Meet the new generation of guitarists who are taking guitar-play to a new level

Jun 17, 2017, 11:31 IST | Wriddhaayan Bhattacharyya

Meet the new generation of guitarists who are taking finger-style guitar-play to a new level

Bhrigu Sahni at a concert at antiSOCIAL earlier this week. Pic/Satej Shinde
Bhrigu Sahni at a concert at antiSOCIAL earlier this week. Pic/Satej Shinde

The use of guitar isn't limited to playing solos and rhythms using a plectrum (a small flexible piece of plastic). When a discussion emerges about the co-existence of genres within the guitar language, there is a lack of clarity between Flamenco, Western Classical and finger-style. One can pluck (guitar) strings with their fingers but finger-style is a technique that involves the usage of fingertips, nails and the palm. You need to hit the woodwork for percussions. The sound is a perfect balance of bass, treble and harmonies. These days, Mumbai is witnessing the rise of finger-style guitarists. While some learnt from watching videos of legends like Andy McKee and Tommy Emmanuel, others took a cue out of popular songs.

Manan Gupta
Manan Gupta

One-man band
"By playing finger-style, one can arrange a whole song by playing the bass line, melody, rhythm and harmony simultaneously without using any backing track," shares Manan Gupta. The 23-year-old started off as a pianist but the track Drifting (by McKee) brought him closer to guitar.

Gupta believes finger-style also helps a musician to be self-sufficient. "You are a one-man band; there is no need to rely on other musicians to co-ordinate rehearsal timings," chuckles Gupta, whose tune Dear Mother (released in 2013) is an online hit.

Local inspirations
Bhrigu Sahni, who has toured the Mumbai-Pune circuit, took to the genre after watching his father play Western Classical. "As a kid, I realised that this style had the ability to create a rich musical tapestry. It is challenging to sustain being just a finger-style player but that shouldn't deter one from following his heart," says Sahni, who is a Berklee graduate and has jammed with Karsh Kale and Angelique Kidjo.

Unlike others, he also pointed out a few names among Indians who inspired him. "I went to Rock and Jazz concerts when I was 15. I used to improvise after watching guitarists like Sanjay Joseph and Derek Julian," he adds. Sahni released his debut album, What is Now, last year in New York. "I shuffle between Brooklyn, Khadki (Pune) and Mumbai for gigs," he shares.

Varun Singh started his journey listening to Eric Clapton. He even played for Metal band Albatross for sometime, but the song More Than Words (Extreme) pushed him towards finger-style. He seconds Sahni highlighting guitarists from India who are fluent with it. "Mahesh Tinaikar (Indus Creed) and Floyd Fernandes are great examples. Clapton's Tears In Heaven is a finger-style song too," he shares. The 23-year-old recently released a video of a song called Midnight Express paying tribute to Nuno Bettencourt. "He is my hero."


From the expert

Rhythm Shaw, 21
Winner, All India Finger-Style Guitar Competition 2014
'There is no audience for finger-style guitar playing in India other than music students. There is not much money too. I balance it by also playing Pop and Bollywood gigs. Being a fan of Rock guitarists Steve Vai and Joe Satriani, I used to play really loud until I discovered the finger-style virtuoso Tommy Emmanuel'

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