Giving the guitar a spin

Updated: Jul 10, 2019, 07:35 IST | Karishma Kuenzang |

A 32-year-old Berklee grad discusses the evolution of his unique sound by tweaking the guitar's standard tuning ahead of his Mumbai gig

Ahead of his intimate gig in Versova this Saturday, Bhrigu Sahni, whose unique style of playing makes him stand out from his peers, gets candid about the organic evolution of his sound, crediting his classical guitarist father for his fingerstyle skills and introduction to the acoustic guitar.

Tell us about your sound and style of playing.
It took a long time, a lot of practice and experimentation. A guitar usually has a standard tuning, but I experienced listening fatigue (happens when you listen to the same sound) like many guitarists do, when I was in Berklee and wanted to compose my own music. I started fiddling with the tuning and came up with my own variants. Every song had a different tuning, which made it a tad hectic while performing, but it was worth it because it changes the entire sound palate. I learnt the flamenco style of playing from a friend in New York, so I incorporated some of those techniques of the right hand. Then, I heard Ali Akbar Khan at my parents’ home in Pune, and I tried bending the way he did. All this improvisational experimentation has percolated to make my sound.

What are the things you’ve noticed, shuttling between New York and Mumbai?
I went to Berklee 12 years ago and was 26 when I moved to New York. It was crazy. I was teaching music, doing odd jobs such as working at a bar and playing at one in Harlem every Saturday. But I also went on tours and did spectacular shows. The whole world wants to go to New York and make it. It’s amazing but saturating because there are many opportunities but it’s a packed scene. It’s an excellent place to hone your skills. In Mumbai, things are still at a nascent stage. You have tiny booms happening in the form of music festivals and life as a musician is now deemed more viable. People are successful — people look at Prateek Kuh­ad and think “wow” because it’s a big thing to see someone do so well as a full-time musician.

Will you be performing any new material?
The new material includes an unnamed song in which I’ve looped the sustained end of the song in a cycle, then improvised on that and added another layer, and so on. It’s like diving into a snow globe. This gig is different as it’s an intimate one, which I love because there’s no background noise and people are just there for the music. It’s going to be a solo show. I usually prefer to start with some improvisation to get a vibe of the place and audience, and pick the tuning. This sets the tone for the rest of the gig and helps people blend in.

ON July 13, 8 pm
AT Cat Cafe Studio, bungalow no 63, Harminder Singh Road, Versova, Andheri West.
Cost Rs 350

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