“The substance of music is the emotion it awakens” – Stephen B. Stanton
Music is a language unlike any other. It in itself is like a healing. Music is a physical art form that is painted on the invisible, audible canvas. A string of artfully composed notes goes beyond sensory input and processing to touch that intangible part of us known as the soul. It creates a cord within us that resonates with our heart, mind, and spirit. The vibrations, rhythms, beats, and tones that make up a composition turn music into a multisensory experience.
From the guitar sounds flow. Sound, that can mesmerize the soul of any existing entity. When played by an expressionist, it goes beyond the known laws, elevating you beyond the definable altitudes of pleasure. That is where the name Santhosh Chandran gets marked in mind. He is the ‘Guitar Virtuoso,’ who set ablaze a new movement in Indian guitar scenario with his self-defined style ‘The Indo-Flamenco’.
A Celebrated Virtuoso
Santhosh Chandran is a multifaceted guitar player and has a wide area of expertise. He is one among the rare breed of Flamenco guitar players in India and he smoothly blends Indian classical elements with the finger-style flamenco. Santhosh Chandran is like a rolling stone. In his musical career spanning a few decades, he has shifted genres effortlessly a mindboggling number of times. Even as he scales new heights in Indo-flamenco, a genre he has pioneered, he is thinking of composing a purely western classical album in the future.
Santhosh who plays a unique genre of Flamenco, Rock, Jazz, Blue and Western Classical music brings to you a sound enriched with his influences from having played in many countries since he started playing professionally in 1989. Presently he is the lead guitarist of a contemporary fusion band ARKA, before joining ARKA, Santhosh was busy touring with a number of artists and group. He has toured a lot of countries South Africa, Australia, New York, Ukraine, Beirut and Middle East. He is one of very few flamenco guitarists in the country. His versatility on the instrument has earned him many accolades.
Santhosh Chandran is a solo player, session guitarist and composer hailing from Kerala, who plays instrumental, jazz, rock, fusion, Western classical, flamenco, and Indo-flamenco. Born to a family with a strong predilection to music and art Santhosh was audacious enough to choose music as his career. Being the grandson of Sri Perinad Krishnankutty Nair, a well-known Kathakali Acharyan and a Drama actor and the son of Sri Chandrashekharan Pillai and Srimati Sethukutty Amma, both Carnatic Music Enthusiasts, he inherited an affinity to music at a very young age. His parents guided him to the world of music and were of constant support.
Santhosh’s fascination to guitar started by age of eight. “I was sent to learn table, but was fascinated by guitar and started learning it from Badarudeen Sir,” recalls the renowned Guitarist. He started training under Sri. Badarudheen at Thirumukham Sangeetha Sabha located in Telicherry, a historic coastal town in Kerala. By the age of 12 he started playing for prominent personalities in the industry such as Edava Basheer and started doing stage shows.
To get into the depths of the rock genre, Santhosh Chandran decided to shift his domain to Mangalore where the rock scenario was more active. He shifted to Mangalore in 1993, to learn more depths of rock genre. Thereby, he became a part of a rock band 7th Galaxy. His performance gained him attention among rock lovers which helped him get an invite from Alwyn Fernandes to Bengaluru which is India’s most sought after destination for rock enthusiasts. Bangalore gave him more exposure until he came back to Kerala and became part of the internationally renowned band Motherjane which was established in 1996. As part of this Band, he got opportunity to tour both within and beyond the country. This association continued for quite a while. He also got the experience to get exposed to the beauty of Hindustani music through Khalid Sahab and Tripthi Chakraborthy and had the privilege to play with Ustad Badde Ghulam Ali Khan Sahib, the renowned Hindustani classical vocalist.
Melange of East and West
Santhosh Chandran tries to bridge East and West culture through his music. His compositions transcend national, regional, cultural boundaries as well as genres. The vivid experiences he attained throughout his career have always been an added advantage. He is an 8th grade holder and ATCL Diploma in Classic Guitar from Trinity College of Music, London. He platooned with elite artists from different streams and initiated a new band Velvetters. The Velvetters comprised Salha Albusaidy (East African jazz singer) and Mark Gresty (Bass guitarist). The band performed in Dubai, Lebanon and other Middle-East countries.
Santhosh also associated with Mr. Hratch (French saxophone player) and Mr. Ibrahim Jaber (percussionist from Lebanon). Down Beat Jazz was the trio band which Santhosh joined in 2005 with Sax Nick Foster and Merwyn in Muscat. The years spent in Muscat saw him moving closer to his current genre of choice — flamenco, though it came after a few years of playing jazz with pianist John Hardie. In addition, Santhosh also has teaching experience of guitar in a British School, Harmony Institute and Classic Music and Arts Institute (Trinity College Exam Centre). He also had the opportunity to enrich his talent under the supervision of Mr. Grahamme Johns (ABSRM Examiner and Pianist). All these people, journeys, interactions and vibrant crowds paved his way to international music scenario.
Santhosh Chandran is the pioneer of the Indo-Flamenco style. He recalls, “One of the best things was the four years, I spent with the African jazz singer Salha Abusaidy. We toured non-stop and played in places such as Lebanon. The Indo-Flamenco style was developed during this time, though the name was coined by Remo Fernandes and thus the genre got a name”.
Santhosh Chandran finds music as his real soul and life and finds immense pleasure while exploring new grounds in music. He finds happiness in practice and spreading knowledge to the amateur guitarists. In addition, Santhosh looks at meditation as the key to increase confidence, it being a vital factor for a good stage show. He prefers solid colours for his stage shows in order to maintain the attitude of a performer. He finds the foreign audience more motivating than the Indian audience.
Currently, Santhosh Chandran is associated with band ARKA, which is a joint initiative by prominent music personas, exhilarating the world with the power of music. ARKA denotes the Sun in Sanskrit and to rightly interpret the meaning, it is the warmth and radiance of music that spreads across everyone. With the sole intention of extending this musical outreach few renowned artists in union have created this band, and intend to broaden the horizons of Indian fusion music. ARKA is the epicentre of an erupting musical form with core artists and each of them have gone beyond their forte to compose and create a musical aura that is unheard of and has been designed to appeal to an extensive age group as various elements have been hand-picked from various genres.
Rays of ARKA are Selva Ganesh a big name in the world of rhythm, and a force on the Kanjira (South Indian Frame Drum), Ravichandra Kulur a flautist who worked closely with Pandit Ravi Shankar, Gino Banks, a formidable drummer, the son of jazz pianist Louiz Banks, India‘s legendary jazz pianist and composer, Mishko M’Ba a French bassist/pianist, composer and producer, Karthik an award-winning singer and Santhosh Chandran a multifaceted guitar player. It is a crossover band that blends in genres to explore new avenues of music — rock, pop, classical, jazz, etc. are just ingredients to prepare a musical concoction that can be savoured by every soul on this planet. ARKA has performed with a wide spectrum of artistes like John Mclaughin, Ustad Zakir Hussain, Shankar Mahadevan, Vidwan Vikku Vinayakaram, Mike Stern, Guthrie Govan, Ray Charles, Jonas Helborg, Niladri Kumar and others all over the world.
ARKA is the quintessential band- Versatile compositions, Innovative techniques, Mesmerizing performances, they have it all. It is like watching a movie with an ensemble cast, with each member of the band excelling in what they do. They believe that rhythm has the same language across boundaries and tradition comes from the roots. Their brilliance and exclusivity is unmatched. Their content, musical styles, playing techniques, simply weave magic, captivating the listener in a trance. This new band brings forth the dawn of a new trend that leaves everyone enthralled. Just like the sun, they intend to reach the darkest and farthest corners and illuminate it with every band member calling himself an ARKANS.
ARKA weaving success stories
The group have developed a taste for newness and try to inculcate the same in their renditions. Harping on these emotions, they have composed tracks on scales ranging from 2 and a half to 7 and a half, which precisely explains the name of their album ‘And A Half’. Their breakthrough moment came during a fusion concert named ‘Rock n Raag’ in Chennai which was truly an ecstatic experience to jam with so many artistes together.
In ARKA, every member is an existing globally-renowned artist and each of them is an expert in their respective field. But each of them innovates and thinks beyond their boundaries, which is the beauty of ARKA. ARKANS believe that music is god, and god is within. Stemming out from the land of diversity, ARKA excels in the field of progressive fusion that’s essentially a mix of varied genres. They deploy a ‘Permutation-Combination’ formula, which essentially means that they pool in a vast variety of instruments and genres along with their years of experience to compose unheard music. On their way forward, the band has performances up in cities across the world, and will be collaborating with more musicians in the future.
Learning is a beautiful journey and starting right is the key to it. With information explosion there is an overwhelming amount of roads you can take in exploring your musical interests. So, having the right compass is imperative in this journey for an effective learning. Guitarra Academy, brain child of the music maestro Santhosh Chandran, stands to serve this sole purpose. Santhosh, who brought in exotic styles like Indo-Flamenco to the guitar classes in Kochi, is stepping up to provide a complete music training solution through his academy.
Guitarra Academy have an experience of more than 22 years in the field offering personalized assistance in classical guitar, electric guitar, piano, keyboard, violin, cello and western vocals. The faculty includes accomplished experts handpicked by Santhosh himself who are guided and believe in the philosophy of empiricism, makes it one of the top institutes for taking up music classes in Kochi.
Guittara Academy is the last word to excellence for every amateur guitarist. Santhosh adds that in his Academy, skill development is given more emphasis rather than mere passing of grade exams. The students are taught the Indo-Flamenco style, the style which is a seamless blend of Carnatic with flamenco style. He keeps on motivating the children until they bring out the best in them.
Santhosh has composed Original Sound track for Malayalam movies such as ‘Valiya Chirakulla Pakshikal’ (2015) which was one of the Official Oscar entries from India and ‘Kaadu Pookkunna Neram’ (2016).
At present Santhosh Chandran is busy working on his solo album ‘Take 9’ and also dabbling in some teaching at his school – Guitarra Academy. Also being, the Endorser for Gibson series guitars, Santhosh Chandran’s life continues to be never ending journey dedicated for spreading the goodness of music and an inspiration for budding talents through his music school the Guittara Academy.