Best Indian Female Blues Guitarist Shines in America

MUMBAI: Born in Surat, 28-year-old Aayushi Karnik shines in New York recording for a Grammy-winning album and headlining the world-famous Jazz at Lincoln Center concerts.

For an award-winning musician, widely recognized as the best Indian female blues guitarist of her generation, Karnik is unusually shy and reflective. Despite the most glorious career path which includes starring at one of the most important music festivals in whole South Asia, NH7 Weekender, and receiving acclaim from jazz legends Wynton Marsalis and Rodney Jones, Karnik is firmly down to earth, much more interested in playing and composing than in collecting accolades. And yet, the unassuming Julliard School – officially, the best music conservatory in the world – graduate, who had studied there on full talent scholarship-the coveted Omomuki jazz fellowship, has not only become one of the brightest international blues stars, but in doing so, has also paved a way for young Indian female jazz musicians serving as a role model.

“Anything is possible if you are willing to work hard, challenge the assumptions, and remain true to yourself” says Karnik. “And then one day you might realize that simply by doing what you love – one note at a time – you have also broken that glass ceiling.”

Experienced prejudice as a rare female guitarist, Karnik was blessed to find support in her parents. Encouraged by them – her father putting aside his own dream of his daughter continuing family architecture business – Karnik carved her own path and found success neither she nor her loved-ones had imagined.

In 2014, after practicing those famous 10000 hours, sometimes to the point of complete exhaustion and her fingers bleeding, a self-taught (!) 19-year-old guitarist came second in the prominent Axe Guitar Competition in Nagaland being presented with an award by Michael Jackson’s own guitar player Jennifer Batten. More good news immediately followed – Karnik performed with her own show at iconic ‘Someplace Else’ pub in Kolkata, won the Mahindra Blues Band Hunt at the NH7 Weekender appearing as one of the hottest young blues talent in Asia, and received an endorsement from Fender, a famous guitar manufacture for Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton and George Harrison.

Relocating to New York not long after that to study at Julliard – the first female Indian blues musician to get accepted – Karnik continued creating great music becoming the Jazz at Lincoln Center darling and starring at such legendary venues as the National Jazz Museum in Harlem.

Appearing as a special guest star in a 2023 Grammy-winning composition Refuge by Geoffrey Keezer, Karnik also released her own album, Troublemaker, acclaimed by critics as one of the most notable blues debut albums in decades with none other than Wynton Marsalis waxing lyrical about Karnik’s music speaking “directly to the universality of the blues.”

In July of this year, Karnik will proudly be bringing the sounds of India to New York: presented by the world-famous Mahindra Blues Festival and Jazz at Lincoln Center, the Surat guitar genius will be headlining the Mahindra Blues Special at Damrosch Park at the US premiere performance arts venue – Lincoln Center.


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