Maya's Got Talent: This 11-Year-Old Indian-Origin Guitar Hero Sure Can Shred

Maya Neelakantan on America's got talent.
Young Maya is becoming a growing influence in the rock community.Maya Neelakantan

11-year-old Maya Neelakantan‘s journey into the world of rock music began at a remarkably young age, guided and supported by her family. She gained recognition through her YouTube channel while regularly posting covers and performances that garnered millions of views. Her rendition of Tool's '7empest', even caught the attention of Adam Jones, the band's guitarist, which later led to a memorable encounter with Gary Holt of Slayer and Exodus, who gifted her his signature guitar. Consistently putting out covers has led to many such instances and young Maya is becoming a growing influence in the rock community.

She recently made headlines with an unforgettable performance on America's Got Talent, where she astounded judges and viewers alike with her rendition of Papa Roach’s 'Last Resort', which she infused with a uniquely Indian flair. Dressed in a traditional ghagra and adorned with a bindi on her forehead, Maya’s appearance was as striking as her talent. Her performance not only showcased her technical prowess but also highlighted her ability to seamlessly fuse rock classics like Metallica and Tool with elements of her Indian cultural identity.

Her appearance on America's Got Talent was a pivotal moment in Maya's burgeoning career. Her confident stage presence and undeniable talent earned her praise from judges Simon Cowell, Heidi Klum, Sofia Vergara, and Howie Mandel, culminating in a well-deserved standing ovation. The performance not only captivated the judges but also resonated deeply with fans worldwide while drawing admiration for her musical maturity and technical skill beyond her years.

Beyond watching her absolutely shred it on the guitar, it was also a joyous moment to see her do it in traditional Indian attire. It reflected a cultural heritage that we share pride in while making her a role model for young South Asian musicians, enforcing the idea that embracing your identity and pursuing your passion aren't mutually exclusive. Amongst the stereotpyical narrative of Indian parents dictating their children's careers, Maya is an exception and a beaming example of what can happen when you have a supportive family fueling your passion. This is how a homegrown prodigy is made.