Raag n Roll...
A nondescript recording studio in Andheri, a Mumbai suburb, is not where you expect to find a globally respected jazz-rock virtuoso. Especially not next door to DJ Nasha's 'one stop shop for DJs.'
But Jonas Hellborg, the Swedish bass guitar phenomenon who exploded onto the music consciousness of the mid-80s playing with guitar God John McLaughlin's new incarnation of Mahavishnu, is hunched over his HP Pavilion laptop, unaware of the incongruity of the scene.
Hellborg is recording for what holds the promise of taking Indo-jazz fusion to the age of nanotechnology.
His Status six-string bass rests on the wall of a 12 foot by 8 room. A cable snakes its way from it into his 'Line six delay and 14-second loop unit.' Another emerges from the eight-inch long green gadget to a compressor pedal, from there onto a router, and then into a computer through a mixer. Simple by 21st century standards.
His partner in melody, Mumbai-based sitar player Niladri Kumar, has a set-up that would make purists miss a staircase. He plays a five-string sitar, which he calls the zitar and is in the process of patenting. It has a pick-up and is plugged into a Boss GT-6 guitar effects processor - a rocker's delight - and goes out from that into the mix.
"Can I ask you a favour? Would you mind being my capo [a device that pushes all the strings together onto a particular point on the fretboard]?" Jonas asks.
Before I can pinch myself, the index finger of my left hand becomes Jonas Hellborg's sixth left-hand finger, holding the strings on the ninth fret while he shows Niladri the motif for one of his compositions.
"It is an experiment", Jonas says about the power trio of V Selvaganesh - ghatam God Vikku Vinayakram's son on the kanjira, "Niladri and he are recording for. Selvaganesh is in Chennai, but he has recorded some tracks with Jonas, and Niladri is adding melody to the bedrock.
Niladri's sitar sounds like a manic guitar. He rips off pure Indian riffs, the sound pure distortion, over complex rhythm structures. "55-57-59, then 555-777-555-999," goes Jonas.
Niladri, who was classically trained since he was four, then gleefully overdubs effect-drenched sitar scapes. Underneath, Selvaganesh's kanjira grooves through time signatures as complex as 5 and three-quarters as if it were a rock beat.
1 Kalis Son (Hellborg-Selvaganesh)
Mixed by Tim Hunt in Aspö with the Bardo Mobile