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News |  31 May 2010 16:57 |  By chiragsutar

Review: Guthrie Govan, the powerhouse

MUMBAI: UK based guitarist Guthrie Govan was both captivating (in performance) and informative (with his inputs) at the gig-cum-workshop at Mumbai's Iskcon Auditorium last Saturday.

The event was free for all, and was organised by Bhargava's Musik - a Mumbai based music instrument store. The gig-workshop had got a great response after it was announced a month back. The excitement over Guthrie's visit kept building since then. Since the passes were free, the organisers had requested only serious listeners should commit so that no seats were wasted. The excitement and interest level was very high, and around 65 music enthusiasts from cities other than Mumbai had travelled a few hundred miles in order to watch this virtuoso musician.

The gig started around half past seven, and Guthrie was at his humorous best -"do you want to listen to stories about baby Guthrie and how he started playing guitar?" The audience roared a big "yes!... While Guthrie may belong to today's breed of musicians, many of who only focus on technique alone, it was quite evident from his playing that the most important thing he values is expression. He said. "Try putting the music that's in your head on the fret board." Perhaps, one of the main reasons behind his unique capabilities is because he always practiced and tabbed the songs by ear. "When I started, there were was no Internet," he said. While the Internet has helped musicians with all its free for all content, those who learn from such mediums often end up skipping important things. He advised all the budding musicians to go slow and build up gradually.   

One of the interesting things that Guthrie revealed was about his approach when it comes to soloing. "Many guitar players get hung up with playing the same things over and over again - it could be their fixation with certain guitar licks, playing on a particular area on the fret board or chord progressions." Guthrie said, "Whenever I find myself in such a situation, I force myself to play somewhere else - either up or down the fret, and ensure I don't be repetitive."

One could see during his performance that he is one of the those rare guitar players who doesn't sound repetitive, and someone who incorporates a whole lot of different styles from funk, blues, rock and metal - all this keeping the feel intact. Guthrie revealed how he takes inspiration from his surroundings, and even narrated an incident when he sat on park bench alone beat boxing to the chirping of a bird, and trying to copy that on the guitar (which he demonstrated on his custom made Suhr).

Since Guthrie also teaches (at Brighton School of Music, UK), he probably knows about a student's psyche. He urged the guitar students not to shy away from asking questions during the workshop, but it was quite clear that a vast majority was interested in watching him play - which he did eventually along with drummer Gino Banks and bassist Sheldon D'Silva. The trio performed to tracks for Guthrie's recent album 'Erotic Cakes'. However, though all were hoping, he could not play to his most popular instrumental 'Wonderful Slippery Thing' since the band had very less time to work on their set list (roughly 20 minutes we were told). Having said that, the camaraderie among the musicians and their timing left not doubt about their command over their respective instruments. Mumbai's Sheldon D'silva, who has accompanied some of best musicians in the past especially did a fabulous job on the bass.

Needless to say, there's a lot to learn for a player like Guthrie - not only is he a great player, but he has the right approach to learning, in addition to his exceptional performing and stage abilities. There was an interesting moment during the performance when Guthrie stepped on his own guitar cable, due to which it came off - right in middle of a song! But this man is full of showmanship - since he was not able to plug the cable back on time, guess what, he started playing with the feedback coming from the live cable with his hands (should I say, don't try this at home?)- And made percussive sounds of it before joining back with the band! This man surely believes that the show must go on, and is probably the only guitar player of his kind who can entertain the listeners even when the guitar's not plugged in!

Fellow musicians were quite supportive of the gig, and many session musicians were seen in attendance. During the gig, we were told that composer - guitarist Ehsaan Noorani had lent his Suhr amp to Guthrie for the gig (really appreciate his gesture). And with Guthrie on guitars, it sure roared.

After the gig was over, the virtuoso musician was seen packing his gear himself - no airs! There's a lot one can learn just by observing him – he's a great performer, plays with feel and expression, and is happy to share all of this with others.

Click here for the event slideshow

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