Milind Deora talks about his association with blue legend Buddy Guy

May 16, 2018, 07:06 IST | Shunashir Sen

Ahead of his gig in the city, politician and guitarist Milind Deora remembers his association with an American blues legend

Milind Deora playing a gig
Milind Deora playing a gig

We are talking about 2005. Buddy Guy, the legendary American blues guitarist, had come to India to play a one-off concert. The people who had brought him over decided to take him out for dinner. And they invited full-time politician and part-time musician Milind Deora to join them, knowing that he had once met Guy briefly in Chicago when he was just out of college in the US, in 1999.

"I had befriended a person named Jerry Portnoy in the States, who was the harmonica player for Muddy Waters and Eric Clapton. And we had an Indian meal together one time in Chicago, after which he took me to a club called Buddy Guy's Legends. Jerry introduced me to Buddy Guy there, but of course he didn't know who I was. I was just this kid fresh out of university," Deora remembers.

Buddy Guy
Buddy Guy

He continues, "Six years later, at the dinner [in Mumbai], I reminded him of our meeting. And we ended up talking about Malcolm X and the American civil rights movement, with him telling me about a senator called Obama in Chicago who was doing really well. And he knew I played the guitar and that I was into his music. But he had never heard me. Yet, he asked me to join him on stage the next day. So when I went home that night, I watched all the DVDs of his music that I could, and I was really nervous. Actually, I was hoping that he wouldn't eventually call me up on stage."

But, Guy did. And it's a testament to Deora's proficiency as a guitarist that he had the gumption to walk up and jam with the bona fide legend, for a song of his called Messing with the Kid.

Music has in fact been an integral part of the politician's life, ever since he picked up the guitar as a seven-year-old. So much so, that he had a band called Tightrope while in Delhi, even as he navigated the corridors of power in the country's capital. But then, the rigours of politics put his passion on the backburner. So Deora lay his guitar down for a while, letting it gather rust.

But five years on, having settled back in Mumbai, the itch to start playing got the better of him. The 41-year-old thus called up Vasundhara Vee, his ex-band mate from Tightrope, who had shifted base to the city. Three others - Marios Menelauo, Christos Yerolatsitis and Aron Nyiro - came on board. And suddenly, Deora found himself in a band again, calling it Third Degree, ready to play their second gig late next week.

The set list for this concert is an ode to Deora's love for the blues. It is, he says, the foundation on which most other western genres such as pop and rock rest, adding that his interest in the civil rights movement while studying in the US made him appreciate even further the political undertones embedded in the music.

Which brings us back to his dinner with Guy, who had mentioned a certain promising senator in Chicago back in 2005. "You know, Buddy Guy is so great that when Barack Obama came to India in 2010, as the President, word had gotten around to him that there is this young Indian politician who had played with Buddy Guy. And Obama, of course, knows him because of their Chicago connection. So when I met him in Bombay, our conversation was about the blues and Buddy Guy," Deora reveals, adding that Guy later told him that Obama had recounted this encounter to him back in the States, telling him, "I met this Indian politician who plays the blues. How crazy is that?"

ON: May 24
AT: The Quarter, Royal Opera House, Girgaum.
CALL: 8329110638
COST: Rs 749

Siblings in harmony
Deora's younger brother, Mukul, is also a musician. "We grew up with the same music. But he loves electronic music a lot more than I do. My focus is more on songs that have a guitar hook," Deora says, making clear why he is a guitarist, and Mukul, a DJ.

Reviving Rhythm House
Back from the US in 2000, Deora often played at Marine Drive bar Jazz By the Bay. He and others are also trying to revive shuttered music store, Rhythm House. "Let's see what happens," Deora says.

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