Watch Sasha Bayan perform on the Kickstarter page for his debut album Do I Know You?
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Hometown: Agoura Hills, Calif.
Majors: Guitar studies, international business and religious studies, with minors in music composition and commercial music
Big picture: Sasha Bayan has traveled the world to learn about music and culture. He went to Seville, Spain, on an undergraduate research grant the summer after his sophomore year to study flamenco music. Bayan, who is Bahá’í, then took a year off from school to work at the Bahá’í World Centre in Haifa and Akka, Israel, where he was a dispatcher and team leader. He also spent time reading the faith’s foundational texts. During his time in Israel he created his first album, Call the Doctor, a mix, he says, of “flamenco, Latin rock and Old West influences in a pop exposition.” Upon returning to Northwestern he founded a three-piece ensemble — the Aurelia Trio. The group played more than 60 performances in its two years of existence. In 2011 he received a Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences research grant to study samba music in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, Brazil. He recently returned from India, where he learned to play the sitar and guitar from a Hindustani music guru.
On the Aurelia Trio: “It was a really big experience for me because I was managing a band, calling rehearsal and bringing in tunes. It was my baby. That was one of the most shaping experiences for me as a musician. It helped me become a better bandleader and composer. I now know what it takes to form an ensemble and make it work, and that’s empowering.”
On learning Hindustani music: “I went to Raja, an expert sitarist, and asked him to teach me. At the time he was chair of the economics department at the University of Hyderabad. Raja, who later became my guru, told me I wouldn’t learn anything in just five months — that I might learn how to hold the sitar in that time frame. After convincing him that I was serious about learning, he told me that he was flying to Calcutta in a week and that I could fly with him and get a sitar there. I thought this was too good of an opportunity and adventure to pass up. That journey became the boot camp crash course to Hindustani music.”
On pursuing a music career: “Everything’s lined up. I plan to move back to L.A., build a studio, compose, record new tracks, develop a stronger Internet and media presence and play live. The next stage will be a period of joint incubation and exposure. My focus will be to establish myself as a compelling and innovative artist on the scene.
“I can always do something else if it doesn’t work out, but building on all of my experiences at Northwestern and beyond, I’ve been given this opportunity to pursue something that I love and that I think will be a meaningful contribution to mankind. Why would I ignore that?”
What are you working on now: “I am working on my debut album, titled Do I Know You? — a selection of original works that draw on my knowledge of classical, jazz, flamenco, samba and Hindustani music. The project is both a capstone of my learning at NU and a launching pad into my future as a performing artist.”