Prasanna – Electric Ganesha Land
Prasanna – electric guitar, electric bass, konnakol
Haridwaramangalam A.K. Palanivel – thavil
B.S. Purushotham – kanjira, kannakol
S. Karthick – ghatam, konnakol, morsing
Prapancham Ravindran – mridangam
Papanasam Sethuraman – kanjira
1. Eruption In Bangalore
2. Snakebanger’s Ball
3. 4th Stone From The Sun
4. Dark Sundae In Triplicate
5. Indra’s Necklace
6. 9th Stone From The Sun
7. Iguana On A Funky Trail
8. 8th Avenue And East Mada Street
9. Pot Belly Blues
10. Sri Jimi
11. Bowling For Peace
The power chord and the “big riff”: where would rock guitar players be without them? Use them in the correct proportion, add a dash of distortion, and a heaping dose of loud volume, and you have the makings of a rock song. I use the word “song”, but most of us know that the real purpose of the power chord/big riff combo is to drive the guitar player to meet their truest best friend – the guitar solo.
The big riff (in most cases a melodic theme of a piece) is especially suited to this purpose. There ain’t a guitar player alive who hasn’t been in his bedroom or basement, “discovered” a big riff, soloed for 10 minutes, repeated the big riff, soloed for another 10 minutes, added a new small riff to the big riff, soloed for 15 minutes; and repeated the process for at least an hour. You might play longer if the big riff starts feelin’ really good to you.
So what would you get if you combined the big riff with the Carnatic ragas of southern India? The result would sound like some of the tracks from guitarist Prasanna’s latest CD, Electric Ganesha Land. Comparisons to John McLaughlin’s Shakti are inescapable. But Prasanna’s music is a natural evolution of the spirit of Shakti: taking disparate musical forms and blending them together. But instead of the “East meets West” hybrid, we get “old with the new”. Prasanna combines the rock guitar big riff with traditional Indian percussion and rhythms to Rock-out on the Raga.
The CD opens with “Eruption In Bangalore”, a solo guitar piece. But the “eruption” isn’t volcanic; it’s closer to “Eruption” from Van Halen’s first album. Beautifully phat and thickly distorted power chords fill your speakers. And then Prasanna starts wailing way for five minutes. It’s like an alap (an unaccompanied solo/into to a raga) on steroids and cranked to “10”. When the piece was over, I took out my lighter, lit it, raised it above my head, and started whistling and yelling “mooore!!!”
The next track, “Snakebanger’s Ball” features Prasanna playing over the rhythms laid down by percussionists playing the ghatam (cast copper pot) and the kanjira (a sort of hand drum). Prasanna sets up the big riff as a framework for the piece. His solo includes the slurs and bends of Indian techniques. This isn’t very different from Indian classical music where the soloist improvises over a melodic theme while the drums play around with the rhythm. But rather than a sitar, sarod, violin, sarangi, etc., you have a stompin’ electric guitar.
And it works. The big riff of the rock guitar is right at home within the structure of the raga-like pieces. If you think Indian classical is too “complicated” for your taste, Electric Ganesha Land has familiar territory for you to move around in while taking you a step closer to understanding and appreciating the music of India. You don’t need to count out the tala (rhythmic time), just crank it up.
The CD is a mix of solo and overdubbed guitar pieces, and the tracks with the percussionists. Prasanna uses a variety of clean tones, distorted tones, and effects on his guitar which expand the point of a “non-traditional” instrument playing in the context of a traditional/classical form. The production is very good, making good use of the stereo spread and a nice balance between the guitar and various drums.
Electric Ganesha Land is dedicated to Jimi Hendrix (the title being an obvious nod to Electric Ladyland). In his liner notes, Prasanna mentions that although India is land of the sitar, Jimi would have found a home there. With the music on this CD, I think Prasanna proves the point.