About Atash

An Overview

Beyond Austin, Atash has spread its message of love and peace on the east and west coasts, in Taiwan, China, Spain and México, gaining legions of fans and sharing stages with such notable acts as Youssou N’Dour, Maceo Parker, Angelique Kidjo, Ojos de Brujo, The Counting Crows, Diego El Cigala, Omar Souleyman, Fatoumata Diawara, Ricardo Lemvo, Delhi 2 Dublin, Red Baraat, Dengue Fever, and fellow Austinites, The Octopus Project.  They are truly the Austin ambassadors of world music. When the music hits you, you feel no pain.


Interview with Jeannie Hopper from WBAI radio in New York

Jeannie Hopper sits down to play new tracks and talk with some of the many members of the multicultural music ensemble Atash in honor of their album, Everything is Music. Group members Dylan Jones, Jason McKenzie, Roberto Riggio, Indrajit Banerjee and Mohammad Firoozi discuss their distinctive backgrounds and how they each contribute to Atash’s collective sound.

The Musicians of Atash


John Moon • Executive Director; violin

John Moon began the study of the violin and piano when he was six years old and continued advanced study with Vincent Frittelli, of the Galamian tradition. He holds his Master’s Degree in classical violin performance from the University of Texas at Austin. Since leaving the University, he has explored new approaches to the violin, including study with Ali Akbar Khan, as well as other world musicians. He serves as the executive director of Global Harmony productions and executive producer for Atash recording projects. John is the Director of Orchestras and Chamber Music at St. Stephen’s Episcopal School in Austin. He travels extensively to conduct, perform and teach, and has established a music school and summer program in Haiti. He also maintains an active performing schedule with many organizations, including the Austin Symphony Orchestra and the Austin Lyric Opera.


Roberto Paolo Riggio • Musical Director; violin, viola, ‘oud

Atash’s musical director Roberto Paolo Riggio crosses many boundaries as a violinist and composer, immersing himself in musical languages of the world while developing his own unique voice.  Mentors and influences include Simon Shaheen, Pandit Ram Narayan, Dr. L. Subramaniam, Francois Rabbath, Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, and Marcel Khalife.  He has toured with international stars such as Youssou N’Dour, Fathy Salama, Fairuz, Kazem Al-Saher and the Gypsy All-Stars (family of Gipsy Kings) and has collaborated with cutting edge composers such as Aashish Khan, Eyvind Kang, Kai Eckhardt, Fareed Haque, Bassam Saba and Fared Shafinury.  He is a founding member of the National Arab Orchestra under Michael Ibrahim, has guest-directed “Bereket” (the University of Texas Middle Eastern Ensemble), is first violinist and string arranger for Oliver Rajamani’s Mondsee Orchestra and has founded various groups, including the East Austin Youth Orchestra and the Austin Global Orchestra.  Roberto also works as a producer, and composes symphonic and chamber works that cut across genres and styles.


Mohammad Firoozi

Mohammad Firoozi was born in Borazjan, Iran.  His first musical experience was singing azaan (Call to Prayer) at age 7 in the local mosque.  Living close to Persian Gulf he was exposed to bandari music, a dance music absorbing elements of Arab, African and Persian folk music.  He later took part in Sufi and spiritual gatherings.  He learned Gypsy music from the nomadic tribes of Ghasghai and Ghorbati, taking part in weddings and private gatherings.  His love for music of the west inspired him to form the rock band called Lost Cats in 1972 in the city of Shiraz.  He immigrated to US in 1973 where he continued his love for music.  Mohammad formed the band “The Gypsies” in Austin in 1996, which evolved into Atash.  He has attended the Ali Akbar College of the late master Hindustani musician Ali Akbar Khan.  He does workshops and educational programs through his “Voices of the Middle East” project for Austin schools.  He has toured Europe, Asia, Mexico and the United States promoting his main purpose, the message of “peace and Love” for Our Beloved Planet Earth.


Jason McKenzie • Drumset, Tabla, Doumbek, Riq, Percussion

Jason McKenzie grew up in Tallahassee, FL where he took drum set lessons from Butch Trucks from the Allman Brothers Band. After high school he studied symphonic percussion at Florida State and then transferred to the University of North Texas to focus on jazz. After graduating, Jason moved from Denton, TX to the burgeoning music scene of Austin where he met his first tabla instructor, Aloke Dutta. After Dutta moved to Los Angeles a year later, Jason studied with various professional tabla players such as Anindo Chatterjee, Gouri Shankar, Subhen Chatterjee, Samir Chatterjee, and Subrata Bhattacharya and he also attended the Ali Akbar College of Music to study with Swapan Chaudhuri. Jason has traveled to India twice; the first time studying tabla with Gouri Shankar and the second time kanjira from Sathish Pathakota, Ganesh Kumar and Subash Chandran.  Jason has performed or collaborated with legendary world music DJ/Producer Cheb i Sabbah (RIP), Alexi Murdoch, Matt Nathanson, Subrata Bhattacharya, Fareed Haque and many others.  While not on the road with Atash, Jason tours and records with Texas songwriting hero Billy Joe Shaver.


Dylan Jones • Upright and electric bass

Bassist Dylan Jones began his professional music career at the age of sixteen and has since spanned the globe for over 20 years as a performer and instructor of just about every genre imaginable.  A student of iconic music pedagogues Dwayne Heggar, Chuck Rainey, Francois Rabbath, Ali Akbar Khan and country legend Ruby Allmond (his great Aunt), Jones has gone on to write, record, perform and collaborate with countless artists, including Grammy Award winner Vishwa Mohan Bhatt.  A multi-lingual, multi-instrumental, self-described “proud nerd”, Jones is also the founder of music education non-profit, Anthropos Arts.

Visit the Anthropos Arts website


Indrajit Banarjee • Sitar

Sitarist Indrajit Banerjee is one of the leading exponents of the Maihar Gharana, founded by the great Baba Allauddin Khan, father of Ustad Ali Akbar Khan and guru to Pandit Ravi Shankar as well. He was born in a musical family, unique due to the large number of accomplished artists in Hindustani Classical Music.

Indrajit’s training began with his maternal grandfather, Bankim Kumar Pal. Then he took training under Pandit Manilal Nag of Bishnupur Gharana. Later on, he took intensive training from his uncle, Pandit Kartick Kumar, who is a senior disciple of Pandit Ravi Shankar. All of this training developed a strong foundation for Indrajit’s music, and creative individuality. Indrajit has a special touch on Sitar combined with technical virtuosity and sensitivity.

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Indrajit is an A-grade artist of All India Radio and television and an approved
artist of I.C.C.R (Govt. of India) and a judge for auditions ( A.I.R.). He has
many National awards and state awards, namely, the Gokul Nag Memorial Gold Medal in 1987 by Bangia Sangeet Parishad (W. Bengal), “Sur Mani” in 1990 by Sur Sringal Samsad Bombay, and Avinav Kala Samman in 1997 by Avinav Kala Parishad (Bhopal). Parangotsava-2007 (a festival held in Mysore, Karnataka) recognised him as Veteran (Pandit). He is a graduate of Arts from Calcutta University and ‘Sangeet Bibhakar’.

Indrajit has performed in numerous music festivals in India and abroad (Europe, U.S.A, Carribean , Canada, Alaska, Hawai, Brazil, Middle East, etc.) as a soloist and his Cds and Dvd’s are available on the internet for sale and download.

Indrajit has collaborated with many famous Western musicians including Sting, Craig Pruess, Yaron Harman, and Abbos Kosimov. He has also worked in the Cine Music Association of Kolkata as a session player and music composer. He has composed and arranged songs and background music for short films.

Indrajit takes a special interest in teaching, and has some outstanding students and a following cross the world in this regard. His teaching DVDs can be purchased at www.raincitymusic.com. Presently he teaches at Rhythm and Raag in Chicago (www.rhythmandraag.org) for the spring and fall semesters and summer in Samhati (France) and in Kolkata, India.


Aboubacar Sylla • Djembe, Balafon

Abou Sylla is an international performer from a long line of griots (traditional musicians) in Guinea, West Africa. He was a member of Les Ballets Africains, the prestigious national dance company of Guinea, for six years during which he played not one, but five instruments – balafon, djembe, krin, doundoun and bote. Abou is based in Austin, Texas and is dedicated to sharing his passion for African music and culture through performance, teaching, choreography and instrument-building.

See Abou’s website


José Manuel Tejeda • Spanish and flamenco guitar

José Manuel Tejeda graduated from The University of Arts (ISA) in his native Cuba in 2007 with emphasis on classical guitar, guitar instruction and professional solo guitar performer.  After thirteen years of classical guitar training, he began to focus on flamenco and took master classes with Spanish guitarists Alfredo Lagos, Andres Martinez, Paco Cruz and others, and collaborated with flamenco companies such as Melisma, Ecos and Alma Flamenca.  His passion for all types of music brought on studies in jazz, Brazilian, Argentinian, Mexican, sephardic as well as a multitude of other Latin styles.  While in Cuba, he had the opportunity to record with famous musicians such as Lucia Huergo, Liuba María Hevia, Orlando Valle “Maraca”, Dayani Lozano and many more. José moved to the United States two years ago and is currently working as a guitar teacher, solo and duo performer, and collaborator with different flamenco companies based in and out of his hometown of Austin, TX.

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