Imagine a five-year-old girl slapping her little toy guitar, prancing around the house, listening to heavy metal. This is Maya Neelakantan. Nine-years-old now, Maya has replaced the toy guitar with five real ones and has expanded the genres thereby becoming a popular face on social media.
But for this self-taught metal guitarist, it is all about the music, “Music takes me to a different place. Somewhere away from life. I can just go into my zone. And that is what I like.”
Watch Maya play Descending by Tool here:
Maya started learning the nuances of guitar by watching YouTube videos. “She communicates her thoughts in every video. I just sit there recording and am amazed at how she has a lot of process going on in her head. It’s not just sitting and playing guitar, it is beyond that,” says her father Neelakantan.
Her fondness for music has only grown over the years, shooting her to fame after her cover version of the American rock band Tool’s ‘7empest’. Maya posts her rendition of thrash metal, Tool and Carnatic music. She recently started learning Carnatic music from R Prasanna, known as Guitar Prasanna who is a pioneer in performing Carnatic on the guitar.
“One day I saw one of Guitar Prasanna’s videos on YouTube. I never knew you could play that on the guitar. I wanted to play Carnatic music from there on. It gets very emotional. I haven’t experienced that with other music,” says Maya.
Watch Maya play Vijayambike here:
Her unassuming style is probably what caught the eye of Tool’s Adam Jones.
The legendary guitarist started following the budding musician on Instagram. Maya reached out to him, “He replied back saying how much he enjoys my covers. And he said, watching my ‘7empest’ got him a little emotional and choked up,” says Maya, rather excitedly.
Watch Maya speak about that experience here:
Adam recently sent her a personalised Gibson Les Paul Custom Silverburst guitar. Maya remembers opening the gift, “When I got the guitar, I couldn’t explain the feeling of seeing an Adam Jones guitar right in front of me. He also did a skull doodle on it. That’s the best moment in my life so far!”
Where does Maya go from here? “Maybe a band with my little brother,” she signs off.