“The art of story telling with music”- Pranai Gurung — The Showrunners exclusive pick
Its my pleasure to write about the person who literally touched my heart with every performance and I call myself lucky enough to know him. He has this vibe which can’t be described and it can only be felt in his presence. Sometimes we let our weaknesses & failures overpower our life which leads us to a point where we feel helpless, demotivated, almost wanna give up on music and what not. That’s where Pranai Gurung came to my life and before I write my heart out, I’d like to tell you short story about how I met him and what inspired me because that meeting entirely changed the perspective of music for me.
It’s my 2nd second pianoman jam session and I am still a hardcore metal guitar player who never payed attention to the fundamentals of music, forget about knowing your instrument, I can shred, I can play those aggressive heavy metal riffs and I’m playing with many bands and doing lot of gigs but couldn’t realise that I’m a part of this blind rat race which will lead me nowhere. So Arjun calls me out on stage to jam with other musicians and I won’t lie, I immediately got up and started playing. I am not ashamed of failing like a noobie with a bitter realisation of how much I suck and I don’t know my instrument. That situation was the result of my depressive phase because I knew that music is a creative ground and there are millions of better players out there and I don’t even stand a chance.
So one day I saw BLU which is a Delhi based blues setup performing at pianoman delhi and I would say that it wasn’t a coincidence, there was a purpose. I stayed and watched the entire performance. He started playing and It felt like something literally took me out on a journey. I had a huge smile on my face everytime he slayed those solos like a beast. Let me clear the picture, every solo was improvised obviously. So you remember that first high you get of your life? That’s how i was hit by his incredible playing. After that I started attending almost every gig where Pranai was playing and my learnings started rolling ahead like a perfect circle in a good direction.
Pranai Gurung is an incredibly skilled and experienced guitarist, composer and educator from Kalimpong, India One of the finest guitarists in India. Pranai has been writing and collaborating with various musicians for over 15 years. He is as much as ease with Blues, Jazz & Bebop as with Funk, Pop, Retro and RnB. He has worked with names like Silk Route, Drift the trio, Bipul Chettri and the travelling band, BLU, Shipa Rao, J-Hola, Vasundhara Vee, Kartikeya Srivastava, Lucia, The Crossover Jazz Collective and Bollyjazz. International names like Rainer Pusch, Gianni Dennitto, Raphaelle brochet and Sava Boyadzhiev have invited him to collaborate in what turned out to be performances of significant critical acclaim.
Pranai has performed concerts in some prestigious festivals like Jazzmandu 2013, Nh7 weekender 2015–2016, Shillong Jazz & Blues festival 2014, Dhaka Jazz & Blues festival 2015, Pune Jazz Utsav 2017, Hyderabad Jazz festival 2015, Delhi Jazz Utsav 2017, Mahindra Blues festival 2017, Hornbill festival 2017 etc including international venues in USA, Australia, Japan, UK, Dubai, Hong Kong, South Korea and Nepal.
His versatility and experience led him to take up music education. Pranai is the Academic Head and Director at the Blue Notes school of music, Delhi which was established in 2008 and has created many successful music professionals in the city. Blue Notes has been providing one on one lessons as well as ensemble and collective lessons to develop a better musicianship. Having the best from the city like Kartikeya Srivastava, Lucia, Rythem Bansal, Aditya Dutta, Smiti Malik as their respective faculty, they have been providing quality sessions. Blue Notes school of music is a place to nourish your creative spectrum.
Once I was practicing a standard in the greenroom of Pianoman Delhi and Sava Boyadzhiev trio was performing with Pranai and Sonic. I was stuck with a lot and I started practicing wrong things in a stupid direction which wasn’t making any sense to me. It’s has been 1 year of studying jazz and I wasn’t very sure about my learnings. He saw me doodling and this is the first time we actually had a conversation. He asked me, “What are you listening these days?”. I replied mentioning several traditional setups and maestros of jazz. He continued the conversation by clearing me the concept of how a musician and non musician would listen to a tune and how it will create a difference. He introduced me to attentive listening and it made a huge impact on my listening skills.
Another mind-blowing fact — Pranai and I was discussing about his inspirations and he has been listening to Classic players like Albert king, Eric Clapton, SRV, Joe Pass, Wes Montgomery, Jim hall, Pat metheny etc as well as modern and contemporary players like Kurt Rosenwinkel, Bill frisell, John Scofield etc. Pay attention to the word listening. These are just few names. Don’t go for my words. He is a complete encyclopaedia of music and I dare you to ask him anything about any musician. He has heard almost every kind of music and it shows in his playing. I’m not even the scrap of his nail to sum up what he’s capable of.
Pranai always promotes that there should always be a meaning in your playing and more than just studied theory. I’m sure a lot of guitar players can shred, do all sort of bleep blaap and sweep picking stuff and very soon it ends up as a mechanical process of muscles. They don’t even know why they’re doing it or is it even making sense or what they’re trying to say? Pranai is one of those rare guitar players who likes to potray all the experience and knowledge in a small piece of music and it will take you to a journey where you can see a painting’s been drawn by him and every note will make sense in its particular place like a finely polished stroke of an art brush filled with colors.
I won’t be exaggerating by saying that I’ve tried psychedelics couple of times and I clearly remember how music feels and where it can lead you when you’re in a different state of mind. What if I tell you that Pranai’s blues playing can have same kind of effects on a person’s mind. I have experienced it many times and if it’s a lie then there are many people who can support my statement. He told me once that how you can express any scenario of your life with blues because afterall music is all about emotions and expressions. I would highly recommend that you should definitely see him playing blues and he will take you for a ride. I can vouch for that great journey of emotions.
Also for some unknown reasons, every amazing musician has this unique sense of humor and Pranai’s sense of humor is more like real life experiences with a mixture of wit. One can tell that he’s been living a life which we can only imagine by just having a regular conversation with him. He likes to smoke rolled tobacco, You can find him enjoying beer after his gigs. Once I asked him, “Sir How to get better at guitar playing just like you?”. He said, “Start eating Rajnigandha”. Too good with jokes. He’s super humble, down to earth and an amazing person who likes to help. You’ll instantly fall in love with his persona. He’s always spreading love and positive vibes to everyone.
Once in your lifetime, Give yourself a chance and experience his playing. That day, This article will make a lot of sense to you if you’re unaware of his superpowers. And don’t forget to strike a conversation with him. You will end up knowing something amazing which might inspire you in a way or so.
That’s it for today. See you soon with another amazing musician in the next edition of the pick of the week.