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    Justin Gray, Les Godfrey and the Bass Veena

    Monday, 12 January 2015 15:09

    Written by Lise Hosein

    The Bass Veena, a very new instrument with an innovative sound, was born from collaboration between two unlikely partners – one from the world of Indian classical music and the other from the more aggressive world of metal.

    Musician and luthier Les Godfrey was part of the metal scene in Toronto (he was in a band called The Illuminati), before he became a luthier and ended up crafting a bass guitar for Justin Gray of Monsoon, an Indo-jazz outfit. They crossed paths through a music teacher they shared in the past. Les had been making guitars and basses for a few years already, many for musicians in the rock and metal scene. And Justin was on a different musical track – he’d been investigating Indian raga music, traveling to India to work with a guru on his vocals. Les had built a Western bass for Justin he was happy with, but during one of these trips to India he thought of Les when he realized the Western bass might not be the right instrument to take him where he wanted to go in the Indian classical world. Justin explains:



    The sarod and sitar Justin just referred to are typical instruments for Indian classical music. But Justin wanted to retain some of the elements of Western bass playing. He turned to Les and began the collaboration that resulted in an entirely new instrument, the Bass Veena. Its name makes reference to the veena, a stringed instrument used in both India and Pakistan. Its body has a large bowl, sort of a gourd shape, and it has a sort of ancient feel while it looks a bit like a modified Western guitar. Justin’s Bass Veena looks a lot more like a traditional Western bass, but it has a slimmer neck, a different sound, and it’s made for Justin to play it in seated position, travelling across his lap. This makes it much more useful for raga music, which works well for Justin and his band Monsoon.

    But how does this intersect with the world of metal, the world Les hails from? Justin told me that the two widely divergent forms of music have a lot more in common than you might think:



    The Bass Veena has had a transformative effect not only on Justin’s music but on his role as a composer. Which brings me back to the beginning of this story. Every form of music is created by innovation, the building (or finding) of a mechanism to make a sound. But that sound can drive the composer as much as the composer drives the music. And Justin told me about the impact the Bass Veena’s had on his style:



    You can listen to Justin’s band Monsoon HERE – this track’s called Awakening, and it features the Bass Veena. Monsoon’s album is called Mandala, and you can find out more about it at monsoonmandala.com. And you can find Les and his guitars at godfreyguitars.com.

     

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