Neel Murgai is a multi-instrumental performer, composer and teacher, and co-founder of the Brooklyn Raga Massive, a raga inspired musician's collective. He is a graduate of Goddard College's MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts program. His journey into sitar and Indian classical music began with Pundit Ravindra Goswami in Banaras, in 1994. For the past 18 years Neel has studied with his guru and mentor, Pundit Krishna Bhatt. His interest in music began at a young age with trombone and guitar. While obtaining a degree in Civil Engineering, Neel worked as a radio DJ, hosting an international music program. This fostered in him an abiding interest in music from around the world. He went on to live in India, immersing himself in the music and culture of his parent’s homeland. Upon returning to the U.S., Neel began a career in music. In addition to sitar, he has since learned to play daf (Persian frame drum) with Soheil Zolfonun. He has studied overtone singing with the Buriyat performance group Uragsha and Harmonic Choir member, Timothy Hill. Western composition, Neel studied with Edgar Grana.
While dedicated to Indian classical music, Neel is also interested in creating original music and contemporary cross-cultural collaborations that are rooted in his many influences and studies. The Neel Murgai Ensemble is a product of many years of thought about the ideal instrumentation to advance his compositions. With Brooklyn Raga Massive, Neel provides arrangements and musical direction for many of their cross-cultural works, including their performance of Terry Riley's In C, their tribute to Pandit Ravi Shankar, and live score for the film Fantastic Planet.
In 2013 Neel joined the orchestra of the hit musical theater production of the Jungle Book, directed by Mary Zimmerman. Neel has toured around the world with the Bill T. Jones Dance Company, performing and collaborating in their multi-media show, “Blind Date". Neel has performed on Late Night with David Letterman with Wyclef Jean, Cyndi Lauper and DJ Rekha. Other artists Neel has worked with include Adam Rudolph, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Karsh Kale, Samir Chatterjee, Daniel Bernard Romain, Ellen Stewart, Sameer Gupta, Marc Cary, Jay Gandhi, Arun Ramamurthy, Laraaji, Yuerba Buena, Baba Israel, Raz Mesinai, Mission on Mars, Akim Funk Buddha, Loren Conners, Louis Bellogenis and Cosmo Vinyl. He has performed at venues ranging from the Lincoln Center and Kennedy Center to jazz clubs such as the Blue Note and at festivals around the U.S including Art Wallah, Arts Plosure, Masala! Mehndi! Masti! and many others.
Neel has composed music for numerous film, TV, video, theater and dance projects including the features, “The Yes Men Fix the World", which premiered at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival and "A Decent Arrangement". His music has been featured in the BBC series, “Holiday’s in the Danger Zone", and TBS programs, “Women of the Ink", and “Spotlights".
As a teacher, Neel offers private lessons in sitar, overtone singing and percussion. He leads workshops and lecture/demonstrations combining all his skills in colleges and schools around the NYC area. Neel's group Raga Kids teaches about Indian music to toddlers offering sing-alongs of original music and kids classics.
Every Thursday you can find Neel hosting or participating in Brooklyn Raga Massive's Weekly Concert and Jam Session at Jalopy Theater in Brooklyn. Neel is also an Artistic Director and Treasurer for their 501c3 non profit organization.