Intercultural Journeys: The Artistry of Identity and Transformation
Nistha Raj and Christylez Bacon: Hip-Hop Meets Hindustani
Indian classical violinist Nistha Raj and GRAMMY®-nominated progressive Hip-Hop artist Christylez Bacon present collaborative works mixing genres of music native to their cultural upbringings and exploring the spaces between Hindustani classical music, acoustic Hip-Hop, and Go-Go from Washington, D.C.
This performance features a 5-piece ensemble, with Nistha Raj (Hindustani violin), Christylez Bacon (beatbox, lyrics, percussion), tabla, keys, and saxophone.
Estimated performance length is 90 minutes.
2013-2014 Strathmore Artist in Residence,Nistha Raj has been regarded as “stunningly skilled in western and eastern classical music” by the Washington City Paper. Nistha is emerging as a fresh voice in creative and world music. Her recently self-released debut album, “Exit 1”, funded by the Sparkplug Foundation, has been described as “edgy, innovative, and clearly awe-inspiring…Indian fusion at its best” (Inside World Music). A versatile musician, Nistha pursues new horizons by melding tradition with contemporary innovation – lending her talents to the Jazz trio The Fourth Stream, collaborations with Grammy nominated hip hop artist Christylez Bacon and six-string electric cellist Wytold; and recording on rock band NRI’s album. A distinguished performer and teacher in the Washington, DC community, Nistha has performed at the United Nations, Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and the American Embassy in Bogota, Colombia. Nistha is a recipient of multiple grants from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, including the 2012 Artist Fellowship.
Nistha Raj’s initial training in music began with western classical violin at the age of nine, which she pursued seriously until graduation from college. She received a B.A. in music with honors from the University of Houston in 2003. Although born and raised in the U.S., because of her Indian heritage, she was exposed to the classical music of India from her childhood and had an intense desire to delve deeper into a study of the music. To immerse herself in the music and culture of India, in 2004, Nistha traveled to the small town of Vrindavan in India to study the oldest form of Indian classical music, Dhrupad, with Tarun Krishna Das, disciple of Vidur Mallick. She spent seven months immersed in the music and instantly discovered a deep connection and affinity for the music and thus began her journey and desire to always be surrounded by this music.
In 2005, after being selected as the only American to receive a scholarship from the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, Nistha completed two years of intensive formal training at the Gandharva Maha Vidyalaya in New Delhi, India. She trained under the guidance of Sharat Srivastava, the foremost disciple of his grandfather, Sri Joi Srivastava, belonging to the Senia Gharana to which legendary artists like Ali Akbar Khansahib and Pandit Ravi Shankar belong to. In addition, to further increase her understanding of Hindustani music, she also trained in vocal music with Meeta Pandit, who is the sixth in the unbroken lineage of musicians of the legendary Pandit Family of Gwailor. She also had the privilege to receive guidance from Dr. N Rajam, one of the foremost Hindustani violinists.Upon her return to the US in 2007, Nistha has remained constant in her pursuit of music by continuing to develop her skills and technique. She is currently receiving training from Kolkata based Sarode player, Prattyush Banerjee, disciple of Buddhadev Das Gupta. In total, Nistha has over 20 years of classical violin training in the U.S. and India. She also holds a MA in Arts Management from the George Mason University.
Christylez Bacon (pronounced: chris-styles) is a GRAMMY® Nominated Progressive Hip-Hop artist and multi-instrumentalist from Southeast, Washington, DC. As a performer, Christylez multi-tasks between various instruments such as the West African djembe drum, acoustic guitar, and the human beat-box (oral percussion), all while continuing the oral tradition of storytelling through his lyrics.
In 2011, Christylez began a cross-cultural collaborative concert series in Washington, DC, “Washington Sound Museum” (WSM). WSM is a monthly intimate celebration of music featuring guest artists from diverse musical genres with Christylez Bacon and his progressive hip-hop orchestra. Since WSM’s inception, Christylez has collaborated with artists from various cultural backgrounds, ranging from the Hindustani & Carnatic music of India, the contemporary Arabic music of Egypt, and the music of Brazil.
With a mission towards cultural acceptance and unification through music, Christylez is constantly pushing the envelope – from performances at the National Cathedral, to becoming the first Hip-Hop artist to be featured at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, composing and orchestrating an entire concert for a 12-piece orchestra commissioned by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the Smithsonian Institute, or recording a Folk/Hip-Hop children’s album. He is the recipient of multiple honors awarded by the Washington Area Music Association including 2013 Artist of the Year, and the Montgomery County Executive Award for Excellence in the Arts, and has even been honored as a 2012 “Library Superhero” by Friends of the Library, Montgomery County.