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Don’t be fooled by Gaurav Chintamani’s retiring presence. Behind the calm gaze lies one of the sharpest young talents of the day

Samar Grewal May 20, 2009

He’s played guitar, bass and written in some of the more distinct Delhi bands, past and present (Advaita, Level 9, Blue Breakfast), and most recently rocked a rambling two-and-a-half hour show as the lead axe at Rolling Stone’s Jim Morrison tribute concert. Yet the quiet and accomplished Gaurav Chintamani is probably not known by many outside the city’s small music community. With releases lined-up from both his current outfits (Advaita released their debut last month, and Blue Breakfast later in the year), though, the tide of recognition might just be coming in. “In the kind of space we have in Delhi”¦ being the quiet person stands out on its own. But having said that, whatever you do, as long as you present it with intent, it’s bound to strike a chord, even with those who’re less enthusiastic,” says Chintamani, full of an easy, unimposing confidence that he shares with idol Arjun Sen. “I’m in awe of AJ. I’ve recorded HFT and been on tour with them as their sound guy. His approach to guitar playing has been super influential. It’s more about un-learning your shit than learning it.”

Growing up, Chintamani lived off his father’s love for the flavours of the day. The standard Clapton, Deep Purple, Pink Floyd, Dire Straits diet of era-defining rock music he was exposed to, shows well in the solid blues-based grounding of his sound. “I received a bit of instruction from my father when he was serving in the army, and picked up a few chords from the regiment band’s guitarist,” said Chintamani, who played the drums till late into school. It was only after moving to Delhi that he was first introduced to the blues of Muddy Waters, BB King, Albert King, Mike Bloomfield and Stevie Ray Vaughan. And while in the years since, he has developed an ear for jazz through Jeff Beck, Steely Dan, John Scofield, Larry Carlton, Pat Metheny and Bill Frisell, it’s still the blues canon that he seems most comfortable with. “Even though I’m lazy towards studying it, jazz is always on my play list. The understanding and tag of jazz, for some people might be a little esoteric, but I look at it as blues,” he says.

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It took Chintamani the few requisite years to come around to it, but after a course from the School of Audio Engineering, he was doing exactly what he wanted to. “After college I figured I had to make it possible. I couldn’t see myself doing software and the SAE course gave me the value addition to playing music that I needed. It seems to have worked so far!” Today he also runs Quarter Note Studios with Blue Breakfast bassist Sidhant Mathur (which keeps him busy with production work for documentaries, short films and jingles besides recording work for bands like Radius, Half Step Down, HFT and Them Clones) and has recently started a 24/7 rehearsal space fitted with anything a 5-piece outfit might need.

Having heard his repertoire of chops live, I suggest that perhaps he should steer a genre-crunching instrumental quartet of his own, a suggestion that’s quickly shot down with a measured dose of humility. “No man, I’m not one for that”¦ yet! Got to spend some time growing up first.”

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