Rekesh Chauhan is a British Indian pianist and composer. Having studied western classical music on both the guitar and piano from an early age he went on to train in Indian classical music. Rekesh is the winner of numerous awards including the NIAA Young Musician of the Year 2018 awarded at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank Centre, London. In 2019 he was awarded Alumnus of the Year by the University of Leicester and is also the recipient of the Eastern Electronica Prize. Rekesh is a featured TEDx speaker.
His knack for amalgamating both eastern and western styles has brought him much recognition and glittering invites to appear in concerts all over: including, Royal Albert Hall, Birmingham's Symphony Hall, Southbank Centre (venues in Queen Elizabeth Hall and Royal Festival Hall), Sage Gateshead, Bridgewater Hall, Cadogan Hall and London's V&A museum to name just a handful of prestigious venues. Having begun his musical journey supporting artists including MOBO award-winning jazz pianist Zoe Rahman he went on to collaborate with Mercury Prize award-winner Talvin Singh OBE at Ronnie Scotts - within a few years he was a featured introducing artist on national BBC radio, performed with his own ensembles in arenas to over 60,000 people and scooped the Eastern Electronic Festival prize. With all of these feathers under his cap before reaching his twenties it is hardly surprising the young talent is today a highly sought after performer.
Here are Rekesh's pick of top tracks:Which artists do you watch for inspiration? What do you like about those tracks / artists / concerts?
Lang Lang is a brilliant performer to watch live and has an electric aura to draw an audience into his music. I saw him perform at the Symphony Hall and he was magnetic; so much so, that he made it my mission to perform on the same piano and stage as he did - which I got the opportunity to a few years later! Then of course, there is the ever-charismatic Zakir Hussain, he has an incredible knack of being able to relate to a variety of audiences. It’s important for an artist to be relatable; as well as to educate and articulate without diluting the art.
Can you recommend a Hindustani and a Carnatic music track that inspires you the most? Why?
I’ve always felt that the aesthetics of Hindustani Classical Music are better felt through live concert recordings, especially those which are more intimate, and when they are recorded well, then it’s a real treat. The Saptak music archive is an excellent resource, and I often rummage through their archives. Lately I’ve been listening to recordings of violinist Dr N Rajam, I’m delighted to be collaborating with her talented granddaughter Nandini on a piano and violin duet.
Tell us about another artist(s) outside the Indian genre that you like?
I love the work of Paco De Lucia. I spent some time in Spain exploring flamenco music and since then I have been really intrigued by the music style – there are so many parallels between flamenco and Indian Classical Music. Consequently, I began experimenting with both styles amalgamating and working with flamenco dancers, musicians and Indian Classical music in Madrid. Both music styles are led by complex and weaving rhythmic patterns. A great record collaboration to listen to is that of Paco De Lucia and John McLaughlin. I grew up playing the classical guitar so I am naturally bias towards listening to guitar duets!
Can you share a video which demonstrates a great interaction between two artists on stage, something that inspires you?
This clip between Ravi Shankar and American violinist Yehudi Menuhin captures perfectly how music is a truly universal language transcending all barriers.
Recommend a great music concert or recording.
Vanessa Mae and A R Rahman’s Raaga’s Dance is a masterpiece.
What do you listen to when your driving or travelling?
My Spotify playlist ranges with everything from Amy Winehouse to John Williams and lots of World Music. I’ve begun to post on my Instagram stories what I’ve been listening to over the week. I will make this a regular feature every Sunday going forwards (instagram: @rekeshchauhan).
What are you doing next?
I’ve been extremely busy over this lockdown period working on a whole bunch of productions which are to be released over the coming weeks and months. Just before lockdown I was in Mumbai for a few days and decided I wanted to continue to explore the piano's relationship with a variety of Indian music genres. I am working with the mellifluous Gayatri Asokan on a Ghazal (which is a form of poetry set to music) composed by the brilliant sitarist Purbayan Chaterjee. We’ve decided to give it a jazz flavour which I’m very excited about! Then there’s a violin-piano duet collaboration I have been working on with Nandini Shankar; she is a very gifted violinist and it has been a uniquely productive experience pinging ideas over WhatsApp working on music between two countries remotely that would usually require us to be in a studio for our debut. I’ve also been working on an important music video production to highlight a powerful story. As a result of COVID-19 there is likely to be an unprecedented increase in the number of mental health issues within the South Asian community, it is really important for me as an artist to use art as a means for positive impact so I am working on a music video to raise awareness. The impact of arts as a medium for medicine for the mind can be profound, it is important we continue to invest in creating so we can give to society now more than ever.