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Why you need to listen to JG Laya

Arun Katiyar May 16, 2013
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A Steinway piano and an unbranded ghatam (clay pot that stores water) make for an unlikely duo. But in the hands of Dr Joel Almeida and Vikku Vinayakram they seemed perfect. This was way back in the mid-80s. The band was called JG Laya and had a third performer in konnakol star Subhas Chandra. Konnakol is South India’s answer to scat.  JG Laya was India’s answer to a music scene that was driving fusion into all kinds of bizarre directions. With everyone trying to stick the backend of rock into the frontend of jazz or Latino or R&B or bluegrass, music was getting dense. I mean, if you listen to some stuff from the Mahavishnu Orchestra, Weather Report, Pat Metheny and The Dixie Dregs, no one would blame you for wondering what these guys were smoking.

Then in walks JG Laya. No fancy clothes, no small talk, no abstruse references to esoteric experiences, no allusions to insider conversations, no serious on-stage tuning of instruments — heck, they barely had any instruments!

I am looking for minimal fuss. Like an Agnes Martin of music. Maybe it is a response to the daily assault of visual pollution on the streets; the fact that Café Coffee Day in its infinite wisdom now has flat screen panels for ads in addition to flat screen TV for music channels and a surface computing screen on the table forcing us to open a third eye; or that the variety and velocity of alert tones on my phone is getting riotous. I am looking for clarity, simplicity, uncomplicatedness with a zero clever quotient, with nada dexterity, with shunyo virtuosity. And I find it in a performance of JG Laya with only Joel Almedia and VikkuVinayakram.

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Nirvana.

You can find some literature on Joel Almedia who is writing a book on rhythm with Billy Cobham (that Mahavishnu connection is unavoidable) and some more music from JG Laya here. Unfortunately, there is very little of the band available online. Drink deep. 

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