom, Ireland, Germany, Hong Kong, Sweden, The Netherlands, USA, Canada, Singapore and India. Lal’s invitations to present the mesmerizing sound of ragas on the piano have come from leading classical concert venues which include The Kennedy Centre- Washington DC, Southbank Centre London, Theatre Orangerie-Netherlands, NCPA-Mumbai, Konset Huset-Sweden, Nehru Centre-London, India Habitat Centre-New Delhi, The Bridgewater Hall-Manchester, The Chambers-Singapore, Town Hall Symphony Hall-Birmingham, Tagore Centre-Berlin and The National Concert Hall-Dublin.
At the age of 16, record label -Times Music released Utsav’s debut Piano Album titled “Piano Moods of Indian Ragas” and there-onwards the young artist has released two other solo Indian classical albums ( Live recordings) titled “Ragas Dance off Piano Keys” & “Ragas Al Pianoforte” and an Indo-Irish collaborative album titled “ragas to reels” which are all available on a worldwide distribution.
Several laurels and awards to his credit, in 2010, Utsav Lal was recognised as a “Young Steinway Artist” on the global top pianists’ roster and is an ABRSM (Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music, London) International Scholar currently based in Scotland. He features in the Indian Limca Book of Records and is the youngest winner of Ireland’s MAMA Award for championing multiculturalism through music. In Oct 2012, Lal was bestowed the Tie Aspire Young Indian Achiever award for his unrivalled contributions as role model for the youth of India. In 2014, Lal completed his Bachelor of Music-Jazz Piano degree with honors from Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and was awarded as Yamaha Jazz Scholar-UK in a special ceremony at the House of Commons-London.
Over the past decade, Utsav has undertaken many initiatives that lend his music to a passionate cause associating with National Association for the Blind, Spastics Society, Make-A-Wish Foundation, World Mercy Fund, World Refugee Day, World Harmony Run, Daniel Pearl Music Foundation & others. In Apr 2012, Utsav’s India tour was dedicated to raise funds and support the work of NGO’s DREAMZ Home, JOSH & SMILE Foundation.
One of Lal’s most exciting projects have been to collaborate in exploring the symbiosis of sound with Brighton-based pianist, composer & inventor, Geoff Smith who unveiled his creation, the Fluid Piano™ in 2009. In 2012, Lal also collaborated to perform with percussionist Talvin Singh at Kings Place-London, Pt. Samir Chaterjee at Asia Music Society-Hong Kong and Scottish fiddler-Adam Sutherland at the Strings of the World Festival.
In Dec 2012, Utsav Lal made history with a live telecast on National TV of his two hour long solo concert, the first ever performance of ragas on the piano at the 137th edition of Harivallabh Sangeet Samelan, India’s oldest classical music festival. In 2015, he was invited to perform at the prestigious classical music festival “Saptak” held annually in Ahemdabad which draws large number of national & international music lovers each year.
Further to this, Lal has also drawn huge recognition for his Indo-Irish confluence initiative titled “Ragas to Reels” which he first performed at The National Concert Hall-Dublin, Southbank Centre-London & Lyrics Theatre-Belfast and later brought to packed houses on an extensive multi city India tour in 2011. The “Ragas to Reels ” tour returned to India in Mar-Apr 2014 with 8 performances in 4 cities of India and was the centrepiece of the Golden jubilee celebrations of the Embassy of Ireland in India.
“Ragas have always been my calling” says Utsav, but his versatility has also seen him carve an enviable reputation as a jazz pianist in the vibrant jazz scene of Scotland & Ireland. A regular performer with several jazz bands & the Tommy Smith Youth Jazz orchestra, Lal’s interests have steered him towards collaborative projects with other instruments like the violin, sitar, mridangam, Irish flute, saxophone and also the Japanese shakuhachi.
With training in diverse genres, Utsav has conducted several workshops titled “Breaking Boundaries” for aspiring musicians in India & Ireland on thinking outside the box. Utsav’s musicality has drawn universal appeal and transcended boundaries procuring appreciation from Western classical, Indian Classical, Jazz and World music groups across the world.
Awards and Recognitions received:
Named as “Young Steinway Artist ” on the coveted worlwide artist roster of Steinway & Sons (feb 2010); Featured in the Indian Limca Book of Records 2007 for musical achievements & for being the youngest performer at The Times Festival 2006; Metro Eireann Media & Multicultural Award (MAMA) Award 2008; Young Achiever Award 2008-Rotary Club, Chennai; Saraswati Award 2007-International Cultural Centre Trust, Gurgaon; Hall of Fame-Delhi Public School, New Delhi. Owen Walsh Perpetual Piano Cup 2009 Ireland; Dublin Institute of Technology- Gold Medal Junior Repertoire 2008; Newpark Stanley Piano Cup 2007. Utsav Lal has championed multiculturalism in the UK & Ireland through his music. With performances of Indian music at various concert venues, national television, churches and music festivals, Utsav was nominated by Embassy of India, Dublin, and the Festival of World Cultures, for a MAMA Award in the Individual category for outstanding work towards the building of a multicultural Ireland and was the youngest winner ever of the MAMA Awards in its ten years of running. Also, nominated by the Milap Festival Trust & Surdhwani (both leading arts and culture organizations) for the GG2 Young Achiever Diversity awards 2009 in the UK, Awarded TiE-Aspire Young Achiever Award 2012 for unrivalled contributions as role model for the Youth of India, Yamaha Jazz Scholar -UK, 2014.