Vivek Pandya is a world-class tabla player who has made appearances at venues across the United States and India. He made his national debut performance for NYC Radio Live at Columbia University at the age of 9.
Pandya has joined the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Class of 2026 as a biomedical engineering major and already has his first area performance set for September 16, where he will accompany his friend and world-class Indian flautist Chethan Anant.
The tabla is a melodic percussion instrument belonging to the Indian classical genre. It has the most dynamic frequency range of any percussion instrument and is made up of a bass drum and a treble drum. “The treble drum is tuned to an exact pitch, such as D or E. It could be anything,” Pandya said. The bass drum’s pitch is adjustable by the pressure the artist applies on the drum. While the tabla is mainly an accompanying instrument in Indian classical music, “tabla solos have become super popular nowadays and take audiences on a journey of enthrallment,” Pandya said.
Pandya chose to attend Rensselaer because he felt that it would allow him to be flexible and pursue his interests. He chose to study biomedical engineering to aid in his goal of attending medical school.
Pandya started playing tabla at the age of 3, and began formal training at the age of 5 with Pandit Anindo Chatterjee, a renowned tabla maestro who has played at venues including Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Royal Albert Hall, and more. “Regardless of where he’s performed, his artistry and playing speak far more than his resume,” Pandya said.
Since making his national debut, Pandya — who grew up in Hopewell Junction, New York — has toured and performed all over India, the U.S., and Canada. He has been featured in numerous Indian magazines and also in the Times of India. In recent years, he’s been part of several musical projects and productions, including playing on cellist Inbal Segev’s album 20 for 2020 and on Chidaksha, an Indian classical album, which will be released on online platforms soon. His favorite project is featured on YouTube, where he and fellow tabla artist Rupak Bhattacharjee, who also studies under Chatterjee, play a “Unique Tabla Duet” showcasing the repertoire of the tabla. The project was conceived and mastered during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The upcoming concert — on September 16 at the Shirley Ann Jackson, Ph.D. Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies — with Indian flautist prodigy Chethan Anant came about serendipitously. The two friends were talking one day and their conversation turned to school. It turns out that Anant teaches the Indian bamboo flute to the Rensselaer School of Engineering Dean Shekhar Garde.
“Chethan mentioned to me that he would like a young tabla player to accompany him for the concert,” says Garde. “It happened that this player was joining us as a freshman! What a small and beautiful world.”
Pandya’s ultimate dream is to make tabla an international household name and become a full-time musician. “However, I do realize how important an education is and how helpful it can be to fall back on. Hopefully, I can live up to this dream!”