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Jonas Hellborg trio stuns Mumbai

By Sumit Bhattacharya
Last updated on: November 07, 2005 16:08 IST
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If you want to see supersonic formation flying, forget Kalaikunda in West Bengal, where the Indian and American top guns are having mock battles. Go watch the Jonas Hellborg trio instead.

Hellborg, a former member of John Mclaughlin's Mahavishnu Orchestra, is widely regarded as one of the world's wickedest wielders of the electric bass.

On Sunday night, as part of the Seagrams 100 Pipers Legends Live series, the Swedish threesome -- Hellborg, guitarist Mattias IA Eklundh and drummer Niclas Campagnol -- treated Mumbai to two hours of unadulterated adrenalin.

For those expecting a laidback jazz concert, the band's sound – a sort of Metallica meets Shakti concoction – must have come as a KO punch from the black. But for those acquainted with Hellborg's music, it was proof that the Swedish virtuoso has the uncanny knack of discovering musicians who can blow your brains out.

Exclusive interview with Jonas Hellborg

The trio began with the lilting Aga of the Ladies, from Hellborg's album with kanjira king V Selvaganesh and cult guitar god Shawn Lane -- Good People in Times of Evil. Hellborg-Eklundh-Campagnol also signed off with an impromptu encore – a jam that metamorphosed into Jimi Hendrix's Purple Haze.

In between, jaws dropped and shrieks filled the Oberoi-Hilton Hotel's Regal Room as the trio came all instruments blazing at the sparse audience. Eklundh's guitar was reminiscent of rock shredders Joe Satriani and Steve Vai, as he coaxed his guitar's whammy bar to dive bomb, take off, and imitate the sound of traffic. But all his fierce, heavy metal-esque and searing soloing was to meters that were predominantly Indian, progressions that were as cerebral as they were physical.

"Grab a Seagrams whisky while we play our butts off," he suggested to the audience, a motley mix of page 3 celebrities -- like singers Roopkumar Rathod and Vasundhara Das, bassist Carl Peters, etc -- and average Rahuls.

It was Eklundh's showmanship that added jazz humour to the awe-inspiring music. The longhaired guitar player, in a t-shirt that read 'Break out', was the one who did all the talking. After introducing the rest of the band, he said, "And I am… Ravi Shankar," namaste-ing to chuckles. And when someone from the audience sauntered towards the stage, Eklundh said, "And here comes a request, Hotel California!" and strummed a couple of bars of the Eagles song to the accompaniment of laughter.  

Dressed all in black, Hellborg let his bass do the talking, as he kicked off his shoes – literally – and cooked the fire beneath Eklundh's sizzle. Most of the compositions were his, and there was no ambiguity about who the band's boss, the brain, was.

In the two solos that Campagnol took, his Latin influences were evident, as he teased the tubs into manic, addictive grooves. And for those of you who missed the phenomenal evening, the trio will be performing in the city again on November 19.

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Sumit Bhattacharya