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Q & A: Bhrigu Sahni

The New York-based guitarist talks about his unique playing style, his upcoming debut album, playing to audiences in the US and India and more

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Sairaj Kamath May 13, 2015
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Bhrigu Sahni. Image: Courtesy of the Artist

Bhrigu Sahni. Image: Courtesy of the Artist

“For the first time in seven years, I’m living like a king, man!” says Bhrigu Sahni with a look of content as he sips a cold coffee at a restaurant in suburban Mumbai. The guitarist and Berklee graduate has held multiple jobs to afford a roof over his head in Brooklyn and supplement his music. Having jammed with the likes of Karsh Kale and Grammy award-winning singer-songwriter Angelique Kidjo, Sahni has gained recognition for his finger-picking style of guitar-playing to create unique soundscapes that people wouldn’t expect from an acoustic guitar.

Sahni is now in the midst of his first tour in India, with gigs coming up in Mumbai this month and the next month. In his interview with ROLLING STONE INDIA, he talks about the influences behind his guitar-playing, playing to audiences in the US and india, the status of his long-awaited debut album and more.

Besides  Flamenco, what were the other influences behind your guitar-playing style of hand-picking and slapping the strings?

Going way back, I was influenced by boom-chick rhythms and stride guitar, where the left hand plays the bass notes and the right hand plays the melodies. I listened to a lot of this stuff by guitarists like Tommy Emmanuel, but I came across this other guitarist named Michael Hedges one day and was blown away by his style. He used a lot of alternate tunings and minimalist compositions, and was one of my biggest influences.

The dates in Sahni's India Tour. Poster: Yohul Chitre

The dates in Sahni’s India Tour. Poster: Yohul Chitre

What differences have you seen between the crowds you’ve played to in the US and the audience you’ve played to here in India so far?

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I feel the audience in New York is more jaded. It’s like they’ve already heard so many different kinds of music from so many musicians, and they come to your gigs with the mindset that they won’t hear anything they haven’t heard before. The Indian crowds I’ve played to so far are almost the opposite of that. They’re hungry for new and original music right now, and are very receptive to artists. Fortunately, my music has been appreciated by both the American and Indian crowds, but I somehow like performing in India better. It’s a more “electric” feeling here.

What’s the scene with your debut album right now? I’ve seen its crowdfunding video, but it dates back to almost two years ago.

The album is finally being worked on very intensely. The plan is to record the entire album in Mumbai, take the recordings back to New York to mix and master, and then release it from there.

Give us an idea of what we might expect in your India performances.

It’s going to be an all-acoustic show, but not what you’ll expect. When people hear the word “acoustic”, they think of folk songs by artists like Bob Dylan, but my set is not going to be that at all. It’s going to be this huge wall of sound, man. This really amazing drummer I’ll be playing with, Agneya [Chikte], is going to play these drum n’ bass rhythms with my intricate guitar-playing, and it’s just going to be something else. You’ll just have to come to the shows and listen for yourself!

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Bhrigu Sahni will be performing at the following venues:

May 14th: Bandra Base, Mumbai (9pm onwards, Entry: Rs.300)

May 23rd: Fat Lulu’s, Gurgaon (9pm onwards, Entry free)

May 24th: Hauz Khas Social, Delhi (10:45pm onwards, Entry free)

May 25th: Masterclass at the Global Music Institute, Delhi (5pm onwards, Entry free)

May 27th: Blue Frog, Pune (10pm onwards, Entry: Rs.300, Full Cover Charge: Rs.1000)

May 29th: B Flat Bar, Bengaluru (9pm onwards, Entry: Rs.400)

May 30th: Workshop at Nathaniel School of Music, Bengaluru

June 5th: Café Nemo, Mumbai (10pm onwards, Entry free)

June 14th: Sin Envy Pride, Pune (6pm onwards, Entry free)

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