Mad About Music


Jam-boree… Getting My Facts Right
August 18, 2008, 8:08 pm
Filed under: Music | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Okay, time to ‘fess up. My last post was a travesty of ‘investigative journalism’ — I got all my facts wrong. Made a complete mess of things. So here’s to setting the record straight.

The series of live music events that I talked of is actually an exclusive, by-invitation-only private event that is the brainchild of a technology geek called Ajay Mahajan (my apologies for getting the name partially wrong the last time around). Mr. Mahajan evolved the core concept for the event from a series of gatherings called Musical Evenings in his living room to a full-fledged live music event titled Jam-boree in his spacious studio in South Delhi. Over the years, he has perfected the format so that the entire event, which is known to span a marathon 6 to 7 hours sometimes (!), runs like a well-oiled machine, painstakingly choreographed down to the minutest detail. Mahajan takes care of every little thing from the decor, seating arrangements and themes to dress codes, menus and stage management.

Typically, a Jam-boree is held on the last Saturday (night) of each month, and is attended by a set of regulars… die-hard music fans who are there for the sheer thrill of the jangling guitars, pulsating rhythms and songs that are far off the beaten track. The flavour, I am told, is distinctly retro… classic rock, seventies rock ‘n’ roll, country, eighties pop, a touch of blues rock, some golden oldies from the golden era of Kishore-Rafi-Mukesh-Lata-Asha-RD-SD-LP-KA-SJ, and a smattering of more ethnic stuff like Punjabi folk and Sufi songs.

Believe me… the scene truly rocks! My contact showed me a dark, grainy video of a couple of performances taken with his mobile phone… couldn’t make out much, but was left with no doubt that these Jam-borees are very special musical events, absolutely chilled out and totally unique — there’s nothing quite like it in Delhi, a city that is, sadly, left way behind as far as the live bands scene is concerned, especially if one compares it with Bombay, Pune, Bangalore and Chennai.

Apparently, the highlights of these evening are a series of performances by Sanjo (who I’ve already mentioned in earlier posts) teaming up with a brilliant blues-rock guitarist, Samir. The two are intermittently joined on vocals by another singer, Sashi. Every Jam-boree also features a varying line-up of guest performers.

For the Jam-boree regulars, the real attraction lies in the 100 per cent live feel of the event. Unlike much of the so-called live music scene across pubs and lounge bars, Jam-boree refuses to tread the mundane path of karaoke songs and folks crooning to bland backing tracks or instrumental pieces. Mahajan personally sees to that. Without interfering overtly, he subtly controls the content of each session to ensure that it is memorable in its own special way.

How does one get into a Jam-boree? Let me tell you upfront that there’s no way to gate-crash the event. It’s a private gathering where everyone knows everybody. Sneaking in is not a feasible course of action. The only way to get in is by finding Friends-of-Mahajan or Friends-of-Friends-of-Mahajan or Friends-of-Friends-of-Friends-of… well, you get the picture. Eventually, you’ve got to prove that you are a true music maniac… that you’re not looking for just another cool place to hang out on Saturday nights. Tough!

But here’s a ray of hope. Mahajan is currently toying with the idea of broadening the audience base while sticking to the same format. He is exploring the possibility of shifting the Jam-boree to another, larger venue. The parameters would remain the same… live music… a music-centric audience… limited seats… private invitations. The total strength would, however, swell from the current head count of fifty to around 100-120 persons.

Personally, I foresee very exciting prospects for Jam-boree. It could become a series of television programmes or a to-die-for live music event along the lines of the garage band scene in the UK.

Guess I’ll just have to wait and watch…



Sanjo: Alive… and Live!
July 23, 2008, 12:44 pm
Filed under: Music | Tags: , , , , , , ,

In addition to being “Mad About Music” I am also “Crazy About The Guitar”. And unlike places like Bombay, Pune and Bangalore where one does get opportunities for hanging out with guitarists, Delhi just doesn’t offer the same pleasure.

So I was, therefore, very excited when I was introduced to Sanjo by a mutual friend. (I had written about him in my earlier post too). Sanjo was playing at another friend’s place along with a couple of other musicians. The audience was small… around 25 odd people. Sanjo’s performance was huge! An explosion. He was by far the star of the evening.

I used to tell all my music loving friends about Sanjo and his ability to create an entire evening of music (three hours non-stop, sometimes more) with nothing more than an acoustic guitar. Amazing!

That was way back in 2006. And then… suddenly, Sanjo just vanished. No gigs, no concerts… he was nowhere to be seen. Rumours went around that like all other Delhi-based musicians he had gone off to Bombay to seek greener pastures. I was disappointed. But it was great while it lasted.

Then someone from an event management company told me that Sanjo was very much in Delhi… all that stuff about settling in Bombay was crap. According to this source, Sanjo was busy working in the studio on a whole bunch of new material. That’s why he wasn’t active on the gigging scene.

Months went by… I lost track of Sanjo. At times, I thought he had really moved to Bombay.

And then, a couple of weeks ago — Bang! Out of the blue I finally got news of Sanjo’s whereabouts. And guess what… he’s back on the live scene!

Here’s the scoop. Somewhere in Delhi… I haven’t a clue where (somebody told me West Delhi, Dwarka perhaps)… there are a series of private jam sessions happening. They are called Jam-boree, and are organised by a music industry professional called Ajay Madhavan. Madhavan runs the show as an exclusive, limited numbers “By Invitation Only” event. But… if you know somebody in his friends’ circle, you can get in.

So… music lovers in New Delhi. Does anyone know:

(a) Ajay Madhavan

(b) Any friends of Ajay Madhavan

(c) Sanjo’s email ID.

If I get any one of these, I’m in baby, I’m in!

 

My info is quite reliable. I got it recently from an American lady visiting India who had actually attended (!) several of these Jam-boree sessions. And she said they rocked!

Anyway… the great news is that Sanjo’s back… and he’s alive, live — and rockin’ the scene.

Now… let’s find him.



Guitar Styles – As Unique As The Guitarists
August 30, 2006, 1:04 pm
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A thousand guitars… a thousand guitarists… a thousand styles. I can never quite get over this innate fascination that I have with the myriad ways in which artistes create completely different sounding music from their guitars. Bob Dylan’s guitar has a distinct jangle to it. Ian Anderson produces a gentle tinkling sound that’s focussed more on the treble strings. Jim Croce has a brilliant plucking style that leverages both the bass and treble strings to create a rich, full-bodied sound.

The Scorpions recreate what is essentially an acoustic guitar finger-picking style on their electric guitars using a plectrum. The notes are played in a cyclical pattern to deliver extremely melodic intros. Listen to Holiday, Still Loving You and Send Me An Angel for some excellent examples of such intros.

One style of finger-picking that always leaves me breathless is that of Paul Simon. Wednesday Morning 3 A.M., an entire album created in the folk tradition, has some brilliant guitar-work. In particular, there is this totally acoustic version of The Sound of Silence, along with other masterpieces like Sparrow, Peggy-O, and the mysterious Bleecker Street. Must listen!

Yet another group with a very distinctive finger-picking style is CSNY. They have a rich, guitar-based sound and brilliant harmonisation sequences. Fans of the acoustic guitar should not miss Helplessly Hoping, Find The Cost of Freedom, Daylight Again and Teach Your Children.

Among the ladies, the artiste who wins hands down is Joan Baez. Some songs that will immediately demonstrate her breathtaking finger-picking style are Diamonds and Rust, Dona Dona, The House of The Rising Sun and the ever-moving Prison Trilogy.

There was a time in my life when I wanted to understand what this finger-picking style was all about. I am an amateur guitarist of sorts and wanted to have a bash at the possibility of being able to play at least a couple of songs with this technique. So I piled on to Sanjo.

Sanjo is a friend of mine who’s also a professional guitarist. Wait, change that to professional musician, because he plays a lot more than just guitars. Beyond the six and twelve-stringed acoustic guitars, the bass guitar and the electric guitar, our man also plays flutes, mandolin, drums, percussion, harmonica and keyboards. He’s also an accomplished composer and arranger. So, I suppose you’ve guessed that he doesn’t need much support when he’s making his music. He works only with a solitary partner, a young lady by the name of Chandrani, in his private studio in the western part of New Delhi, the Indian capital. She is the lyricist on his projects. Their debut album titled Barson Huey (which translates as It’s Been So Many Years…) was released earlier this year.

So on a particular Sunday, I dropped by Sanjo’s home carrying my guitar. I explained that I wanted to learn his style of finger-picking. Sanjo is the perfect Mr. Nice Guy. He never says no. So he agreed to teach me. He tentatively played some chords on my guitar and then decided to use his own jumbo six-string acoustic guitar. He pointed out that mine was an F-Hole guitar which isn’t too good for finger-picking since the sound lacks richness.

Sitting down with his jet black acoustic guitar, Sanjo proceeded to sing The Boxer by Simon and Garfunkel. I watched the fingers of his right hand avidly, trying to learn a trick or two. By the time he got to the Lie-la-lie bit, I was completely confused. Whoa, I shouted. Slow down.

You can’t slow down, Sanjo explained patiently. It is a bit like juggling. The speed is something you can’t control without botching things up. You have to go with the flow. Sanjo explained how he uses his thumb for picking the bass strings with a downward motion and his first and second fingers for picking the first three strings in an upward motion. Sounds simple enough, but when you see Sanjo’s thumb and fingers flying in perfect coordination with a level of precision that has to be seen to be believed, you start getting plagued by self-doubt.

Anyway, refusing to be intimidated, I asked Sanjo to do a simpler song so that I could learn the technique faster. Then, after becoming more proficient, I would try something like The Boxer. Sanjo was amused. That was a simple one, he said with a patient smile. Oh yeah, I asked, show me a tough one then. I guess I asked for it. Sanjo really rubbed my nose in it by playing the first stanza of John Barleycorn Must Die by Traffic.

Cut to the present. Well, with lots of help from Sanjo spanning several months, I can now do some very crude finger-picking on a handful of songs like Neil Diamond’s Play Me, John Denver’s For Baby and The Scorpions’ Holiday (no, I can’t play the intro!)

Ever so often, when I hear a song that has cool finger-picking in it, I pull my guitar out and try — maybe I get only ten percent of it right… but hey, it feels great!