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Sanjay Mishra: A Cross-Cultural Exploration in Music

Sanjay Mishra demonstrates his fretless guitar in the NPR studios.
Ted Mebane, NPR
Sanjay Mishra demonstrates his fretless guitar in the NPR studios.

The Guitar Atlas, a series of books from the music publishing company Alfred, presents an overview of unique guitar techniques from different corners of the globe. African, Brazilian and Celtic styles are all represented, but among the books, perhaps the most unusual is Guitar Atlas: India. The book stands out from the rest of the series because there actually is no Indian guitar style; in fact, there are limitations to the instrument that make Indian music almost impossible to play.

Sanjay Mishra is the author of Guitar Atlas: India and has an intimate knowledge of the relationship between Indian music and the guitar. Born in India and now based in Virginia, he is an expert guitar player and a master at coaxing an Eastern sound from the Western instrument. Mishra plays a fretless guitar -- one with a perfectly smooth neck -- to allow the sliding notes and slurring tones that are integral to Indian music.

A decade after the release of Blue Incantation, his popular collaboration with the Grateful Dead's Jerry Garcia, Mishra has released a new CD titled Chateau Benares. He plays music from the CD in the NPR studios.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Andrea Seabrook
Andrea Seabrook covers Capitol Hill as NPR's Congressional Correspondent.