My Inspiration: Michael Messer’s Mitra – Call Of The Blues | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Michael Messer’s Mitra is a unique musical trio featuring British blues innovator and slide guitarist, Michael Messer, Hindustani slide guitar maestro from India, Manish Pingle, and London-based tabla master, Gurdain Singh Rayatt. 

The band are performing at Cluny 2 on Wednesday 19th July as part of GemArt’s Masala Festival. Here, they tell us what inspired their album, Call Of The Blues…

As a British blues slide guitarist and songwriter I have always enjoyed putting myself into different musical settings to create something new that I have not heard before, and over my 40-year career that has ranged from African to reggae to folk and even using loops and turntables at a time when very few other artists in my field were even aware of such things. So my interest in Indian slide guitar was born way back in the 1980s when I first heard an Indian classical slide guitarist called Brij Bhushan Kabra. He was playing on an incredible album with three other musicians called, Call Of The Valley. As soon as I heard Kabra playing I was inspired and wanted to play acoustic delta and Chicago-style blues with Indian classical musicians, especially Indian slide guitar and tabla. 

Fast forward to 2013 and I was in Mumbai, India, playing at a blues festival and while I was in Mumbai I met up with the incredible Indian slide player, Manish Pingle. We jammed for a while at Manish’s home and that night when saying goodbye I said that I would get Manish to London so we could play together. Manish came to London in September 2013 and via a friend of his we were introduced to the British-based tabla player, Gurdain Singh Rayatt. Gurdain is widely known as one of the finest players outside India and he was very happy to be invited to sit with Manish and me and try out some ideas. We immediately found a musical place where we could all express ourselves and play freely in our own styles while using the Delta and Chicago blues as our home base. 

A few days later we were playing together as a trio in London at the Troubadour Club and all three of us and the audience were somewhat mesmerised by what was being played. We had created a completely new and unique fusion of my blues styles with Manish and Gurdain’s Indian classical playing and IT ROCKED! Songs by Muddy Waters, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Son House and JJ Cale became vehicles for a whole new way of expressing the blues through different cultures. My own blues playing is rooted in the original American masters, but also in the Rolling Stones and everything else I grew up on along the way. 

The sound is acoustic with Manish Pingle playing a 21-stringed Indian lap steel called a Mohan Veena, Gurdain Singh Rayatt playing Indian drums called Tabla, and myself singing and playing resophonic guitars.

Our album, Call Of The Blues, released in 2016 was immediately picked up by the blues, folk and world music media, getting worldwide radio airplay and press coverage in more than 50 countries and hitting #1 in the iTunes blues chart. Since the release of the album we have done eight UK tours, including shows at London’s Bush Hall and various festivals including… Red Rooster, Musicport, Shambala, Shrewsbury Folk and many of the UK’s leading venues.

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