A solo guitar concert by Konarak Reddy recently saw various colours of the guitar

There’s a tanpura on one side of the stage as Konarak Reddy prepares for his concert, and aptly so. The guitarist, who has been playing for over 20 years, is known for the way he blends Indian classical styles with Western sounds. A solo concert by Reddy recently at Plantation House had a diverse range of guitar sounds.

The evening began with ‘Mango Ripple’, a composition he has played earlier; this time, he announced that he was changing the name to ‘Manga’ Ripple. It began with an alaap-style opening, in which he switched between many ragas; the song reminds listeners of the fundamentally pleasant sound of the guitar, and might have been the soundtrack for some calm afternoon walks through leafy streets – you get the idea. Towards the end, he launched into some tabla vocal syllables, which added colour, faintly from the background. Another number was ‘Deviant Goddess’, beginning with an ambient, guitar-solo section.

Reddy also rendered a lullaby by Brahms in the freestyle, easy manner that suits the form, with varying pace and dynamics. A piano piece for guitar, Handel’s ‘Presto in D Minor’, saw Reddy hesitate before starting, as it was a difficult piece. Originally a composition for piano, he had transcribed it for guitar for an examination as a student. “Eh, it’s all right if I make a mistake,” he shrugged, and launched into the clearly challenging piece, which he played twice over.

Reddy’s music has the power to evoke visual scenes, and simultaneously forces one to appreciate the amount of sound he teases out of six guitar strings. The more unhurried numbers could fool one into thinking it’s a casual, relaxed evening with friends, perhaps when the power’s out; someone picks up a guitar and starts strumming. Of course, this illusion is quickly shattered once you come to terms with the sheer wizardry in his picking. But perhaps the pace was unnecessarily hurried.

The venue’s intimate setup means we get to see the guitarist’s wrists quiver with furious control for a vibrato note, or see him visibly exhale with relief after a difficult piece – moments that won’t be possible in a typical stage concert. A few struggles with sound did dampen the proceedings a bit. But the laidback concert, crowded as it was with friends and students of Reddy’s, meant that there was an overall air of cheer.

When he announced his last song, members of the audience groaned “no!” and instead suggested “fifth-last song!”.