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Features |  20 Nov 2015 05:30 |  By RnMTeam

A few must watch Indian guitar players Indianizing the instrument

Evolution and experimentation in music is an ongoing process. Genres from across the globe are being amalgamated, giving birth to new sounds and styles. Various regional instruments, often unheard of, are used in popular music or a common instrument is used in different styles in order to offer a new experience to listeners.

The ‘Guitar’ being one of the most widely used instruments, finds itself used in a plethora of styles today. In the Indian context, some very different thinking musicians have popularised a unique style of guitar playing, and adding an Indian flavour to the guitar is being presented beautifully by a few extremely talented musicians. Here are some popular Indian guitarists that have used the instrument to give off their own sound.

This is not a ranking of any sort; it is just to acknowledge these musical geniuses.

Sukumar Prasad

An article by Asian Age (May 14, 2012 - Lakshmi Krupa ) mentions ‘A pioneer and an immensely gifted guitarist, lost in an era of restrictions, before the Internet made us omniscient, Sukumar Prasad was the first to play Carnatic music on the guitar’. There is a mystery around the disappearance of this great guitar wizard, but some of his brilliant work is available on YouTube. In the same article, legends like R Prasanna and the late mandolin maestro- Mandolin U. Srinivas, praise Prasad’s skill but also express disappointment in the withering of such profound talent. Prasad was popular in the early 80s.

R Prasanna

There is much to talk about this living legend with his career over three decades. R Prasanna started playing acoustic guitar at the age of 12 and was exposed to classical music at a young age. Prasanna, who is also a B. Tech in Naval Architecture from the Indian Institute of Technology, Chennai, found his true calling in Music. He went to Boston to study classical composition and jazz composition at the prestigious Berkeley School of Music. In fact, during his budding days he approached Sukumar Prasad for lessons which were turned down for reasons unknown. The Guitar virtuoso learned his basics form Thiruvarur Balasubramaniam, and was later mentored by noted violinist- A. Kanyakumari.

Prasanna’s band comes in six different outfits and has a variety of formats which are too many to name. The discography consists of a variety of projects ranging from films (Tamil, Telugu & Hindi), guest appearances, Special Projects and as a leader of his bands. One of his recent popular appearances was in ‘Coke Studio Season 3’ with AR Rahman and Padmabhushan Ustad Ghulam Mustafa Khan for the song ‘Aao Balma’.

Ravi Iyer (V-Ravi Guitar Fusion)

A master of his craft, Ravi Iyer has tasted success in the indie scene with his classic rock band- Vayu, later expanding it with progressive elements to form Para Vayu and his latest creation V-Ravi Guitar Fusion. Hailing from a family of musicians, Iyer has been exposed to Carnatic and Hindustani Classical Music from a very young age, which is why it has been very natural for Iyer to branch out into an Indian classical based sound.

It is a treat to watch his deft fingers glide effortlessly over his fret board producing beautiful harmonies and soothing melodies. Iyer plays a specially designed and handcrafted custom made guitar, which has two differently tuned necks enabling him to switch between Indian and Western influences with effortless eloquence. Having released two solo albums ‘Rocking Raga’ (2006) and ‘Bends’ (2012), Iyer has carved a niche for himself as a world/fusion musician. The album was nominated for Best Fusion Album of the Year at GiMA AWARDS 2013.

Iyer recently released a music video titled ‘Veena Vadini’ originally penned by the famous poet Shri Suryakant Tripathi Nirala. Since the birth of V-Ravi Iyer Fusion, Iyer has performed with classical legends like Dr. L Subramanian, renowned percussionist- Sivamani, Tabla Maestro- Ustad Fazal Qureshi, Pandit Ravi Chary Padmabushan Shri Vikku Vinayakram and international musicians like Geroge Brooks, Dallas Smith and D Wood.

Baiju Dharmajan (ex- Motherjane, Baiju Dharmajan Syndicate)

Often dubbed as the ‘God of Small Strings’ this ace guitarist needs no introduction. One of the most celebrated guitarists in the country, Dharmajan has won many hearts with his signature Carnatric slides and shredding. Born in a musically inclined family, Dharmajan began learning the Violin at age 14, and eventually shifted to the Guitar. His popularity surged when he became a part of India’s iconic rock band Motherjane in 2001. Having spent a decade with Motherjane, Dharmajan’s contribution to tracks like ‘Broken’, ‘Mindstreet’, ‘Chasing the Sun’, ‘Maktub’ and ‘Fields of Sound’ to name a few are mesmerising.

He parted ways with the band in 2010 to form Baiju Dharmajn Syndicate and released the album ‘Crossover’ in 2012. His live performances are awe-inspiring as fans are taken away by a volley of riffs, melodies and stupendous solos. Dharmajan has won many awards like Best Indian Guitarist at JD Rock Awards in 2007, 2008 and 2014, which were presented by Rolling Stones. He was also nominated for the same award in 2013.

Susmit Sen (ex- Indian Ocean, Sushmit Sen Chronicles)

Susmit Sen who popularised the mix of Western Jazz, Rock, Indian Folk and Hindustani Classical genres, has crafted an eccentric sound, resulting in one of India’s most celebrated folk/rock bands- Indian Ocean, which he co-founded in the 1990s. Known for his fluid guitar lines, rustic rhythms and folk inspired melodies, Sen seamlessly plays on a specially crafted, home grown (SS Series) guitar named after him, and designed by the Dehradun Guitar Compnay. A fact not many know is that Sen has never played a cover version in his life. The avant-garde musician was instrumental in giving Indian Ocean the cult status it enjoys.

Sen quit Indian Ocean in 2013 and currently plays with his band Sushmit Sen Chronicles comprising of Varun Gupta (Tabla), Anirban Ghosh (Bass), Nikhil Vasudevan (Percussion), Amit Sharma (Vocals) and Sudhir Rikhari (Vocals). ‘Depths of the Ocean’ (2011) and ‘Ocean to Ocean’ are Sen’s two solo albums releases. The former has contributions by Shubha Mudgal, late Asheem Chakravarty (Indian Ocean), Nitin Malik (Parikrama), Papon, and many other talented musicians. Meanwhile, ‘Ocean to Ocean’ has some amazing collaborations with artists from across the globe – like Bernie Marsden (White Snake) and the Hungarian Piano-accordionist- Zoltán Orosz.

Sen has had the honour of performing at venues and festivals like Trafalgar Square, Carnegie Hall, Royal Festival Hall, O2 Arena in London, Inaugural concerts at Melbourne & Perth, in London and Centre for World Culture in Berlin apart from a special 4th of July concert at the Smithsonian Folk Life Festival in 2002 with Yo-Yo Ma. He has also played sold out concerts in New Zealand, Indonesia, Singapore, Germany, Japan, China and Vietnam, among others, and has been on more than 10 American tours.

T Praveen Kumar (Agam)

Lead guitarist of Progressive Carnatic band Agam, T Praveen Kumar is known for his Carnatic infused solos and jugalbandis with vocalist Harish Sivaramkrishnan. His ability to seamlessly switch over from progressive rock riffs to wielding melodic Carnatic solos gives Agam the perfect blend between the eastern and the western influences. Kumar was also nominated for best guitarist for the prestigious Jack Daniels Rock Awards 2013.