Young Steinway Artist, UTSAV LAL (born August 18, 1992) is an Indian pianist, improviser, educator and composer. Utsav Lal is recognized as a musician extraordinaire who has set a precedent in the world of music with his rendition of Ragas on the Piano. An impressive sixteen year music career behind him, Utsav is often known as the ‘Raga Pianist’ for his innovative handling of the Indian Classical music genre. He has gained international recognition for his groundbreaking work with performances across the world in countries including Italy, United Kingdom, Ireland, Germany, Hong Kong, Sweden, Kuwait, The Netherlands, USA, Canada, Singapore and India.
Utsav Lal has performed several concerts in a lead role at venues that include Carnegie Hall-New York, The National Concert Hall- Dublin, Steinway Hall, NYC The Chambers-Singapore, Southbank Centre-London, Asia Society- Hong Kong, The Kennedy Center-Washington DC, Theatre Orangerie-The Netherlands, India Habitat Centre-New Delhi, Arts Centre- Melbourne, NCPA-Mumbai, Bridgewater Hall-Manchester and others.
Utsav’s musical creativity draws from his advanced training in western classical and jazz with Bachelor in Jazz (Royal Conservatoire of Scotland) and Masters in Contemporary Improvisation (New England Conservatory of Music) along with the exploration of Indian Classical Music under Ustad F.Wasifuddin Dagar, of the legendary Dhrupad Dagar family and Sharat Srivastava. Choosing to perform on an instrument that has traditionally been considered unsuitable for Hindustani Classical Music, Utsav has used his rigorous training in diverse genres of music -Western Classical, Indian Classical, Jazz, Scottish, Irish and Contemporary Improvisation to challenge commonly understood ways of improvisation and develop his own unique voice for the piano. His music expressed with simplicity, sincerity and depth creates a captivating musical experience and has been described by Novara Jazz festival Director Corrado Beldi as having “illuminating grace”. Acclaimed for his rhythmic intelligence and unfailing clarity of technique, Utsav has been reviewed by Michael Dervan, The Irish Times as, “a fleet fingered performer whose best moments can be both highly evocative and dazzling” and by Terry Blain, music critic as, “in quieter moments, he’s the Phil Coulter of raga (where the piano is not a commonly used instrument), but at other times the sweep and inventiveness of his improvisations recall Keith Jarrett.”
Utsav Lal was featured in the Indian Limca Book of Records (2007) for his musical achievements and awarded Ireland’s Metro Eireann Media & Multicultural Award(MAMA) Award (2008) for championing multiculturalism through music. He was the youngest winner ever in the individual category in the ten years running of the MAMA awards. Utsav was chosen as the three top Asian music child prodigies to perform at the Asia on The Edge festival (AOTE 2008) in Singapore. His extensive work lays the foundation for a strong legacy that establishes the piano in a new role and he was recognized as a Young Steinway Artist in 2010 by leading piano makers Steinway & Sons. Utsav Lal received the ABRSM (Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music, London) International Scholarship (2010) for undergraduate study at any of UK’s four Royal Schools of Music. Providing full tuition & a £20,000 grant for living expenses, the scholarship is awarded only to chosen four exceptional musicians amongst thousands of worldwide applicants.
Recognized for his contributions as role model for the youth of India, Utsav was awarded the Tie Aspire Young Indian Achiever award (2012). Utsav Lal holds the distinction of being the first to introduce the piano at the 137th Harivallabh Sammelan, India’s oldest classical music festival in 2012 and the two hour long concert was televised live to national audiences. In 2015, he was invited to premiere the piano at Saptak music festival (Ahmedabad, India) which draws large number of national & international music lovers.
Utsav was named as Yamaha Jazz Scholar-UK (2014) in a special ceremony at House of Commons, London. Running for over 11 years, the partnership between Yamaha in association with Jazzwise, the All-Party Parliamentary Jazz Appreciation Group, PPL, and 606 Club honors seven carefully chosen musicians from amongst the cream and Utsav Lal was invited to record his original composition in a CD for the cover of Jazzwise magazine. He was recognized as ‘Graduate of the Month’ by the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, March 2016.
Utsav Lal was invited by the Permanent Mission of Israel to the UN to feature in the specially commissioned ‘United Pianos’ video. The video released in 2015 is the world’s first 22-hands piano piece, featuring 11 renowned pianists from 11 countries and six continents seamlessly playing together one musical piece to promote tolerance and unity through music.
In 2015, Utsav was chosen by UK composer & inventor Geoff Smith as the first musician to record a selection of solo piano ragas on the world’s ground breaking acoustic musical instrument-The Fluid Piano. This historic album offers the only existing example of Alap in Hindustani Classical Music on the Piano performed with the traditional “meend” or bending of strings. Funded by the Arts Council of England and an oversubscribed Indiegogo campaign, the album was released by the Fluid Piano Tuning labelin July 2016.
Utsav’s work has been covered extensively through online websites, blogs and podcasts and received recognition through features and interviews on major Indian and International radio like BBC UK, Radio Mirchi, ABC Radio National Australia, television channels NDTV, AAj Tak, RTE Ireland and in publications like The Hindu, New Indian Express, Broadway World, The Asian Age, India Times, The Irish Times, Eastern Eye, The Times of India, The Hindustan Times, The Pioneer, Eastern eye-UK and more.
Utsav has been a cultural Ambassador at worldwide events & festivals including Times Music festival –India (2006) , Asia Pacific Cultural Week – Berlin(2007),One World Music Evening-Dublin(2007), Festival of World Cultures –Ireland (2007,2008), Taj Festival-Manchester, UK(2008),Into the Light World Music Concert series-Leeds,UK(2008), Asia on the Edge Festival –Singapore(2008), Novara Jazz Festival-Italy(2010), Maximum India Festival –Washington DC( 2011), Kala Ghoda Festival-Mumbai (2013), Symbiosis of Sound festival-London ( 2012),Strings of the world Festival-India(2012, 2014), Jaipur Literary Festival –Boulder(2015,2018) Kilkenny Arts Festival-Ireland (2016), Masters of Tradition festival-Bantry (2016), Asia Topa Festival-Melbourne (2017),Yorkshire Silent Film festival (2018).
Utsav has been recognized for his extensive collaborative work and his versatility has seen him carve an enviable reputation as a jazz pianist and collaborative projects with several international touring musicians like Martin Hayes & Dennis Cahill, Talvin Singh, Adam Sutherland, Pt. Samir Chatterjee, Winifred Horan, Jarlath Henderson, Zach Meyer, Ustad Hidayat Husaain Khan and Pt. Kalinath Mishra. His Indo-Irish ‘Ragas to Reels’ friendship concert tours in India/UK/Ireland at The National Concert Hall-Dublin, Southbank Centre-London & Lyrics Theatre-Belfast and multi city India tour (2011) received full houses and an overwhelming response. Utsav’s sequel Ragas to Reels India tour (2014) with eight performances in four cities was equally successful and with introductory address by His Excellency Feilim McLaughlin, Irish Ambassador of Ireland was the cultural centerpiece for the Golden jubilee anniversary celebrations of the Embassy of Ireland in India.
Utsav has been involved in community service with performances to raise awareness and fundraising for organizations like National Association for the Blind, Spastics Society, Make-A-Wish Foundation, World Mercy Fund, World Refugee Day, World Harmony Run, Daniel Pearl Music Foundation. Utsav Lal dedicated his multi-city India tour (2012) to raise funds and support the work of NGO’s DREAMZ Home, JOSH, and SMILE Foundation and performed two main concerts (2013) to raise funds for Mobile Crèches.
As an educator, Utsav Lal set up the Jazz department at Gurgaon School of Music and currently is on the teaching faculty for Piano School of New York. Utsav launched his ‘Breaking Boundaries’ workshop series in 2009 and has conducted such Music Appreciation workshops in several cities in India and in Hong Kong, USA, Kuwait and Scotland. Utsav Lal also holds skype lessons and private teaching studio and is an active member of the Teach to Learn initiative which brings humans around the world to engage in cultural exchange through music. In his educational methodology, Utsav facilitates innovation and encourages students to challenge existing piano traditions as a primary goal to help find their own unique voice.
Debut album release-Piano Moods of Indian Ragas by Indian record label Times Music (2008), Utsav has six subsequent records available on a worldwide distribution- Ragas Dance off Piano Keys (2009), Ragas al Pianoforte (2010), Ragas to Reels (2014), The Fluid Piano (2016) and Indian Classical Music on Piano (2018) and two compilation albums The Sacred Indian Collection and 50 Traditional Indian songs released by label Sacred Soul Sounds.
Awards and Recognitions received:
“Young Steinway Artist ” ( 2010); Limca Book of Records (2007); Metro Eireann Media & Multicultural Award (MAMA) Award (2008); Young Achiever Award-Rotary Club(2008); Sarasvati Award-International Cultural Centre Trust, Gurgaon(2008) ; Hall of Fame-Delhi Public School, New Delhi; Owen Walsh Perpetual Piano Cup-Ireland(2009); Dublin Institute of Technology- Gold Medal Junior Repertoire( 2008); Newpark Stanley Piano Cup-Ireland(2007). Winner Metroeireann media and Multicultural Award (MAMA)-Individual category (2008) nominated by Embassy of India-Dublin & Festival of World Cultures; Nominee GG2 Young Achiever Diversity Award –UK (2009), TiE-Aspire Young Achiever Award (2012), Yamaha Jazz Scholar -UK, (2014).