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I don't think I was a child prodigy, says pianist Utsav Lal

Twenty-one-year old Western Classical pianist Utsav Lal, credited with being one of the first Indian musicians to experiment with Indian classical music on the piano, plays in the city this week

when, Utsav Lal gave his debut piano concert at the age of nine, experts quickly labelled him a child prodigy. But ask Dublin-based Western Classical pianist Lal about how that feels and the 21-year-old begs to differ, “I don’t think I was a child prodigy.

Utsav Lal’s favourite Indian musician is his guru, Ustad  Wasifuddin Dagar
Utsav Lal’s favourite Indian musician is his guru, Ustad Wasifuddin Dagar

I started playing around eight. There are some amazing classical child prodigies from China who can play incredibly complex and technical music who are younger than eight.” Lal, who will perform at a gig at blueFROG, is hoping to record a new Indian Classical music album this summer in Scotland. Excerpts from an interview:

Q. You’ve played in India so many times. How different is it to play here as compared to playing at international venues?
A. It’s always lovely to play in India because music is such an integral part of the culture here. Indian Classical music just feels right here, as this is where the roots are firmly planted. On this tour, it will be great to perform Irish traditional music in the country along with classical. Even though most people might not be very familiar with that style, its infectious rhythms and great melodies will instinctively appeal to Indian people.

Q. What can we expect from you at the Blue Frog gig?
A. It’s a milestone celebration as it’s the 50th anniversary for the Embassy of Ireland in India and since I have lived and been educated in Dublin, I am extremely happy to be a part of this. The music will be a confluence of Irish traditional music and Indian classical music. While they both seem like they’re worlds apart, they actually share quite a lot in common. Both are modal, oral traditions and feature slow emotion-drenched melodies and fast exciting climaxes.

Q. You have done so many collaborations in the past. Are there any collaborations that you would love to do?
A. There are so many people I would love to meet and work with. There’s an amazing Irish fiddle player called Caoimhin O Raghallaigh who is one of my favourite musicians. Another dream would be to work with Toumani Diabate, the kora player. I really love what I’ve heard of Nancy Kulkarni who plays dhrupad on the
cello too.

Q. What do you consider your biggest achievement?
A. Being able to create the pure sounds of ragas on the piano. Some moments of high have been performing a headlining concert at the prestigious The John F Kennedy Centre, Washington DC for Maximum India Festival and the honour of introducing the piano for the first time at the 137th edition of Harivallabh Sammelan, India’s oldest classical music festival.

Utsav will be performing at blueFROG on April 3 at 10 pm.

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