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Under the Influence: Indian Guitarists Share Their Musical Heroes

Amanda Sodhi
|
25.04.2012

Every wonder who or what inspired your favorite guitarists in India to pick up the guitar? Are you curious to know what guitar-playing techniques these musical masters learned along the way? Well, there’s no need to keep wondering…

Gibson India recently caught up with many of India’s top axemen, who discussed their biggest musical inspirations – from The Beatles to Dimebag Darrell to their own parents – as well as the techniques they borrowed from their guitar heroes. Read on to discover who influenced the likes of Anup Kutty (Menwhopause), Mahesh Tinaikar (Indus Creed) and Raghu Dixit.

(Plus, look for future installments featuring more of India’s top players, in the coming months!)

 Mahesh Tinaikar, Indus Creed

Inspiration: “It was The Beatles who inspired me to first pick up the guitar. I must’ve been about 13 years old. But, I didn’t actually start playing until I was about 18 or 19 – relatively late in life. The guitar is just such a cool-looking instrument – almost like an extension of one’s body and more importantly, it is so portable unlike the piano or drums. One can just strap it on your back and go play anywhere. I loved The Beatles when growing up and wanted to sing and pay all their songs. Later on I got seriously into learning the instrument after hearing bands like Pink Floyd, UFO, Thin Lizzy, Wishbone Ash, etc. – mainly British rock bands.”

Technique: “There wasn’t any one particular technique that has inspired me, but generally I like to hear imaginative chord progressions and improvisations.”

Guitars Played: “Gibson Les Paul as and when the musical situation demands it.”

Ravi Iyer, Para Vayu

Inspiration: “The only guitar player that inspired me to pick up the guitar is Ritchie Blackmore. I was introduced to the band Deep Purple in my college days and I truly enjoyed their music and fell in love with the way the guitars were being played in their compositions.”

Technique: “I got totally attracted to Ritchie Blackmore’s playing style since I found a lot of Indian elements in the way he plays, and I find his feel and touch extremely unique and very soulful. So, I used to spend hours together with his music to try and achieve the techniques he used to follow.”

Baiju Dharmajan, Kashmir

Inspiration: “My father used to play Hawaiian guitar and at that time I was in to Carnatic violin, but slowly I was attracted to guitar and started playing it, so definitely because of my father I took this beautiful instrument! He used to play a lot of Malayalam, Tamil and Hindi film music with his Hawaiian guitar, so might be that melodies dragged me in to it.”

 Guitars Played: Les Paul Studio, Les Paul Classic, Epiphone Prophecy Custom

Daniel Rego, Demonic Resurrection

Inspiration: “It’s hard to pinpoint one figure solely responsible, but I’d have to go with the team of Adrian Smith and Dave Murray of Iron Maiden, who drew the nine-year-old me to recognize the capabilities of the guitar, especially within the context of rock and heavy metal music that I had been exposed to at that age. I’d always listened to guitars being used as a dominant instrument in the sound of rock and heavy metal music, but when I first heard Iron Maiden, I was struck by how they made their guitars the voice of the music, the front-line gunners, in a way, and how they used the ‘twin lead guitar’ sound so powerfully, with the characteristic ‘Maiden harmonies’ that every musician is now familiar with. I was also instantly impressed by the guitar solos, especially the contrast between Smith’s and Murray’s personal styles. They inspired me to be able to play like that someday, and perhaps go further and develop my own personal style.”

Technique: “I remember listening to Adrian Smith’s leads and being floored, even at that age, by his signature smooth yet powerful vibrato. That’s something that I worked to pick up immediately, and it stays with me to this day. Dave Murray’s leads frequently left me wondering how he managed to produce those rapid flurries of notes without sounding choppy or ‘shred’ – his legato technique. I worked on developing that, too, and now it’s an integral part of my style when I play within the rock and metal sound.”

Biswarup Gupta, Undying Inc

Inspiration: “Dimebag Darrell and loads of other guitar players, too. I guess it was just the style of heavy metal guitar playing and the sound of distorted guitars that made me want to play this awesome instrument. Heavy metal guitar playing is what inspired me to play guitar.”

Anup Kutty, Menwhopause

Inspiration: “Jimmy Page and Joe Perry to begin with. As I began to study the instrument, several guitar players started inspiring me to become a better player. These days I am hooked onto Nels Cline and early works of Tom Verlaine. The [Led Zeppelin] album Houses of the Holy was my big awakening. I was young… and listening to the sublime smooth solo on the song “No Quarter” and thinking this is exactly where I want my playing to be.” 

Technique: “I look out for tone more than technique, and that’s something very individualistic and personal so there’s not much you can pick up from others. In terms of technique, the only thing I have wanted to pick up is George Harrison’s slide technique where he uses standard tuning with the slide.”

Guitars Played: Les Paul Custom, Les Paul Studio

Raghu Dixit, The Raghu Dixit Project

Inspiration: “As a kid I was pushed by my parents into learning an Indian Classical dance form called Bharathnatyam, which I continued learning and performing for the next 17 years. Any Western culture was a big no-no at home – be it music, or clothes or hair styles or food! When I was 19 and studying my second year of my Bachelor in Science degree, a classmate of mine, who used to play the guitar and sing English songs, made fun of me that it was very effeminate of me to pursue classical dance, which predominantly is practiced by women! He taunted me that it would take me to hold a guitar like him and sing an English song to look macho! I threw a challenge at him that I would learn to play the guitar and also sing an English song within two months and prove myself to be macho and that he could probably try his hand at classical dance if he was man enough! He laughed it off but I took the challenge very seriously. For the next few weeks I bunked college, and would go to a Christian seminary where two brothers, Brother Ivan and Brother Peter, lent me the church’s guitar and also the guitar chord book. They guided me how I could look at the chord diagrams and learn to play the chords. So for the next month I learnt the guitar on my own looking into the chord book and some guidance from the brothers every now and then when I needed. While playing the chords, I also discovered my voice. It was a thrilling experience and a newfound joy and sense of freedom to be able to play an instrument and sing along. There was no looking back after that. Of course, I won that challenge, by the way!”

Technique
: “I am more or less a self-taught guitarist and my knowledge of theory or guitar techniques is very minimal and very basic, so much so that I am embarrassed to call myself a guitarist. I am more of a vocalist who can play a few chords. My style of playing the guitar is considered very unorthodox by fellow musicians who have learnt to play the ‘correct’ way! From the start my ambition was to learn to play a few chords and sing a song along and somehow it has remained just that even to this day. I am a very percussive strummer even to this day because in the initial days I would try and compensate for the lack of a drummer/rhythm element by strumming the guitar in such a way that it would give a sense of a drummer playing the groove including the rolls and breaks. I never, ever tried to learn to play solos nor did I ever want to play an electric guitar. Even to this day my chords knowledge is restricted to only basic major and minors and may be a few 7ths! Sometimes I have tried tuning the guitar like a tanpura, a drone instrument played along with Indian classical music and come up with my own ‘interesting’ chords. I never really learned the popular songs which most of my peers were trying to learn and imitate. I did not have a tape player at home and therefore could not listen to most of the music my friends were listening to. Therefore, I guess, I never really got influenced by any particular musician or technique. I just had to find my own way of doing things. Right from day one, I started writing my own songs and sang just that. Never did any covers on stage except for a couple of times.”

Guitars Played: “My Gibson Songbird acoustic is now my concert guitar. I am glad Gibson finally tied up with Fishman pickups! I love the crisp energetic sound of the Songbird that cuts through all frequencies, and I can hear it just the way I want it to sound in the monitors. A good guitar sound inspires musicians to write great songs and every guitar speaks in its own unique way to every musician. There can never be an end to a musician’s greed to buy that next guitar! I wish I could buy every beautiful guitar that my eyes can see and my ears fall in love with!”

 

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