Even when fixing teeth, Advait “Avi” Shah can’t stop thinking about music. A dentist by trade, Shah nonetheless enjoys a lively side hustle performing on the tablas and the dhol, traditional Indian instruments that he incorporates into various ensembles that marry Eastern musical motifs with Western modes such as rap and beatboxing. It’s a unique way to bridge his ethnic heritage with the experimental firmament of the American soundscape.
“That’s why I kind of fit in with this whole fusion of Western culture. Every band I played with has that,” Shah said recently from his Maryland home. But, because he’s mostly self-taught, he freely admits that “if I ever had to [play] something traditional, I’d be completely lost.”
On May 13, Shah will leave his drills and scrapers behind to join violinist Nistha Raj and Grammy-nominated progressive hip-hop artist Christylez Bacon at the Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Festival at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art.