As he gets ready to rock Thiruvananthapuram after a three-decade-long gap, lead guitarist John Anthony of Karnatriix tells Nita Sathyendran that life has come full circle
It’s been nearly 30 years and he’s “traversed a million kilometres” with his new-age music since he first took to the stage at Nishagandhi open-air auditorium in the city. And now, finally, guitarist John Anthony of world music band Karnatriix, and a pioneer rocker, makes his way back to the very stage where, he says, it all began. John, along with Karnatriix, is all set to rock the stage at Nishagandhi on February 19.
“Life has come full circle,” says John, with a grin, flicking his hands through his scraggly hair, in full rocker mode, sitting in a sound studio at Sound Engineering Academy (SEA), Jagathy, where he is working on songs for the show.
“The last time I played at Nishagandhi was for a fashion show, directed by Priyadarsan, in 1975-76. I was sitting in the pit then, one of the many band members giving musical support to the action on stage. Now, I’ll be the one centre-stage. I’ve played on many stages across the world but I’m actually feeling quite nostalgic about this particular show, given that I’ll be performing in the city that made the musician in me,” adds John.
The musician’s tryst with the city began when he was 18 years old, when he came to study music at Tharanganisari, the school of music started by K.J. Yesudas. “Within a month, the principal of the school, the late piano maestro Roger D. Jhanke, asked me to teach guitar there! Many of my ‘students’ were older than I was. At that time I had no idea how to read a sheet of music. So Roger sir gave me a sheaf of notes, pointed out a few basics notes and told me to figure the rest out. And that’s exactly what I did for the next month, burning the midnight oil till I got it all down to a T.” While in the city John also met the late music composer M.G. Radhakrishnan, who soon became his other “friend, philosopher, guide and mentor.”
Although he grew up in Kochi, where he was a student of St. Albert’s College and where he was part of several local bands, it is Thiruvananthapuram once again that he chose to settle after living in Chennai for the past couple of decades. For the last two years or so now, John has made his home in a stately old manor in Poojappura with his wife, Supreetha, a yoga teacher, and son, Siddharth, an animator and filmmaker.
Why, then, this long a gap to performing in the city? “Honestly, I hadn’t found the right organising team to connect with, though there have been many offers. That’s when I met A.R. Vishnu, a software engineer and music buff, who runs SEA, a premier audio engineering institute. I found that we synched together musically and professionally. This concert not only marks a comeback for Karnatriix but also the tenth anniversary of SEA,” explains John, as he takes us through tidbits of the demo tracks that Karnatriix will be playing for the one hour-45 minute-long concert.
Staying true to Karnatriix’ USP, each song is mellifluousness at its best, winsome combinations of deep-rooted Blues, mixed with Indian classical music, raw percussion, electro beats, vocals and effects. The band will be starting the show with the song ‘Angel’s dust…’ a nostalgia-filled, heady tribute to John’s two mentors MGR and Roger. “There’s a myth that before the gandharvas go back to heaven early in the morning, they shower their blessings on the land. Radhakrishnan chettan and Roger sir are my two angels, my gandharvas, who, I believe, will always shower blessings on me,” he says.