Leslie unplugged

WHEN S.D. Burman first noticed him, Leslie `Peter' Lewis was drumming empty `dalda' cans and steel plates. He was hardly 13 then, a teenager - well clued to Cream and Clapton. Lezz was always an inherent drummer at heart - more than a guitarist and a singer or composer, chiefly because his father - the seasoned dance director P.L. Raj from Hyderabad, was essentially an eminent tablist.

"A classical musician is what my father wanted me to become. All that is natural because he himself was an accomplished film choreographer and pretty well clued in classical music. Till this day, I have not been able to identify the ragas he wanted me to appreciate and understand," Lezz recounts. For a youngster, fed with a reasonable overdose of Jimi Hendrix and Deep Purple, western music had a profound influence on his psyche, than classical.

Drums, however, were soon given a bypass, as the guitar seemed more musical. While Lezz wanted to study the instrument at the University of Guitar Technology, Boston, his father felt that would be a sheer waste of time with an exorbitant course fee of Rs. 1.5 lakh - a hefty amount at that time.

"That happened for good. Otherwise, I would have had to be content being a typical factory guitar-player." However, he did try to carve a niche for himself in the music pantheon, while doubling up as a part-time night guitarist in a band at Cafe Royal, Oberoi Towers, Mumbai, and a daytime studio worker, - churning out ad jingles for Frooti, Voltas Freshetarian and others.

In the early days Lezz would laugh all to himself from four in the morning to keep himself awake. "At 5 a.m. I used to go out looking for fish or prawns in the dockyards," he reminisces fondly. The days at Cafe Royal were the stepping-stone for his budding musical career, where he could harness his inherent talent.

Leslie unplugged

With Hariharan having happened to him accidentally, Colonial Cousins - became the pivot of his career where the singer in Lezz found a definitive voice, besides he got to prove his mettle as an accomplished guitarist. Encomiums and laurels naturally followed.

Says Lezz, "Hariharan and I have been good friends since long. Not many people know of the tiffs we used to have during production shoots, with Hari often alleging that I was not allowing him to be himself. Well, I used to keep maintaining that I needed just 20-per cent of his attributes so that the songs do not go over the head of the audience, - which was so essentially intended for everybody. That was a period of great osmosis, where both of us supplemented the other with enriching musical experiences."

Without being categorical, Lezz alludes that Colonial Cousins would shortly embark to conquer new colonies. "Previously I would get tired of seeing Hari. And now, not jamming up with him appears tiresome. We will come together soon."

In the city for the promotion of his second remix album - Special Appointment Club-mix, the master musician is up with excitement. "It is a unique compilation that blends diverse styles of upbeat music."

While the opening number Bheegi Bheegi Raaton Mein is a lounge-track, Bichuaa is quintessentially an up-tempo tribal track, and Paree (original composition for his bosom pal, Suneeta Rao) is a get-on-the-floor number. Lambi Judaai has perceptible Sufi influence as much as touches of trance, while the interludes in the last track Sama hai suhaana are very filmi.

"The styling however, is very new where I aim to connect the old composer to the new listener and contemporise the interpretation. In proving the point, I make sure that the original melody is in no way compromised upon," he states sternly. Perhaps, the legendary R.D. Burman knew about that rigidity, for he himself had expressed a desire that Lezz should remix his numbers.

Perfection embodies so biologically in Lezz that even a slight imperfection is viewed unpardonable.

An example of which, he says, manifests quite often when acoustics are not configured to his choice.

Leslie unplugged

"On many occasions, I have refused to sing."

The same reason applies to his meticulously self-chosen assignments.

"I refuse composing music for films because directors do not allow me to be different."

This difference finds expression in his appearance, quite often.

A strong burgundy streak has traded place with that beaded-braid bohemian rhapsodist avatar, as facial hair here and there, completes what Lezz says, a retro look.

In a way, that makes easier to groove with RDB, - a trip that never tires Lezz, as his strong nose for caffeine not to forget the six strings!

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