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With a Little Help from my friends

If I were to genuflect at the altar of an Indian musician after L Shankar, my vote would definitely go for Prasanna(or Guitar Prasanna as he is referred to by avuncular 'Maama's' during the Marghazi Maasam concerts!!!). This blog has its genesis in the Prasanna and friends concert at Bengaluru's newest swanky jazz club, B Flat.

I landed up with a friend of mine having braved treacherous roads, immobile cows and general commuter apathy. India's greatest invention’ Indian Stretchable time' reared its benevolent head, and proceedings began at 845ish, having been scheduled to duly commence at 8pm. Before the concert began, Prasanna was milling around the sidelines and was generally being chatty. Yours truly, had the glazed and dreamy look which often accompanies fanboyism. After complimenting the man on the sheer brilliance of EGL, I gathered from him that his next album explores the relationship between Chess and Music, which made me smack my lips in earnest anticipation. Also, met Keith Peters, who is the Indian Jaco Pastorius sans the flowing locks.

The concert was divided into four phases. Part I had Prasanna jamming with Keith Peters and Rajeev Rajagopal of TAAQ on drums. The first number was titled '31' and was a smooth composition with a nice throbbing bass line, and the leitmotif of the song was a simple chord progression which followed the standard crest and trough pattern which usually accompany an RTP(Raagam Taanam Pallavi). Interestingly, the song was interspersed with a snatch of 'Layla' and 'Bad', which was met with knowing approval by the audience(and I think both these songs are based in Raga Madhyamvati!!!)

After a couple of extended improvisations, Prasanna started of with Kalyani Connection, from EGL. Kudos to Rajeev for having the temerity to play with a 16 beat cycle, which is not a common phenomena. I have always been partial to Raga Kalyani since I started to play the violin. Kalyani begins the second half of the 72 Raga cycle, and has an off chord/discordant 'Madhyama'("Ma") note which to this day gives me goose pimples. Unlike the studio version, this version was a bit slow, as a result of which, the song seemed to have this celestial feeling, with the gamakams adding to the pizzazz of the song.

The finale of the first set was a number called 'Pot belly Blues', which is a reference to the practice of Ghatam vidwans to unbutton their shirts, and play the pot on their belly!!! To my knowledge, the genial Vikku Vinayagram started this practice, which is accepted norm nowadays. It's the Carnatic equivalent of Jim Morrison's microphone yielding antics or Jimi Hendrix's 'Agni Pariksha'aka the guitar burning ritual. Nice adroit drumming and a grungy jam in the form of a Sawaal Jawaab signaled the end of Phase 1.

Phase 2 was a pure jazz jam between Morning Raga composer Amit Heri and Prasanna. I am not very clued into the intricacies of jazz and feign ignorance; however, the composition was a hark back to the Golden age of jazz and had a very otherworldly feel to it.

Phase 3 had TAAQ fronted by Bruce Lee Mani and accompanied by Rhuzde David on Bass and Rajeev on drums, playing a composition which was performed by Prasanna and TAAQ at the Java Jam held at Java, Indonesia last month. Though the song has a nice riff, it was a bit of a dampener.

Phase 4 kicked off with Rhuzde performing one of his early compositions 'Falling' on the acoustic guitar. Very soulful, with Prasanna playing a supporting role for the only time during the course of the evening!!!

The finale, inspite of requests for ‘Ragabop’, was a jam with Aarti Rao who announced that the song was a dedication to a musician who passed away recently. Prasanna quipped and asked whether she was referring to DK Pattamal, and the joke was lost on many in the audience.

Tailpiece: A car had blocked the entrance to B Flat, and despite repeated requests to clear the car, it was to no avail. Prasanna then played 'Baby, You can Drive My car' from my favourite Beatles album 'Rubber Soul'.

Also, Prasanna bobs his head while head banging ala Sri Jimi, which was kinda surreal, especially, when he did his circular head banging ritual while belting out intricate gamakams which were flying off the fretwork.

Will post videos off the concert shortly

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