I have always been a fan of Santana from my childhood. He is one of the most legendary guitar players, as a string player and plucked instrument player Santana was a natural choice in the recreation of an international artist. As a sitar player, I thought that I could try some of his hook lines and his licks on the sitar. It sounded quite cool!
I have followed his music closely especially lately, I have always heard his music, but when I heard that I had to do this recreation for Paytm Insider’s Jim Beam Originals, that’s when I got more and more into his music. He is certainly one of the legends out there. One thing I have to say about his music is how beautifully he brought it to people. He kept it simple and he kept it in a manner that it would appeal to a larger number of people. That is what touched my heart, and that is the part of him that I am connecting with the most.
How would you relate Santana’s guitar sound to the sitar sound?
The sitar being a plucked stroked instrument, I would say, technique wise there are similarities to the guitar, although the bending of the string is what makes the chromatic Indian sound and the inflections that come in. So what I created was keeping the same structure of the rifts, but bringing in Indian elements to it.
Santana’s style of guitar playing is very fluid, lyrical and melodious with lots of feeling and soul in it with great guitar riffs. Since it resembles so closely to our Indian classical style, how did you take on these guitar riff to sitar riffs?
The thing about Latin music generally is its very warm blooded. There’s a lot of passion in it. Same with African music, Jazz being improvisational. The elements of jazz connect up with it only if there is the added element of harmony which we are trying to navigate through the chords and trying to connect up ragas to it. So it’s not only classical ragas, but also elements of Sufi music, elements of folk music which is so intrinsic and important to Indian music.
You also had your band to back you up on the project.
It often ends up happening that the singer is the marquee artiste, but you never can undermine the importance of the band, which is why I insist that every band member gets due space, due recognition. I had my wife Gayatri on vocals, vocalist Sangeet Haldipur who is also a brilliant keyboard player. We also had guitarist Rickraj and Shikhar Naad Qureshi on the drums and percussion.
Which are your top five Santana tunes?
Black Magic Woman, Game of Love, Into the Night, Smooth, and Maria Maria.