Hack Job

I have been captured.

I’m working on sorting it out. Hope to be up and running not TOO far in the future.

मुझ पर हमला किया गया है. मैं इसे सुलझाने पर काम कर रहा हूं। जल्द वापस आएंगे
مجھ پر حملہ ہوا ہے۔ میں اسے حل کرنے پر کام کر رہا ہوں۔ جلد واپس آجاؤ
ਮੇਰੇ ਉੱਤੇ ਹਮਲਾ ਹੋਇਆ ਹੈ. ਮੈਂ ਇਸਨੂੰ ਸੁਲਝਾਉਣ 'ਤੇ ਕੰਮ ਕਰ ਰਿਹਾ ਹਾਂ। ਜਲਦੀ ਵਾਪਸ ਆਓ
پر ما باندي حمله وسوه. زه د هغې په ترتیبولو کار کوم. ژر بیرته راشئ
நான் தாக்கப்பட்டேன். நான் அதை வரிசைப்படுத்தும் பணியில் ஈடுபட்டுள்ளேன். சற்று நேரத்தில் வருகிறேன்
আমার ওপর হামলা হয়েছে। আমি এটা বাছাই কাজ করছি. তারাতারি ফিরে আসো

The History of the Guitar in India


There is arguably no instrument more associated with ‘Western’ ‘rock’ music then the guitar. Jimmy Page. Pete Townsend. Jimi Hendrix, the great axe masters of the 60s and 70s.  Bob Dylan srtumming away in a dimly lit café or Richie Havens beating his acoustic into ecstasy on stage at Woodstock.  All these are images involving Western pop stars and guitars.

In the India that I grew up in, in the 60s and 70s, local hippies wore jeans and kept a cheap guitar close.  When a film director wanted to signal the ‘cool’ (or decadent) West, hipness, modernity, something freaky or a clash of cultures, he made the leading man strap on an electric guitar, a billowy pair of bellbottoms and shake his hips like Elvis.

The guitar was not exactly rare but it wasn’t commonplace either, in those days.   By the time I reached adulthood, I knew exactly zero Indian guitar players that I rated and if I had been asked, would have made some dumbass remark about silly cultural appropriation. In the past decade and half, since I began blogging and expanding my sound-horizons I have come to realise that the guitar has a glorious even illustrious, history in the Indian subcontinent. And a thrilling wide-open future.  This mixtape is an introduction to that history.

The guitar was introduced into India via the Portuguese who set up their colonial crown jewel, Goa, on the west coast, in the 16th century. And it was via the Indians who lived in Goa and who received a Christian education and musical instruction, that a variety of instruments, especially the guitar, began to be heard in other parts of the subcontinent. As British control over ‘India’ was consolidated and a small European community took up residence, a community of mixed Indian-European heritage emerged. Known as Eurasians, East Indians or more commonly, Anglo Indians, it was this community, along with the Goans, who were India’s real guitar missionaries.

During the 30s and 40s these two communities, joined by a mix of other ethnics from Europe, North America and Asia, created a vibrant outpost of jazz not just in Bombay and Calcutta but at smaller towns and cities all across India.  When jazz died out these musicians moved into the film orchestras of Bombay. In the 60s and 70s, their sons and daughters were playing rock ‘n’ roll in clubs, hotels and restaurants from Karachi to Calcutta.

But before all this, sometime in the late 19th century, in Hawaii, an Indian castaway named Gabriel Davion (an Anglo-Indian-ish name) started getting attention for playing the guitar with a slide.  A local Hawaiian named Joseph Kekuku learned the technique from Davion and in modern parlance, took it to the next level, perfecting the sound and creating the world’s first steel guitar. This ‘Hawaiian’ sound took the world, including India, by storm. In 1929, the internationally famous travelling Hawaiian guitarist, Tau Moe, arrived in India for the first time and unwittingly set in motion the creation of a whole new genre of popular guitar-based music.

 According to scholar Martin Clayton, “in  India…Hawaiian  hit  records  and  movies  of  the  1930s  and  1940s  enjoyed  great popularity. Hawaiian touring groups began to visit India, and also, ‘a number of Indian musicians began to take up Hawaiian music. (All of these performers were Anglo-Indians, Anglo-Burmese, Goans and Indonesians rather than full-blooded Indians)’ (Kanahele 1979: 166). The best known of these musicians was Garney Nyss (1916–98), who formed his band the Aloha Boys in 1938 and continued to perform  Hawaiian  guitar  for  the  next  60  years,  recording  with  HMV  India  and broadcasting through All India Radio.20The sound of the Hawaiian guitar was to remain an important part of the Indian soundscape for several decades, as it became part of the film-music sound-palette21and  was  also  employed  in  other  popular  genres,  particularly  in  Bengal.  Before long, moreover, the potential of the instrument as a vehicle for Hindustani (North Indian) classical music was recognised. Slide guitar is now widely accepted as a suitable instrument for classical music.” (Guitar Cultures, Andy Bennett and Kevin Dawe, 2001.)

In this mixtape we take a non-chronological trip through India’s unique guitar wonderland.  You’ll hear sublime classical ragas (Brij Bhushan Kabra),  ‘Calcutta slide guitar (Debashish Bhattacharya), pop instrumentals (The Mustangs; Aay Jays), film song covers (Kazi Anniruddha; Sunil Ganguly), anonymous session men playing on Hindi film and English pop records, jazz (Prasanna; Amancio D’Silva), avant garde/experimental (Tashi Dorji), rock ‘n’ roll (Gary Boyle) and Hawaii-inspired fusion (V.M Bhatt & Ry Cooder). You’ll hear Anglo Indians (Van Shipley; Gary Boyle), Goans (Amancio D’Silva) South Indians (Prasanna; The Mustangs), Bengalis (Debashish Bhattacharya; Sunil Ganguly), Bhutanese (Tashi Dorji,) Pakistanis (The Aay Jays) and much more.

Long Pause

Dear friends, I am taking an extended break from this blog. Main word is ” break”. I will return again in the future. I love South Asian music and love sharing it with you. There is a lot of music I am eager to share. But I need to refresh myself. So I hope you understand and stick with me. Peace.