John McLaughlin confesses he has lost count on the number of times he’s visited India. However, the self-confessed “Indophile” recalls how his love affair with the country began.
“In the 60s, we (Westerners) were discussing the fundamental questions of life, and India is where we found the answers,” he says, adding, “We developed a taste for Indian food, wore Indian clothing, adopted Indian names and found a sound that connected to spirituality. Now I’m just an old hippie, who loves coming back to India”
The celebrated jazz-rock guitarist is on a five-city tour of the country with his fusion band Remember Shakti, which he formed with Zakir Hussain in 2001 after the original Shakti of the 70s, disbanded.
The ensemble currently features the duo along with U Srinivas (mandolin), V Selvaganesh (kanjira, ghatam, mridangam) and Shankar Mahadevan (vocals). “Shakti is a joy for me. I hope that the group lives forever and we can find people who can replace us and carry this music to the world,” says the 69-year-old. Besides gigging, the only thing on his Indian itinerary is “visiting temples.”
“They are one of my favourite zones. Indian tradition had a profound influence on me,” says the yoga addict, who is also a disciple of Sri Chinmoy. “The first time I heard ‘Indian’ music, I was shocked. It is an art that is indivisibly connected to religion. I figured East-West had a common ground, their rhythms and our harmony could work well together.”
At the concert tonight, McLaughlin, who American guitarist Frank Zappa once commented, “operates a guitar as if it were a machine gun”, will offer audiences a slice of his showmanship. “I will play on my new wireless MIDI guitar. Its latency is impressive. A friend from Budapest developed it and it’s not even out in the market yet. So we’ll try things we have never done before,” he promises.
The band will perform tracks from their upcoming album that they hope to release by the end of this year. “It’s all about improvisations and spontaneity, but we’ll play some new compositions like Sakhi and Inside out for the first time in India,” he says.
John’s jazz journey John McLaughlin is an English guitarist, bandleader and composer. He has been touted one of the best guitarists alive, and is known for his collaborations with artistes ranging from Miles Davis, Jimi Hendrix to Carlos Santana, Chick Corea, Billy Cobham and Trilok Gurtu. A disciple of Sri Chinmoy, he started an electric jazz band called Mahavishnu Orchestra in the 1970s, before forming Shakti.
Remember Shakti will perform at Shanmukhananda Hall tonight at 7.30 and on February 12 at Central Park Amphitehatre at Kharghar.