Calgary musician merges Indian, western musical styles

Prashant Michael John opening for Anoushka Shankar at Arts Commons

Prashant Michael John grew up in Bangladesh listening to rock and roll, but now plays more traditional Indian music. (Courtesy Prashant Michael John)

Calgary-based artist Prashant Michael John grew up in Bangladesh, but he was raised on a diet of western music.

“I was listening to the blues and rock and roll when I was a little kid,” he said. “I’m very well versed in it.”

Now he’s coming full circle at a gig next week, opening for Anoushka Shankar, the daughter of Ravi Shankar – who found success introducing classical Indian music to a western audience.

John said he first heard Ravi Shankar after he had moved to Canada that he took an interest in classical Indian music, and began studying that.

“I got very interested in Indian folk music and in world music (…) and especially the cross cultural music where musicians were cross-pollinating.”

John said opening for Anoushka Shankar is a challenging gig, because she is such an accomplished musician in her own right. But

“I’m going to be playing variations on Indian folk music on the Indian flute, which is called the Bansuri.”

But in a nod to his western childhood influences, John will also play classical Indian music on a resonator guitar, which is more commonly used by folk, country and blues artists, especially for slide-style guitar.

He said everything he plays on the resonator will be raga inspired music. John said the instrument is uniquely suited for the style of music he wants to play.

“It has an ethnic sound to it it – it has that ethnic string sound and of course there are parallels between the blues.”

He’ll be accompanied by Piyush Vyas, who will be drumming on dholak and tabla, both traditional Indian drums.

You can catch Prashant Michael John at Arts Commons on April 26. Tickets are still available. His act begins at 6:30, so plan to get there early.

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