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©Devina Kanani Photography

Founder of the YouTube Channel 88keysToEuphoria, Indo-American composer and pianist Aakash Gandhi has built a solid international fan base making beautiful acoustic renditions of popular Bollywood songs. Since 2008 Aakash teamed up with talented musicians across the globe, to name a few; Jonita Gandhi, Shweta Subram, Sahil Khan, Rax Timyr etc.

“It was fascinating to see how I was making connections with people I had never even met. This feeling has stuck with me and I believe, on a subconscious level, it’s one of the strongest motivating factors whenever I upload a video today”, Aakash explains.

It was 2008 when Aakash made his debut on YouTube with his instrumental music. Up until that point, Aakash had been working 9 to 5 as a financial analyst after receiving his MBA degree in Finance. Born and raised in Orlando, Florida he had enrolled in Western classical piano lessons at the tender age of 8 and he would faithfully continue to take them for 10 years. Apart from releasing his music on YouTube, he had never dabbled in music on a professional level. But the immense response to his YouTube video’s left a deep impression on him.

Aakash: “Music was not the only thing that would make me most happy in life, it was a way for me to leave an impact in other people’s lives as well. It was a means for me to leave a mark on the world in a way I never would be able to do while being stuck in an office”.

So, the composer decided to focus full-time on his true craft; ever since the pianist shot to fame with his touching, acoustic music video’s.  He is also known for his collaborations with various talented international artists.

In the beginning of his career, the composer noticed other artists on YouTube he would eventually work with. Two of them were Indian flute player Sahil Khan and Indo-Canadian singer Jonita Gandhi: their cover songs Pani da Rang (2012) and Yeh Honsla (2012) went viral in no time. More recently he worked together with Indo-Canadian Shweta Subram (Jeena Jeena, 2015). All together they have  generated millions of views making 88KeysToEuphoria a YouTube channel to be reckoned with.

“Every collaboration is special; I’m very careful with who I work with”, Aakash shares. “When I heard Jonita’s voice I thought: “if I’m going to introduce a singer, this is the one.” I was instantly mesmerized by her vocals and her range of styles.  She’s also a very dear friend and I’m so proud of her success in the field today. Listening to Sahil’s music I felt he has a very strong innate sense of music and it shines through every time. Moreover, he’s a really nice person to know and that comfortability is priceless when it comes to recording in the studio”.

The pianist ended up working with Jonita and Sahil on no less than 7 videos and continued to jam on with many other artists as well, like the funky clarinetist Shankar Tucker. The secret to these successful team- ups? Even though the composer stays focused, he isn’t controlling when working with others. “I’m not a singer or a flutist. I’m not going to tell anybody how to perform. If I have a composition, we just take it from there and create a song together”.

In 2011, Aakash also started a music tutorial portal under the same banner. After his breakthrough on YouTube, the artist kept getting requests from viewers to show how to play Indian music on the piano. With now over 20.000 registered members tuning in, the portal has now become thé place to learn how to play Bollywood- and Indian melodies on a piano.

“It’s open to everyone, you don’t need to have any experience with the piano or music”, Aakash says about the platform where users have access to the tutorials after signing up for a subscription that suits them. Even as his schedule gets busier, Aakash remains loyal to his brainchild. “I always make time for the tutorials; yes, it’s a business now, but I also received so much appreciation for my own work that I feel this is my way of giving back.”

As a child of Gujarati parents from Mumbai, he enjoyed the best of both worlds being exposed to different music styles. Inspired by major artists such as the versatile A.R. Rahman and the legendary pianist Yanni, he credits his parents for instilling a love for music inside of him and supporting his dream.

“When I started to compose myself, Bollywood- and Indian music definitely influenced me. It was around me from a young age. My parents played a big role in that; they always appreciated music, even organizing weekly karaoke sessions at home”, Aakash smiles. “They have been a huge pillar of support in whatever I’ve done in my life. I’m extremely thankful that they showed equal support when it came to my music. I don’t think I would have been able to pursue it without their blessing”.

For the past few years Aakash has been living in Mumbai and working non-stop. He admits that it was not an easy decision, leaving a stable life in the United States behind. But his desire to leave behind a musical legacy proved to be the deciding factor.

Aakash: “There’s no room for insecurities in the field of music if you want to succeed. If you don’t show confidence in your skill, then how can you expect others to show confidence in your abilities? There were tons of insecurities before I made the decision to leave the States. But once I did, I never looked back”.

Already having produced for different labels and production houses, most notably Yash Raj Films, the pianist looks forward to 88KeysToEuphoria being known even more. Especially as he continues to teach his tutorials and also performs worldwide under the same banner.

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©Devina Kanani Photography

Living in India has also been a great experience for Aakash. He even considers Mumbai his second home. “Just stepping on the streets is a humbling experience”, the composer shares. “Musically, I’ve met so many people and I have grown as a musician in so many ways.  Whether it’s through the amazing collaborations or through the diversity in musical styles that has influenced my work since I moved here, I feel the country has given me so much”.

And while acoustic music is still dear to him, Aakash does not like to limit himself in his future projects. “I like to take a song, strip it down and add my own touch to it. And even though I usually have a rich, acoustic sound, I do experiment with other styles like blues or beatboxing together with tabla rhythms”, the artist reveals.

It will be interesting to see where Aakash will go from here. But with all his previous hits in mind, it is sure fans are going to be pleasantly surprised.

By Stefanie Amirkhan