Sitar Hero

Music Issue 135 Jun, 2013
Text by Kshitiz Singh / Photo: ECS Media

An effort to reintroduce the sitar to the world by building contemporary grooves beyond the norms of eastern classical styles

Classical music has always been tagged as eccentric, mostly by those with little or no knowledge about it. In the present day global music scenario where western music has taken huge steps, classical music and the instruments it uses is edging on at a steady pace. Public appearances by famed ustaads (maestros) beyond their comfort zone – playing their music in international arenas and collaborating with acts of other genres mirrors a change in the way we perceive classical music. A recent context portrays the improvisation of the sitar as an instrument of the thunderous rock scenario. This leap of faith has not only taken Nepal by storm but has also succeeded in re-introducing the instrument in the global scene.

Founded post the disbandment of the infamous Nepali classical music trio Sur-Sudha, Rock Sitar led by Bijaya Vaidya has been striking all the right notes to make way into the hearts of the uninitiated. The band that started out with a semi-classical sound with slight gashes of rock music now leans heavily toward the latter.
To Vaidya, Rock Sitar is all about jubilating music with some fresh attitude. “I headbang viciously, show all those fanatical moves while the audience jives to our music. It’s actually a matter of pride to be amongst a handful of sitar players who play the instrument in a standing posture,” says Vaidya who admits to have taken quite some time to master his style from the original sitting posture.

“Melody instrumentalists take lead only when they are given a chance to do so. At other times they are compelled to sit back and relax, bored and unaware of the happenings on stage. Unlike most sitar players I got myself more involved in the rhythm section, playing multiple notes at a time, creating rhythmic vibes and some unorthodox rock grooves,” said Vaidya, explaining his sitar innovations. He added, “I’ve always had the utmost respect for western music legends like Jimmy Hendrix, Rolling Stones and the legendary Beatles. It’s an effect of their influence, that has inspired me to add a few electro-mechanical tools in my instrument.”

Besides the ever charming sitar melodies, Vaidya has also been directly involved in crafting his instrument. Like the electric version of the guitar, he has given an electric essence to the acoustic instrument including pickups and a set of volume equalizers on his sitar. To get the perfect electric sound, the musician looks forward to working on his second collection of instruments which he hopes to simplify by lending it a more compact shape. With his evolved instrument, one can easily imagine the veteran sitar hero burning the stage in flames with power slides and sitar flipss.