Heartsky (independent release, 2009)
South Asia has always been a musical powerhouse, with rich classical and folk traditions. With so many excellent musicians around, it’s hard to stand out. Lehera, however, has carved out a niche with its masterful mix of Indian classical ragas (also known as raags), contemporary acoustic, bluesy slide guitar and contained jazz improvisation. The project was put together by Bengali musician Prashant John, who met with two of India’s most exciting young musicians, master Hindustani slide guitarist Prakash Sontakke, and virtuoso percussionist Karthik Mani.
On Heartsky, Lehera uses an innovative formula that brings together the fascinating Carnatic (southern Indian) konnakkol vocal style (which emulates percussion), with the western guitar, evocative Hindustani slide guitar and the fascinating ghatam (clay pot).
The group was formed when Prashant John made a visit to to Bangalore, where he finally met with some of his favorite musicians: "… and in my opinion pioneers of the most successful Indo-jazz fusion, T.A.S. Mani and R.A.Ramamani, principals of the Karnataka College of percussion."
One thing led to another and I was referred to Hindustani slide guitarist, Prakash Sontakke. We met, spoke, drank chai and played music, and within hours of meeting, felt as if, in Prakash’s words, “we had known each other musically for years. I could complement everything Prashant did in Hindustani, without distorting any of it.” Then came the question of a percussionist. As both of us preferred at the time to keep this project an acoustic and organic one, the natural choice was a close friend and musical colleague of Prakash’s, Karthik Mani, who, it turned out, was the son of Mr and Ms Mani mentioned above."
Prashant John, the founder of Lehera, grew up in Bangladesh and lives in Vancouver (Canada), where he has a world music group called Tandava. Primarily self-taught, Prashant John has studied theory and rhythm in Carnatic music, North and South Indian flutes, African Fula flute, Jazz guitar and the Baul music of Bengal with Master musicians and teachers worldwide.
Prakash Sontakke is the son and disciple of Dr. R.B . Sontakke, of the Gwalior Gharana and a direct disciple of the Legendary Pt. Omkarnath Thakur. Both of Prakash’s parents were distinguished music teachers at the prestigious Benares Hindu University. Prakash has a triple masters degree in Hindustani classical music – guitar, vocals and violin. He is equally at home jamming multi-cultural Funk in concert with Ozomatli as he is exchanging phrases with North and South Indian classical maestros, opening for Rock Legend Jethro Tull or jurying auditions and training India’s young future singing stars.
Inspired and tutored by his illustrious parents – T.A.S. Mani, renowned percussionist and founder of The Karnataka College of percussion and his mother, ground breaking vocalist and pioneer of Carnatic-jazz fusion R.A. Ramamani, Karthik Mani has been playing and studying music since the age of five. Karthik Mani performs in a number of percussion ensembles including the internationally-renowned Carnatic percussion ensemble “Tala Tarangini” (of the Karnataka College of Percussion) and has recorded with the legendary Saxophonist “Charlie Mariano” for the album “Om Keshav”.
On Heart Sky, Lehera presents a refreshing approach to Indian fusion with its beautifully crafted pieces that blend the best of East and West.
Buy the CD: Heart Sky
Author: Angel Romero
Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music music for many years. He founded the websites worldmusiccentral.org and musicasdelmundo.com. Angel produced several TV specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World.