And while most of Bangalore was sitting at home immersed in the re-runs of unintelligent reality television or getting high on inexpensive liquor (not a bad option really, when you are subject to the typical English weather minus the piercing winds) a select few were witness to two unbelievable nights of fingering.
Now, before you perverted-twisted souls start picturing cheap porn made from a bra-string budget, let me be quick to add, the fingering was reserved for the strings on an acoustic guitar.
* * * * *
What do you get when you have four mad guitarists from four different countries on stage in a palatial garden in Bangalore on a rainy weekend? You get music that is pure, potent and orgasmic. You get physically, emotionally and musically stoned!
As you enter the gate of Jayamahal Palace with its strange décor of serial lights that one associates with rich Indian weddings, all you wish is hopefully it’s only the lights that are shady and not your evening.
After giving your throat the wetness it required with a nice cold beverage, you proceed towards a bunch of empty plastic chairs that are carefully arranged all over the lawn. It was time for the cold elixir to act on your system and the music to flood the starved soul. That, by the way brings me to talk about four guitar masters who entertained, enlightened and intoxicated the audience with sheer talent. Masters who pushed boundaries with such force that was brutal and subtle, sexual and sensual, arrogant yet nonchalant.
Konarak Reddy started the evening with an ‘Aalap’ that was capable of giving goose bumps to a stone. He had the small crowd that trickled in, move right up to the stage to watch him in action. His rendition of ‘Taara’ with Don Ross, was poetry in motion, it had the power to make you float and soar in the sky, for that date with the stars that you’d been craving for. Watching his fingers perform ballet on the strings was a treat for sore eyes. The effortless ease with which he swayed his big frame, the smooth improvisation from Carnatic to Jazz and his ‘Konnakol’ mesmerized the audience and transported them to a beautiful place.
Imagine a Japanese dude with an acoustic guitar in his hands and a performance that was as explosive as an atom bomb. It was ‘Mass Suicide’ aka Masa Sumide. It looked like Masa swallowed a few springs before stepping onto stage. His bouncy movements like a ping-pong ball, in a match between Wang Hao and Wang Liqin and his contagious smile so radiant and illuminating, ensured Bangaloreans got a taste of what Aurora Borealis feels like. Sumide’s music is completely sexual. You don’t make love to his style of music. He makes you feel like the teenage kid dry humping a cushion the day before his big prom night, practicing for what might be a lucky night if he could hold his trousers in place. His groovy, percussive music oozes lust every time he plays. Sumide is quite a performer. Watching him play on stage made the audience seem like peeping toms. He was stroking, sucking and blowing the strings on his guitar with such perverse joy that it was but natural that he had to run off stage immediately after his performance with such speed that would have put Usain Bolt to shame and made him seem like a toddler in the 100meters Olympic finals.
The evening continued and the audience reeling from their first orgasm of the evening, it was time for the ‘Seducer’ to take the stage. You’re shaking, your throat is dry (the many cold beverages that you downed through the evening doesn’t make any difference) and you’re breathing hard. Is that a drop of sweat that just trickled down your neck? You think you need to just sit down and calm those shaky legs. I suggest it’s a great idea.
Szabo is a magician and instead of a magic wand, he is armed with a guitar. Szabo holds his guitar like it was a woman, the last- beautiful woman on earth. He creates music by caressing her, feeling her soft skin, smelling her as she steps out of a nice bubble bath after a long day’s work. His music is sensual; it tickles all the right muscles in your body. His music loosens you up and makes the hair at the back of your neck stand up. It flows and overpowers you and catches you off-guard. And you thought it was that gorgeous woman in a mini skirt standing behind you, who just blew softly below your ear. You like it. You lean back and breathe slowly. You close your eyes and let yourself feel what he wants you to feel. You see his fingers glide over the guitar and make music like you never knew existed, that you never knew was possible by just barely touching the strings. And people wouldn’t disprove when you say that you just saw his guitar turn a shade red from his touch. They are too embarrassed when you look at them and see that their cheeks are flushed with a deep red like a prostitute’s lipstick. You look up to the heavens and pray that it doesn’t rain when he starts playing the Hungarian Folk song. You believe him when he says, he played this track at a concert in Korea and it started raining and the rain didn’t stop for five days. He is not just a musician but a shaman with unbelievable powers. Szabo leaves you high and hard, craving for more, aching for a touch and makes you spell-bound. His job is done and he smiles. You are left on your own with a long lonely night ahead of you, if you are single!
Guitarist, singer, song writer, composer, stand-up comedian and grizzly bear dressed in a shirt and pair of jeans, watching Don Ross on stage is like watching a Rock Star. The term ‘Gentle giant’ was coined only to explain a person like him. If you ever thought musicians don’t talk as beautifully as they play, then you couldn’t be more wrong! Don has the ability to make you tap your feet and sway with his music one instant and then make you roll on the floor laugh with his wit the other. I wouldn’t blame you if you laughed so hard that you even peed a little. Some people do have that effect on us lesser mortals. Don’t forget to listen to the story of his song, ‘Dracula and Friends’, a special dedication for his daughter Taara. There is a story behind each and every single one of his songs, each more interesting and entertaining than the other. At the end of it all, you are blown away by the sheer range of his style. Jazz, folk, rock and classical music, you name it and he plays it. He draws his inspiration from just about everything, from the kids on the streets with their baseball caps turned the other way to cartoons on television that his daughter loves, Don is an opportunist, an entertainer and a pure genius.
* * * * *
The crowd begins to disperse, the rain slowly picks up (your prayer worked), and the musicians stand around the swimming pool – cold beverage on hand talking to a meager bunch of people who are high as a kite, both from the concert and the many liquids they generously gulped through the evening. And no points for guessing what the conversations revolved around!
You ride back home, alone, humming some of the ballads and songs you heard earlier in the evening, and strumming an air guitar. Recreating the magic. You are spent by the time you reach home. You look at the box of Whey protein on the top shelf of your kitchen and smile to yourself. You need the strength. Or maybe you might want to save it for next year’s show.