Who is Maya Neelakantan? The 10-year-old from India Rocks in America’s Got Talent

“Are you sure you are 10 years old?” Sofia Vergara, one of the four judges, could not help wondering about the age of Maya Neelakantan, a metal guitarist, who mesmerized everyone during her audition on the stage of America’s Got Talent. Sofia went on to say, “Your energy, your confidence. A perfect audition! Amazing!” The other judges were equally praiseful of her. Heidi Klum, a renowned supermodel and reality show host, added, “Everyone in this room loved what you just did. You should be proud of yourself.”

Who is Maya Neelakantan? “The rock goddess,” as one of the AGT judges hailed Maya, is a metal guitarist from Chennai, India. Trained in Carnatic music, she set the America’s Got Talent stage on fire with her unique rendition of “Last Resort” by Papa Roach on an electric guitar. She started coyly with an authentic Carnatic Nata Bhairavi Raga and graduated to strum the chords of “Last Resort” with headbanging. The judges unanimously sent her to the next round.

Maya Neelakantan, Indians in America's Got Talent, Indian talent in USA

PC: Maya Neelakantan | America’s Got Talent

Not only her performance, but also her appearance impressed Indians in America and beyond. With a bindi adorning her forehead and a pair of dangling jhumkas accessorizing her Indian ethnic outfit, Maya Neelakantan gave the impression to the world that no matter what she performs or where she performs, she carries her Indian culture and heritage that she inherited by birth. The Indian Diaspora is proud of Maya because she did not ape American fashion to impress the judges.

“Maya Neelakantan’s performance at America’s Got Talent seems to remind the US of Carnatic exponent M S Subbulakshmi’s historic performance at the UN General Assembly in 1966. Such comparisons are just, though exaggerated. Like M S Subbulakshmi, 10-year-old Maya is from the land of Carnatic music and made the cut on her first visit to the United States. Since Subbulakshmi’s concert tour of the US, it has been nearly 60 years. Precisely, America sees Indian talent galore,” said Sourav Agarwal, the Editor of Travel Beats.

Like Indian American Tiara Abraham, Maya’s musical journey commenced at a very young age. She took a fancy to heavy metal music when she was barely 5. As a YouTuber, her name spread far and wide by the age of 9. Her command over electric guitars did not go unnoticed and unrewarded by Tool’s lead guitarist, Adam Thomas Jones. Spellbound by Maya Neelakantan’s version of Tool’s 16-minute epic 7Empest, Adam Jones sent his signature guitar to her in 2022.

“My dream is to combine all of my music interests to create something that is totally unheard of! I want to create a genre of my own combining the intricate Carnatic music and the extreme Thrash Metal.

This story is part of our continued effort to give a shoutout to achievements of Young Indians in America. Travel Beats is a leading diaspora portal and a subsidiary of Indian Eagle, a most trusted air-ticketing partner of Indians abroad. Sign up to our newsletter for latest community stories, US visa and immigration updates, and everything about US-India air travel.

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