During a fateful study abroad trip to Delhi in 2007, Joel picked up a CD by renowned Indian slide guitarist Pt. Vishwa Mohan Bhatt. Having already been enchanted by the sounds of Indian Classical Music during a lecture course he attended at the University of California in Santa Cruz, Joel felt compelled to find and learn the Indian slide guitar within moments of listening to this CD. After spending an entire July afternoon searching the campus of Delhi University for the music faculty, he finally met renowned tabla maestro Pt. Subhash Nirwan who offered to help Joel in his journey and subsequently introduced him to the great Indian slide guitarist Dr. Ranjan Kumar. Dr. Ranjan agreed to teach Joel the techniques of the instrument as well as the form and substance of Indian classical music.
Since that time, Joel has been traveling to Delhi to study with Dr. Ranjan and has begun to perform in India accompanied by Pt. Subhash Nirwan’s son, Suraj Nirwan, as well as at venues throughout the world. In 2015, he released his first album of slide guitar music titled ‘Live from India.’ In addition to performing concerts, Joel has taught lecture demonstrations on the Indian slide guitar and fusion music at schools throughout India and the US including California College of the Arts, the California Institute of Integral Studies and Delhi Public Schools – Sonepat.
Joel has developed an original show that combines storytelling and music that takes audiences through his singular journey in Indian classical music. Titled ‘Taleem Yatra: The Story and Music of Joel Veena,’ the show’s anecdotes and music detail Joel’s personal experience of learning and performing the Indian slide guitar. The unique combination of personal narrative and musical performance has made the show engaging for audiences of veteran musicians as well as casual listeners and those interested in spoken-word performance.
2017 has brought the release of Joel’s second album, ‘Unexpected Blessings,’ which has been recorded in India and the US and features a host of different musicians and musical styles from both countries. The album presents the Indian slide guitar in a number of new as well as traditional settings including a duet with the Hang drum (‘Ranjan‘), a fusion of North and South Indian music with Carnatic flute and Middle Eastern frame drum (‘Bhagyada Lakshmi Baramma‘) and even an uptempo dance track where the slide guitar is used as a carrier for a vocoder (‘Shell’). The album also features a purely classical rendition of Raga Yaman accompanied by tabla virtuoso Suraj Nirwan (‘Raga Yaman‘).
Spring of 2017 heralded Joel Veena’s first tour in Europe, where he played a series of concerts in the Netherlands with Bansuri player Kees van Boxtel. He currently resides part of the year in the US and part in India, with concert tours in between throughout the world.