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Home » A Musical Genius: Usman Riaz at TEDxGateway (Full Transcript)

A Musical Genius: Usman Riaz at TEDxGateway (Full Transcript)


I’m fortunate to come from a family inclined towards the arts. I’ll give you a few examples.

My great grandfather was an Eastern music scholar, as well as a multi-instrumentalist. He played many instruments, like the violin, the sarangi, and even the harmonium. My grandmother chose to follow in her father’s footsteps, and became an Eastern classical musician, as well as a stage performer. That’s her dressed as a man. Her brother, my great uncle, he is one of Pakistan’s last remaining orators and his wife is one of the country’s leading Kathak dancers.

My parents recognized my musical aptitude at an early age, and had me classically trained in piano since the age of six. This is a short passage of one of my pieces.

(Piano music )

Thank you. As I got older, I wanted to branch out an experiment and try different things, and this is when I felt extremely limited back home, in Pakistan, because as it is, teachers are so difficult to come by, and those that aren’t, they are only focused on either Western classical music or Eastern classical music. There was nobody who could guide me and help me to do all the wonderful things that I saw artists doing on sites like YouTube.

So, I had no choice but to let the Internet itself be my teacher. I would watch hundreds of videos online. I would close my eyes and listen to the audio over and over again, and decipher each note. Either that or I’d have to pause the clip at precise moments to examine finger positions. This is how I learned.

I’ll show you one of the first things that I learned when I was 16, when I first picked up the guitar.

(Guitar music in YouTube video)

All right. That was one of the first things that I learned. As time went by, it became easier for me to pick up things from the Internet. So I started doing exactly that, learning from the Internet.

And why just stop there? Why limit myself? Why not use all this instrumental knowledge that I’m acquiring to write my own music? Why not write orchestra pieces, and even make paintings regarding and related to those orchestra pieces? Something like this.

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