AIIS Performing Arts Fellows Rock!

AIIS performing and creative arts fellows promote the arts of India to a broad cross-section of the American public through their creative projects which include performances, exhibitions, recordings and other visual and audio media, as well as their through their teaching.

Learn how the AIIS performing and creative arts fellowship benefited this young artist:

Here are some highlights from AIIS current and former Performing/creative arts fellows:

Aakash Mittal twoAakash Mittal is currently in India working on his project, “Nocturne: A New Work of Music based on Hindustani Evening/Night Ragas for the Saxophone.”  He set out four main goals to achieve during his fellowship: 1) Studying Hindustani night ragas and applying this sound to western composition; 2) Developing Indian ornamentation techniques for the Saxophone; 3) Performing and collaborating with musicians in India; 4) Expanding his ability as a music educator through the study of Indian pedagogy. To achieve these goals he has employed traditional methods such as individual practice, private lessons, and rehearsal along side melodic experimentation, kinesthetic rhythms, and graphic notation.

Listen to Aakash Mittal’s music:


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“Raga Bageshri Gat in Jhaptaal”

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Mr. Mittal and two other musicians gave a performance at the Habitat Centre in New Delhi in January 2014, in conjunction with the third AIIS 50th anniversary conference. The concert was beautifully recorded by Umashankar of the AIIS Archives and Research Center for Ethnomusicology (ARCE) using a quadraphonic microphone of his own invention. With the musicians’ permission, AIIS/ARCE is pleased to offer portions of this concert for the enjoyment of the public. The full recording will of course be archived at ARCE on AIIS’s Gurgaon campus, where it appropriately joins two remarkable collections devoted to the history of jazz in India that were recently presented to AIIS.

Aakash Mittal Kolkata publicityMr. Mittal also led a quintet at the Congo Square Jazz Festival in Kolkata in November 2013. This was a monumental opportunity to collaborate with local musicians, bring his music to an international audience, and apply many of the concepts he was practicing. The band consisted of Nishad Pandey (guitar), Chandra Mouli (bass), Gaurab Chaterjee (drums), Jayanthi Bunyan (vocal), and Fulbright Scholar Payton MacDonald (vibraphone). They performed the music from Mr. Mittal’s latest album Ocean. The band received a tremendous amount of press including articles in The Telegraph, Business Economics Magazine, Kindle Magazine, and the Times of India. As a result the group had the largest audience at the jazz festival.

The Lawrence University Symphony performed the world premiere of Mittal’s piece, “Samay Raga for Wind Ensemble,” on March 2, 2019. Mittal noted, “One of my goals with this piece is to center the music, sounds, and noises I experienced in Kolkata in the creative process.” Watch the performance here.

Miles Shrewsbery was an AIIS fellow in 2012-2013, working on his project “Tabla Accompaniment (Sangat) Intensive.”  He is an artist-teacher in residence for the Center For World Music in San Diego, California and the co-owner of Avaaz Records. He and his group Therianthrope released a new album in February 2014 and have been on an extended performance tour through California, New Mexico, Colorado and Arizona in February and March 2014.


Photographer Annu Palakunnathu Matthew, who was an AIIS fellow in 2005-2006, is a Professor of Art (Photography) and Director of the Center for the Humanities at the University of Rhode Island. Her photographs have been exhibited at Sepia International in New York, the RISD Museum, Newark Art Museum, 2009 Guangzhou Biennial of Photography, China, Tang Museum and the Smithsonian Institute Museum of National History.

Memories of India

Courtesy Annu Palakunnathu Matthew and SepiaEYE, NYC

Her work is included in the book BLINK from Phaidon, that according to the publisher celebrates the quality and vision of today’s 100 most exciting international contemporary photographers and Self-Portraits and Home Truths: Motherhood, Photography and Loss by Susan Bright and The Digital Eye by Sylvia Wolf. Since her AIIS fellowship, she has held other prestigious grants, including a Fulbright-Nehru fellowship for India in 2012.

George Slade recently wrote about Annu Matthew: “If Annu Palakunnathu Matthew’s imagery looks backward in time, it is less romantic recollection of the past than a kind of bracing, corrective look at personal experiences and cultural behavior. Her work opens up the historical record, reframes what people see, and presents new conclusions about the evidence she has transcribed into her images.” Further: “Besides what we see, non-visual elements and intellectual constructs are called into play; Matthew creates many opportunities for introspection and discovery. Although they have great and satisfying formal appeal, one should spend an extra minute or two looking at her images, because they are subversive and often change in unexpected ways.”


Payton singingPayton MacDonald, an associate professor of Music at William Paterson University and an AIIS fellow in 2005, is currently a Fulbright scholar, studying voice with the Gundecha Brothers. His work—as a composer, improviser, performer and educator– draws upon his extensive experience with East Indian tabla drumming and Dhrupad singing, Jazz, European classical music, and the American experimental tradition. Recordings of his work include the
critically acclaimed Payton MacDonald: Works for Tabla on the ATMA
label. Numerous ensembles have performed his compositions including the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the JACK Quarter. He tours as a marimba soloist with Super Marimba and is a founding member of Alarm Will Sound, a new-music chamber orchestra. His courses at William Paterson University include contemporary music, percussion, improvisation, and Hindustani music.He recently gave a Dhrupad concert at Bharat Bhavan, which was reviewed by some publications in India which had this to say:

from The Hitaveda: “Dr. Payton MacDonald with his melodious voice spread the beauty of Dhrupad, its subtle finer points and the way he sang seemed to be spiritualistic. His solo Dhrupad performance was encouraging and not less than any young Indian Dhrupad singer.”

from The Times of India: “Lovers of Indian classical music from city had a gala time listening to Payton MacDonald’s Dhrupad and Igino Brunori’s saxophone recital at Antarang hall of Bharat Bhavan.”

The New York Times also recently reviewed his new work for the JACK string quartet, titled Radha. The Times has this to say about it: “The eerie harmonics of Payton MacDonald’s quartet version of Radha were hypnotically beautiful, with a viola melody spun over a background of slides and otherworldly effects.”

The performing and creative arts fellowship is the most competitive of all AIIS fellowships as there is limited funding. Because of all the outstanding applications received by AIIS, we would love to award more fellowships. We can do so with your help. Please go here to make a gift to fund performing/creative arts fellowships.

Taal Se Taal (c) Michael Palma

Taal Se Taal (c) Michael Palma

Choreographer and Kathak artist Janaki Patrik held an AIIS performing/creative arts fellowship in 2008-2009, working on her project entitled, “Study of Syllabi and Curricula in Teaching Kathak: Study of Contemporary Kathak Choreography in Performance.” Cofounder of The Kathak Ensemble & Friends she has performed both classical Kathak and her own choreography throughout the United States, Canada and India at venues including Lincoln Center and Asia Society in New York City, the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, Premier Dance Theatre in Toronto, the Indian International Center in New Delhi, the Bindadin Maharaj Rangmanch in Lucknow, U.P., India and the Srinathji Mandir in Nathadwara, Rajasthan.

The Kathak Ensemble offers dance classes for adults and children in New York and also does education programming for children about Kathak and North Indian dance traditions.