BIX Icon Series
Since 2013, Berklee India Exchange (BIX) has consistently created once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for our Berklee community to interact with iconic musicians, such as A. R. Rahman and Ustad Zakir Hussain, during weeklong artist residencies.
The BIX Icon Series provides a unique platform for these legends to mentor and perform with Berklee Indian Ensemble musicians in live concerts, music video recordings, and master classes, opening up learning opportunities and career pathways to students and alumni who would otherwise not have access to these masters. The artists themselves are inspired by our students to push boundaries, experiment with technology, and rethink production possibilities as we create reinterpretations of their music while also collaborating to write new compositions that are timeless and historic.
Clinton Cerejo is an award-winning music composer, producer, arranger, and multi-instrumentalist. As one of the first artists to weave Western elements into more traditional Indian compositions, Cerejo has emerged as the flag-bearer for fusion music in India. His compositions and compelling arranging style for Coke Studio @ MTV were declared an unequivocal success. Besides scoring several blockbuster films, and working with a Bollywood who’s who that includes Vishal Bharadwaj, A. R. Rahman, Vishal-Shekhar, Salim-Sulaiman, and Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, he is also considered an icon of India’s advertising world, having scored well over 3,000 commercials.
Among his notable international works are vocal arrangements for "If I Rise," a duet with Dido and A. R. Rahman; Michael Bolton’s album Gems; and the band SuperHeavy, which featured Mick Jagger, Joss Stone, Dave Stewart, Damian Marley, and A. R. Rahman. Cerejo’s signature sound and industry experience made him the perfect artist to kick off the BIX Icon Series in 2013. After a weeklong residency, he performed a concert with the Berklee Indian Ensemble that showcased two original compositions by ensemble members. He also conducted a master class for Berklee students and was featured in the ensemble’s first music video, "Chaddh De." Read more.
A. R. Rahman
Described as "the world's most prominent and prolific film composer" by Time, A. R. Rahman is considered to have single-handedly changed the face of Indian film music. A composer, singer-songwriter, music producer, multi-instrumentalist, and philanthropist, Rahman’s works are notable for integrating Eastern classical music with electronic elements, world music genres, and traditional orchestral arrangements. Over the course of two decades, he has won two Academy Awards, two Grammy Awards, a BAFTA Award, a Golden Globe, four National Film Awards, 15 Filmfare Awards, and 13 Filmfare Awards South, earning him the nicknames “Mozart of Madras” and "Isai Puyal" (music storm).
Berklee's tribute concert and honorary doctorate presentation to Rahman in 2014 sent a surge of excitement through the Berklee campus, Boston’s Indian community, and beyond. Held at Symphony Hall in Boston, tickets sold out in just two weeks, with fans flying in from the U.K., Africa, and the Middle East to witness the event in person. The culminating concert featuring Rahman was a labor of love. A total of 32 countries were represented by the 89 musicians and 20 dancers that came together for this two-and-a-half hour extravaganza celebrating the maestro’s life and music. Prior to the concert, Rahman recorded parts for "Yeh Jo Des Hai Tera" with the Berklee Indian Ensemble and shared his life story during an interview and master class at the Berklee Performance Center. Notably, some 66,000 fans watched the concert live stream online, and to date, this is Berklee’s most viewed live concert. Read more.
Vijay Prakash is an award-winning Indian playback singer, equally adept at classical, contemporary, and folk styles, as well as a stunning improviser. He has worked extensively with Grammy- and Oscar-winning composer A. R. Rahman, and was one of the four singers credited for the song “Jai Ho” from Slumdog Millionaire, which won the 2008 Academy Award for Best Original Song. He also won the prestigious Filmfare Award for Best Male Playback Singer (Kannada) for the song “Gatiya Ilidu” from the film Ulidavaru Kandante. Prakash soon catapulted to fame as a much sought-after vocalist, lending his rich voice to thousands of film songs and jingles in numerous Indian languages, as well as debuting as a composer in 2012 with the Kannada film Andar Bahar.
During his weeklong residency with the Berklee Indian Ensemble in 2015, Prakash was incredibly encouraging and open to experimentation. He found a beautiful way to feature student Wambura Mitaru in a duet that combined a song from her native Kenya with an Indian folkloric song. He also surprised a young Indian student, Sashank Navaladi, by agreeing to sing lead vocals on Navaladi's original song "Arz-e-Niyaz." These experiences are truly enriching for Berklee students, and artists like Prakash continue to inspire and educate with generosity and humility. Read more.
Renowned Indian vocalist, composer, and music educator Shankar Mahadevan is one of only a few Indian musicians revered by both classical enthusiasts and jazz aficionados. Since breaking through with his bestselling album Breathless, which held the number one spot on all Indian music charts for more than 10 weeks in 1998, Mahadevan has become known for his impeccable agility, improvisational skills, and showmanship. He has performed with Zakir Hussain, V. Selvaganesh, U. Shrinivas, Louiz Banks, Ranjit Barot, Taufiq Qureshi, and Fazal Qureshi, as well as toured with Remember Shakti, John McLaughlin, and Hussain’s band, whose live recording earned a Grammy nomination. As part of the multi-award-winning composing trio Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy (SEL), he has written music for several blockbuster films.
During his residency at Berklee in 2016, Mahadevan recorded two music videos with the Berklee Indian Ensemble, "5 Peace Band" and "Dil Chahta Hai," and the culminating concert of the residency featured over 20 songs from Mahadevan’s vast discography. He also performed live on an original composition, "Shatabdi 392," written by Berklee student Sashank Navaladi. In addition, celebrated Indian painter Vilas Nayak joined Mahadevan and the ensemble on stage to create two unique pieces of art as Nayak improvised live. Read more.
Known as the "Queen of Bollywood," Shreya Ghoshal is an iconic Indian vocalist who can sing in 14 different languages and has won countless awards over the course of her two-decade career. Ghohshal made her Bollywood debut in 2002 with the blockbuster film Devdas, earning her two Filmfare Awards and one National Film Award. As one of India's most in-demand vocalists, Ghoshal collaborates regularly with celebrated composers such as A. R. Rahman, Ilaiyaraaja, Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, Amit Trivedi, Vishal Bhardwaj, and Sanjay Leela Bhansali, among others. In addition to her work in Bollywood, Ghoshal works with many of India’s top contemporary artists and has been featured on over 10 semiclassical and Ghazal Studio albums.
Ghoshal is master storyteller through music, with a journey that has inspired young artists all over the world. Students still remember her 2017 residency with the Berklee Indian Ensemble as one of the most immersive experiences they’ve ever had. She attended almost every rehearsal (including extra sectional practice sessions with string players), conducted private one-on-one lessons with two young singers who later sang duets with her at the culminating concert, and led an impactful and meaningful master class. Ghoshal surprised students with her willingness to completely strip and rebuild arrangements of her music and perform loosely improvised pieces, such as the Berklee Indian Ensemble's version of "Aapki Nazron Ne Samjha." She also recorded two music videos with the ensemble, including "Sundari Pennae" and a reinterpretation of Rabindranath Tagore's classic "Ekla Cholo Re," a song that was part of the Indian independence movement of the 1940s. Her residency was life-changing for many members of the Berklee community, and it promises to be the first of many such creative collaborations. Read more.
Ustad Zakir Hussain
Ustad Zakir Hussain is a Grammy-winning classical tabla virtuoso of the highest order. The maestro’s consistently brilliant and exciting performances have not only established him as a national treasure in India, but have also gained him worldwide fame as a percussionist and international phenomenon. Widely considered a chief architect of the contemporary world-music movement, Hussain has almost 150 albums to his credit, as well as many historic ensembles and unique collaborative projects, including Shakti (which he founded with John McLaughlin), Remember Shakti, Diga Rhythm Band, Making Music, and Tabla Beat Science. He has worked with everyone from Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, John McLaughlin, Béla Fleck, Ravi Shankar, Mickey Hart, and Yo-Yo Ma to choreographers of the renowned Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.
In 2019, Berklee India Exchange hosted a tribute concert for Hussain in which he was presented with an honorary doctorate. During his weeklong artist residency, the maestro hosted a thought-provoking master class and recorded a music video for "Lady L" with Berklee Indian Ensemble musicians. Other highlights from Hussain's residency included an Intel-designed interactive game made in collaboration with BIX students; a digital tabla module for Hussain to improvise on created by Berklee electronic production and design students and faculty; stunning visuals for the tribute concert created by live experience design experts; and live VR painting with Google Tilt Brush expert Teek Mach. A set of tablas donated by Hussain and a guitar donated by John McLaughlin were auctioned off to help fund the creation of a new Ustad Zakir Hussain Scholarship at Berklee, which will be presented to deserving students of Indian origin in the years to come. Read more.
Visiting Artist Series
BIX also welcomes collaborations with artists on short-term projects, giving our students the opportunity to delve into industry-relevant concepts through discussions, music video collaborations, music writing projects, and tours.
Raghu Dixit is an Indian singer, composer, producer, film composer, and frontman of the Raghu Dixit Project, a multilingual folk music band. Dixit's music is an amalgamation of Indian ethnic music and styles from different parts of the world. Dixit visited Berklee with his band in April 2017 for a four-day residency that included a public talk, a sold-out concert, a workshop, and a music video recording with the Berklee Indian Ensemble of his song "Yaar Bina," the first song of his then-upcoming album.
In the fall of 2017, Indian Ocean, an Indian band known for fusing Indian folk music and Western rock, was on tour for the Association for India’s Development (AID) and had just a few days between shows in New Jersey and Connecticut. Band members were keen to collaborate with the Berklee Indian Ensemble and managed to make a two-day trip to Boston, in which time the ensemble rearranged and recorded Indian Ocean's song "Jhini."
Shadow and Light
Since their first release in 2014, Shadow and Light has become one of India's fastest-rising indie bands performing in the neo-classical space. Featured on the cover of Rolling Stone India, they have written and independently released three full-length albums worldwide to critical acclaim. With tours in the U.S., India, and Sri lanka, they have also collaborated with renowned artists such as Karsh Kale and opened for sitar legend Anoushka Shankar. Jazz bassist and composer Avishai Cohen awarded Shadow and Light with the 2020 Avishai Cohen Music Award, singling them out of 160 bands from all over the world. In 2018, Shadow and Light collaborated with the Berklee Indian Ensemble and recorded a music video of their song "Dua." Notably, two Berklee Indian Ensemble musicians, Yair Amster (drums) and Sharon Renold (bass), were handpicked by the duo to potentially tour with them for future shows in the region.