As the Matheran Forest Festival gets into full swing, we speak to instrumentalist Manish Pingle, India’s pioneer slide guitarist, whose music is set to entrance the hill station. Here is a man whose symphonies have echoed and mesmerised audiences across the world, yet it is his humility that shines forth. At MGF, India’s first and only arts and nature collaboration, Manish Pingle’s soulful Indian classical melodies promise to delight listeners. In conversation with the artist...
Tell us a bit about your background and journey in music.
I was initiated into music by my parents at a very young age. As any other kid, I too was fascinated by the percussion instruments, and wanted to learn the tabla. But frankly, I was forced to learn classical vocal music in the beginning. I must say though, my initial vocal training turned out to be extremely helpful throughout my music journey. I always feel that every child should be introduced to at least one art form, like music, dance or painting, and then see how he/she grows into a calmer and a beautiful human being. I, as a musician, have travelled almost 20 countries. This art form has opened an entire world for me.
What initiated you into Indian classical music, especially the slide guitar?
I was fascinated with this instrument due to its unique sound and the possibility of sliding notes. This sliding possibility makes the instrument sing; I used to love playing film songs on my slide guitar, initially. It was only a few years later that I started a formal training in Indian classical music.
In my field, this is a fairly new instrument, every player brings his own style and technique into it and so did I. My unique technique and I were noticed and appreciated by the world (thanks to the Internet) and I started getting invited to perform around the globe. Now I have about 35 students on Skype in different parts of the world.
How would you describe your music style?
Though my music training is pure Indian classical, I also have been collaborating with international musicians. So my approach towards music is very modern. On one hand we have to keep the purity while performing Indian classical concerts, on the other hand we need to broaden our perspective and play fusion music. They both have different challenges, but I enjoy doing both equally. One of my recent albums called Call Of The Blues, is a collaboration with the UK based blues legend Michael Messer, and it's on number one on the world music network chart for last two months and also leading iTunes blues chart, UK.
How is the music on slide guitar different from guitar?
The instrument and its playing technique are very different from each other. I use a metal or glass bar in my left hand, whereas guitar players use their fingers. Right hand picking style is also very different. I place the instrument on my lap and that's the reason this is also called the Lap steel guitar. An acoustic guitar player places his instrument sideways. My Indian slide guitar has up to 20 strings, but normally, a guitar has six. Tuning is also totally different in both guitars.
As far as music is concerned, Indian classical music is monophonic music, which means we play only one note at a time, whereas western music is polyphonic as they have a chord system. The biggest difference one notices is that, Indian slide guitar has a totally Indian sound to it due to its resonant sympathetic strings, while a six string guitar sounds characteristically western.
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