Payton MacDonald brings a modern aesthetic to the ancient Dhrupad music of India. His meditative, trance-inducing music is a form of naad, the yoga of sound. He has traveled to India many times and was recently awarded a Senior Fulbright-Nehru Fellowship to spend nine months in India continuing his vocal studies with the Gundecha Brothers, learning the ancient art of Dhrupad singing. Payton made his official debut as a Dhrupad singer at Bharat Bhavan in Bhopal, M.P., India in 2014. His performance was covered by many major news outlets, including The Hitaveda, who wrote “Dr. Payton MacDonald with his melodious voice spread the beauty of Dhrupad, its subtle finer points and the way he sang seemed to be spiritualistic. His solo Dhrupad performance was encouraging and not less than any young Indian Dhrupad singer.” The Times of India reported that “. . . lovers of Indian classical music from city had a gala time listening to Payton MacDonald’s recital at Antarang hall of Bharat Bhavan.”
Payton’s musical journey began in Idaho, U.S.A. in the Rocky Mountains. In his youth he roamed the wild peaks by foot, by bike, and on skis, while simultaneously going deep into jazz, classical, and world musics. He studied music formally at the University of Michigan (B.F.A.) and the Eastman School of Music (M.M. and D.M.A.). It was at Michigan that he began studying tabla drumming and learning the rhythmic language of Indian music. He eventually became a disciple of the great tabla guru Pandit Sharda Sahai. Upon Sharda Sahai’s passing in 2011 Payton redirected his energy to singing Indian music and began learning from Indian Dhrupad master singers Gundecha Brothers.
Payton has sung Dhrupad and Dhrupad fusion music at the River to River festival in New York City, the Musikgebouw in Holland, and the Cork Opera House in Cork, Ireland, as well as at countless yoga centers, universities, ashrams, and clubs. He has appeared on the Ragas Live Festival in New York City and the Brooklyn Raga Massive, as well as the Dhrupad Days of Seattle. He has also performed with pakhawaj and jori drummers Pandit Akhilesh Gundecha, Roman Das, Dibyarka Chatterjee, Peter Fagiola, Dnyaneshvara Deshmukh, Shawn Mativetsky, and mridangam drummer Rohan Krishnamurthy.