Photo by Michael Winters
Brian Shankar Adler is a multidisciplinary drummer, percussionist and composer. Described as "a polyrhythmic force… New York City gritty yet still somehow capable of evoking the delicacy of a summer breeze…” (JazzTimes), his work transcends the terrain between genre and geographic region, asking: how can we find connection through rhythm?
Adler has performed in caves, forests and adjacent glacial ice fields as well as Carnegie Hall, Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center and The Stone. He has been recorded on over forty albums including his solo works, For a Gallery on the Moon (Chant Records, 2020) and Fourth Dimension (Chant Records, 2019).
Born and raised in an ashram, meditation and the sounds of mantras were an influential part of Adler's upbringing. At age five, his musical instruction began with the repetition of Hindustani drum syllables and the role of accompanying chants. He received a scholarship to attend New England Conservatory where he studied drum set and composition. As a young adult, he traced part of his familial ancestry to South America, discovering and building links to these musical traditions as well.
Playing primarily a hybrid drum set that includes North Indian tabla, Argentine bombo legüero and various found objects, Adler's work explores the perception of time, the communicative properties of embodied gesture and the existential questions that reside in the human condition. With equal focus on improvisational and compositional practices, he uses rhythm as a tool for collaboration.
Brian Shankar Adler has recorded and/or toured with Ballet Hispanico’s Doña Perón, Chelsea Clinton's film Of Many, Kamala Sankaram’s operas Thumbprint (LA Opera), A Rose (Houston Grand Opera) and The Jungle Book (Glimmerglass), and Elizabeth Swados’ final theatrical productions The Nomad and The Golem. He traveled to Germany to perform with singer Sunny Kim and Kuwait to perform with oudist Ahmed Alshaiba. He has been featured in Jason Bivins’ book "Spirits Rejoice," The Center For Deep Listening's "A Year of Deep Listening," NPR's "New Sounds," PBS's "Next at the Kennedy Center'' as well as Downbeat and Modern Drummer Magazines. His music video, “Mantra” won best music video at Transcinema International Film Festival in Peru and an official selection at Quiet City Film Festival in New York City.
In 2013, Brian Shankar Adler was the guest soloist with La Bomba de Tiempo in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He returned to the states to create Human Time Machine, a percussion ensemble that would hold a three year residency at Barbès as well as performances at the Queens World Fair and Roulette.
Adler has written over one hundred compositions. In 2021, he was a composer in residence at Antenna Cloud Farm. He was commissioned to compose and arrange several pieces for Palaver Strings' 2022-2023 tours and to write "We Are a Body of Water" for gamelan orchestra.
Adler has worked with: Kinan Azmeh, Jay Clayton, Jane Ira Bloom, Sheila Jordan, Guillermo Klein, The Michael Leonhart Orchestra, Frank London, Kate McGarry, Matt Moran, Mali Obomsawin, Emilio Teubal and Ray Vega. He is a member of the eclectic surf-noir band Bombay Rickey and performs environmental-activism with Bash the Trash.
A 2021 Lifetime Arts/National Guild grant winner, Brian Shankar Adler published "A World of Percussion" connecting rhythm, language, mathematics and environment through a study of shared musical concepts from around the globe. He is currently on faculties at: Bates College, Bowdoin College, University of Maine, and Vermont Jazz Center.