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Calgary, Alberta, Canada | INDIE | AFM

Calgary, Alberta, Canada | INDIE | AFM
Band World Acoustic




"In sync with rhythm"

Smita Bellur unravels Lehera, the three-member musical band which has given fusion a different dimension, mixing classical with funk and jazz.

Lehera, the musical band, defines its music this way: “The root element of Lehera is classical music, mixed with funk and progressive jazz: sometimes to bring in a sense of adventure, funky songs with odd-rhythmic cycles are thrown in.” Refreshingly packaged, the breezy, foot-tapping sound of two guitars — Spanish and Hawaiian slide guitar, ghatam and vocals is Leh

era’s hallmark.

Classical elements are fused into Western lyrics in which the seamless transition from one acoustic chapter to another creates a beautiful story that flows with depth and character.

The tracks are catchy yet intellectually stimulating: overall well thought out aesthetic music.

The genesis

Lehera was formed with the synergies of Hindustani classical Hawaiian guitar/violin artiste Pra

kash Sontakke, Carnatic classical percussionist Kartik Subramanya and Canadian guitarist/flautist/vocalist Prashant Michael John.

John has studied Carnatic theory and rhythm with K. Rajarangan, and at the Madras Music Academy in Chennai and Jazz music from teachers from the Berklee School of Music.

What was the motivation behind Lehera? “Once I heard the variety of melody and rhythm that exist in the different cultures of the world — not to mention timbres and textures, I was hooked and took in as much as I could find. Cross-cultural world music is my expression,” says the well-travelled Prashant who plays the Spanish guitar, the flute and also does vocals.

Prakash, who plays Hindustani style slide guitar, violin and does vocals too, simply puts it as, “I love to experiment; I believe the richness of the classical tradition has shown the path for fusion.”

Describing their coming-together as “natural and organic pro

cess”, Prashant speaks of how his path crossed with these two musicians, when he was in Bangalore.

“I resonated with them both musically and personally, and we decided to record a demo CD that would perhaps offer listeners another original and joyful approach to ‘world music’, he cheers.

Kartik explains that the way Lehera’s instruments complimented each other was an instant attraction for him, while Prakash wanted to come up with a new world sound.

Fusion seems to have become a buzzword to any mish-mash of so

unds; so how relevant is Lehera’s fusion in the current day context?

Beyond traditions

“Traditional forms are the foundation and inspiration for crossgenre/cultural music. I greatly admire and love them in their original intention,” explains Prashant.

“I think if one loves music then one will want to investigate and celebrate the common ground and un

iqueness found in different music.

“To me this is a way of going beyond the confines of traditions and embracing the world; ultimately we may realize that the world is one big family — the differences we make between people/music are only because of our own limited awareness,” reflects Prashant.

Staying with that thought, Prakash adds that the introduction of folk instruments into classical music is, in itself a kind of fusion. Quoting early experiments with fusion, he explains that Pt.

Omkarnath Thakur sang Arpeggios (splitting chords in melodic way) in his famous Jogi Mat Ja; he feels that many more such examples exist in classical music, where traditional has given birth to novel styles and patterns.

Cut above the rest

How does Lehera set itself apart from other bands/fusion attempts or other such efforts?

“When I first asked Prakash whom we should choose as our percussionist his reason for choosing Karthik convinced me that we were all on the same page.

“Karthik plays originally tailored beats to fit our contemporary, cross cultural/genre compositions rather than simply superimpose standard beats and rhythmic cycles — which it seems to me is the bane of the current ‘fusion’ trend’, reflects Prashant Michael John.

Prakash says, “Basic sound qua

lity is very acoustic and natural — two guitars and a Ghatam were chosen to keep the purity of sound. We consciously kept away from using electronic sounds.”

Speaking of their recent tour of Canada spanning 15 cities, Prakash Sontakke feels that Lehera’s tour was like “a bag of surprises in terms of sound and styling”.

Maple country

He says, “audiences in Canada were surprised how just three musicians could produce such a rich texture of sound”.

The interesting part of the tour, according to him, was the interaction with the audience and he feels they were lucky to play for a completely Canadian audience.

“We shared the stage with some very successful Irish, Norwegian and Finnish bands. The whole hea

rted acceptance of the sounds of Le

hera was heartening,” he gushes, adding that people invited them to many more venues immediately after hearing them.

They also played at the famous Jazz/World music cafe called Rhime Cafe, and innumerable Yoga studios in Vancouver.

He stresses that most performances had a good dose of classical music in them and explains that very few Indian musicians/ bands have penetrated the province of British Columbia. They also did interactive lecture-demonstrations conceived by Karthik Subramanya.

Universal touch

Lehera is embarking on a tour of Canada and the United States of A mericain 2007, where we will be covering 15 major cities in each country.

The band is also looking forward to work with renowned artistes in world music genre.

They are currently in talks with an African flautist, and an Irish singer and Baaul singers from Bengal. They will also be performing along with the world music band called ‘Tandava’.
For the article on;line go to:
http://www.deccanherald.com/deccanherald/Nov192006/finearts1902620061118.asp - The Deccan Herald {India}

"Many styles, one groove"

Lehera brings to the table a unique sound born out of a confluence of Hindustani, Western and Carnatic music styles

MAKING WAVES Lehera members Prashant Michael John, Prakash Sontakke and Karthik Subramanium

Possibly one of the best side effects of globalisation is that art and artistes cannot survive in isolated microcosms independent of each other. One needn't even look far for proof of the pudding: a number of bands in our own city draw inspiration from a variety of musical styles, bending the rules and escaping definition. And thus you have Lehera that not only fuses Hindustani and Western musical styles, but also throws in some Carnatic percussion for good measure.

Instant connection

It all started when Indo-Canadian acoustic guitarist Prashant Michael John was referred to Hindustani Hawaiian slide guitarist Prakash Sontakke while on a visit to the country. The two met, spoke and played music to each other, and within hours of meeting, felt as if "we had known each other musically for years. I could complement everything Prashant did in Hindustani, without distorting any of it," says Prakash. Then came the question of a percussionist. As both guitarists prefer to perform on acoustic instruments — the Spanish guitar and the Hawaiian slide guitar — neither was keen on a Western percussionist with a complicated, electric set up. The natural choice, therefore, was a close friend and Carnatic percussionist, Karthik Subramanium. "He was the first choice because his knowledge of his own system of music is good, but he always works with a free mind."

The choice of band name, says Prakash, was aimed at conveying the variety and range that the three musicians brought to the band. Lehera, explains Prakash, is derived from the word leher meaning "waves". "Every wave is a fresh one, and each one brings something fresh to the shore." He adds that it also has a second meaning of a melodic, rhythmic tempo loop maintained during a kathak performance. "We wanted to convey the fact that we are trying to combine the technical beauty of Western music with the melodic charm of Hindustani music and the rhythmic intricacies of Carnatic music," he says.

And as easily as the band was born, its first demo CD was also created. "We formed the band on a Monday, and Prashant was going back to Canada on Friday," explains Prakash. So we met on Tuesday and discussed various musical pieces. On Wednesday, we recorded our CD. The recording session was actually a rehearsal and recording."

Listen to the CD, however, and you have no inkling of it. Over three planned pieces and two jam sessions, the band has expertly blended everything from kunnakol or Carnatic bol to blues and jazz guitaring to vocal harmonies from the Tuvon tradition. The album packs in plenty of free-flowing experimentation, but is nicely anchored in a practised ease that one is hard-pressed to believe came out of only a day's rehearsal.

In fact, the demo has come out so well that Prashant has already got the band booked into a three-week tour of Canada based on its strength alone. Starting from July 12, Lehera will be making appearances at a series of festivals including the Pacific Rim Summer Festival, the Kispiox Valley Festival, In the House Concert Festival, the Harrisons Festival for Arts and the Islands Folk Festival. This, in itself, clarifies Prakash is a major achievement for a band that was formed all of two days before its first recording. "Most of the bands who play at these festivals have been together for five or six years, and often have two or three albums under their belt," he says.

"We have also booked a recording session with Canada's top DJ who just got nominated for a Juno (Canadian Grammy), Adham Shaikh," informs Prashant. If all goes as planned, he says, the band will record their first full album while they are in Canada. Moreover, the band is seriously looking at the possibility of a world tour early next year, and their present Canadian tour will serve as a means to test the international waters. "We're also open to adding on new musicians, provided they offer something completely different to the band," reveals Prakash.

One is likely to label Lehera as a fusion band after the first listen, but both Prakash and Prashant are quick to point out the band is very unique from most other fusion bands. "I think Lehera is more of a world music band influenced by Indian music than an Indian fusion group," says Prashant. "We try to avoid composing too much around classical rhythmic scales as much as possible," he adds.

Natural blend

What gives the band its easily likeable sound, explains Prakash, is a completely natural mixing of styles. "We don't try to force separate elements together. I'm not trying to drag Prashant out of his Western style, and neither is he trying to make me follow him." What this lack of competition between various styles also translates to is a fuller, more wholesome sound. "None of us try to dominate or outplay the others," explains Prakash. "And when you interact with someone and listen to them more than try to play over them, you benefit from the learning."

When this takes place, he says, genuine exchanges take place, bringing about a true amalgamation of styles rather than an unholy union of discordant approaches.

This openness to other music styles, he adds, is born out of an ethos ingrained in all of them since childhood. "In my house, although everybody was a serious classical musician, we were never discouraged from listening to other styles of music. And Karthik's parents were pioneers of fusion music."

As Prashant says, the world is a small place. And thanks to experiments along the lines of Lehera, it's only getting smaller, and a lot more interesting.

For the article online, go to:
- The Hindu Metro Plus Bangalore


Heartsky,debut Cd: August 2008.
Lehera with sarah Buechi: April 2009
Recorded at Bakerstreet Studios in North Vancouver, BC.
By Paul Baker (R.I.P.)
The Cd is selling exceptionally well at performances and also recieving airplay on CBC, Radio Canada and community Radio stations.
All members have numerous recordings and collaborations with other musicians and projects.





LEHERA breaks down musical boundaries with a sound that underlines no musical prejudices. From North and South Indian folk and Classical Music to Blues, Jazz, Funk, and Worldmusic, they cook up a banquet of rhythm and melody that transports you; from evocative ostinatos to haunting layered vocal and instrumental soundscapes. With their joyful blend of technique, thought-provoking lyrics, and potent emotional performances, Lehera is a spicy offering of song.

Serving up their genre-tripping vibe both energetic and contemplative, lehera dazzles with their virtuosity and musically dense grooves. Vocals in English and Classical Indian styles weave with Indian slide guitar, violin, and bamboo flutes driven by Ghatam (Clay pot drum), Konnakol (Carnatic drum language), and world percussion instruments peppered with funky and bluesy guitar. A feast for the senses, Lehera’s soulful musical delights are food for your body, mind, and spirit.

“Lehera was an absolute joy to have at our Festival this past summer. I highly recommend them!” – Doug Cox, Artistic Director, VIMF

“Thank you for your passionate and exciting performance. We enjoyed the different angle on world music. Very accessible yet unique!” – Alfredo Caxaj, AD, Sunfest

“The music has the rigorous qualities of [Indian] classical music and is also marked with the liberties that make up funk, folk and modern music”. – Joyce Janvier-Gagnon – Radio Canada

“[Lehera] …has given fusion a different dimension, mixing classical [Indian] with funk and jazz.”
- The Deccan Herald, India.

“I firmly believe in the Lehera project. It has a lot of energy and is well played!” – Dave King, Bassist ( Dizzy Gillespie, Laurie Anderson, Jimmy Smith,Tina Turner, etc.)

PRASHANT JOHN The founder of Lehera grew up in Bangladesh and lives in Canada. His compositions,while influenced by the music of the Indian sub-continent, combine the influences and instrumentation of a variety of genres and world cultures. Mainly self-taught, Prashant has studied theory and rhythm in Carnatic music, North and South Indian flutes, African Fula flute, Jazz guitar and the Baul music of Bengal with Master musicians and teachers worldwide. Prashant’s compositions have received recognition winning multiple awards and nominations for his cross-cultural compositions in the American and Canadian Independent Music Awards, International Songwriting Competition and in the Canadian Folk Music Awards.

PRAKASH SONTAKKE(Indian Slide guitar/vocals/violin) From a family of distinguished musicians and teachers, Prakash has achieved a triple Masters degree in Hindustani Classical Music—guitar, vocals and violin—and he gives lectures and workshops on classical Indian music and slide guitar at home and around the world. Prakash performs internationally, and his Classical Guitar concerts have been broadcast on All India Radio. A recipient of many prestigious awards, Prakash is equally at home jamming multi-cultural Funk in concert with triple Grammy winners as he is exchanging phrases with North and South Indian classical virtuosi, opening for Rock Legend Jethro Tull, or jurying auditions and training India’s young future singing stars.

SARAH BUECHI (Vocals/keys) Originally from Switzerland, Sarah’s virtuosic vocal prowess demonstrates both versatility and openness while she continues to make her mark as an exciting and diverse singer in the European Jazz and World Music scenes. After graduating from Lucerne’s prestigious Musikhochschule, she took a lengthy sabbatical in Bangalore immersing herself in South Indian Classical Music. The results are apparent in her use of its demanding rhythmic and vocal techniques in a Jazz context. Sarah currently lives in Ireland, where she performs with Dublin-based musicians and is head of the Jazz vocal department at Newpark Music Centre.

KARTHIK MANI (Ghatam/percussion) Karthik has been playing and studying music since the age of five. A passionate and dedicated percussionist/drummer, Karthik has shared the stage with a Who’s Who list of luminaries including African singer Mory Kante, Tunisian singer Dhafer Yousuf, Carnatic Vocalist Mrs.Ramamani, Afro-Cuban percussionist Mokhtar Samba, Japanese guitarist Paul Shigihara, Louis Banks, Karl Peters, Keith Peters, Amith Heri, Ranjit Barot, Ramesh Shotham, Mike Herting, and Carnatic maestro Mandolin U. Srinivas