Indian Classical Music played on the Guitar
Jack is one of the leading instrumentalists who adapt Indian Classical Music to the guitar.
He is a disciple of sitar virtuoso's Roopa Panesar and Shakir Parvez Khan.
Jack is the creator of the Indian Classical Guitar Academy, delivering in-depth courses for learning Indian Classical Music on the Guitar.
He is a key member of a trio called Attuned with Manish Pingle (Indian Slide Guitar) and Gurdain Rayatt (Tabla). To see more about this trio click here.
He is also building a new electric guitar that is specially made for playing North Indian Classical Music.
This ambitions project incorporate aspects of the sitar into the design and aims to make the guitar more effective in a traditional setting.
My Journey into Indian Classical Music
Here, I share the story of how I began learning about Indian Music and adapting it to the guitar with the help of a few great teachers and friends over the years.
I began playing guitar when I was 10, back in 1997. My beginnings were centered around Jimi Hendrix and I tried to imitate everything he did. In 2006, I became interested in altered scales and began listening to Indian music and trying to get closer to that sound. This led me to seek out a Sitar teacher.
Donough Sanfay introduced me to the sitar in 2007. He gave me my foundations in the techniques of playing the instrument, from the basic posture to the subtleties of all the different ways you can accent each note. Through him, I learned the system of 'Sargam' and how to improvise within Raags and rhythm cycles. He has great knowledge of Raags and compositions and much of my repertoire comes directly from him.
Donough was a Disciple of 'Amanath Misra', a Professor of Sitar at Banares University. He became known to Donough when he was given a residency at Dartington College of Arts in Devon during the 80's and Donough would visit him to learn.
Ravdeep Singh plays sarangi (Indian equivalent to violin) in the style of Sultan Khan. He became a good friend of mine in 2008 and we would spend hours jamming and teaching each other tunes. He taught me the structure of many raags and intricate compositions within them. He really helped me to delve in deeper and consider new ideas and techniques. Perhaps most importantly, he introduced me to Amir Khan's music, the legendary singer who renders each raag as nature intended it.
Mahesh Chandra Pandey taught me for just a few days when I was visiting India in 2009. However brief our time together, his spirit has had an enduring effect on me. His music truly touched every facet of my being with such awe. We met on a train and he saw me playing guitar. He took immediate interest and asked if I could play any raags. So I played him a composition in raag yaman. He then proceeded to sing the raag with such flawless expression that I burst out laughing! I could not believe it, it was like coming across a pure genius, a musical god. I was shocked at how good he was. He reminded me of Amir Khan and, when I mentioned this, he answered that his Guru 'Vishudi Shanti Sharma' was a direct disciple of Amir Khan.
At this point, I realised that this was the real thing, music passed on through the greatness of lineages, coming directly into my ears.
I visited him in Raniket where he teaches at a college. He would sing and I would copy each phrase on Sitar. This way of learning though osmosis felt so natural and left such deep inner lessons that I still carry with me now. However, I would not have been able to engage with this level of learning had it not been for the solid grounding of technique that I learned from Donough.
Padma Ramanan is a classically trained Carnatic Singer from Chennai. We met in 2009 and decided to start a project together. It was she who encouraged me to use the electric guitar as my main instrument to play Carnatic music. We then focused on establishing a set composed of traditional Carnatic raags with full length compositions, which she taught me through repeated call and response. Through this process, I memorised each phrase until we could play them in perfect unison.
As a teacher, she is very advanced in communicating every nuance and articulation key to every single line in a composition. This really embedded the sensitivity I was after to evoke the feeling and language of Indian Music on the guitar. She knew how to sing and describe the music and I was left to translate it into techniques and positions for my instrument.
Developing the ability to play this music on guitar is an ongoing process and I look forward to continuing this journey for the rest of my life.