Last night was one of those events that I will carry with me through my life as a bright light on the landscape of my experiences. I went to see The GuruGanesha Band in concert. I have missed having him play with Snatam for the last year, and I was eager to experience his new band. I have always loved to listen to GuruGanesha play the guitar. There’s something so joyful about every note he plays, so my expectations for the evening were high. And they were fantastically exceeded.
The evening opened with the band’s cellist, Hans Christian, quietly entering the stage and beginning to play a few soulful strokes that filled the theater with a bit of magic. If you’ve never seen the practice of looping before, you will be awestruck by this incredible solo performance that turns into an orchestra. Using a mixing board and pedals while at the same time playing the cello, Hans would record a musical phrase by pressing a pedal with his foot, and then begin playing it in a loop while he played a new phrase live, recording that and then adding it to the loop, recording another live phrase until they all began to weave together in a magical cello orchestra. The audience sat awestruck through his 15-minute performance. It set the tone for the night, letting us all know that a group of master musicians were going to be sharing their craft with us throughout the evening.
Hans then invited the full band on stage, and the fun began. GuruGanesha, in his inimitable style, opened the evening with a few short stories, mixing wisdom, spiritual insight and enough humor to have the whole room laughing before the band broke out into their opening piece, Bhaja Man Mere, which was deeply moving. GuruGanesha had 3 guitars set up behind him, and he opened the evening with the rich sounds of his acoustic Taylor with the signature style that has become beloved around the world as he traveled playing music with Snatam for the last 11 years. But this is a whole new way to hear GuruGanesha’s guitar. He is accompanied not only by Hans’ mastery on cello, but also has Sat Kartar Singh on back-up guitar, Michelle Hurtado singing amazing accompaniment vocals and playing the harmonium, Daniel Paul on tabla and Guru Sangat on bass. It is a line up of musicians that truly raises the bar on kirtan music.
As the night progressed, the style of music ranged from traditional raag to bluegrass to 60’s rock to soulful kirtan melodies. GuruGanesha switched from acoustic to his two different electric guitars, changing the vibe of the evening with each switch of his guitars to the joy and wonderment of the audience. Hans Christian also had an amazing array of instruments switching from cello to sitara to nyckelharpa to sarangi, introducing sounds and notes to the music that carried its style to all corners of the planet. Michelle’s voice was like the array of instruments, changing tone and style with each song to complement it perfectly like a finely tuned instrument itself. The rhythms and musical foundation created by Daniel’s tabla, Sat Kartar’s guitar and Guru Sangat’s bass brought it all together in perfect harmony.
GuruGanesha kept the room on fire throughout the evening. His music was not only full of life, but he as a person was electric. His stories, his laughter, his obvious joy at sharing this sacred music and heart-opening experience with the room kept us all so fully engaged that it was like being infused with energy.
I laughed, I cried, I danced, I sang my heart out, and left feeling like I had a special nugget of joy to carry with me until I get to see him play again.