Grigoryan Brothers: Strumming classical notes in age of funk rock

Grigoryan Brothers: Strumming classical notes in age of funk rock

Grigoryan Brothers

"The essence of our music is essentially Renaissance. It dates back to the time when Alonso Mudarra of Spain composed the earliest notation melodies in his book titled 'Tres Libros de Musica' in 1546 for the Vihuela, the oldest recorded ancestor of the regular six-string guitar. The vihuela morphed in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries to suit the chords of the modern-day guitar. Our music is almost 500 years old,” the brothers, Slava and Leonard Grigoryan, who played at the Kamani Auditorium as part of the Delhi International Arts Festival, said in an interview.

Vihuela, which evolved towards the end of the 15th century, was a cross between a guitar and a viola. It was played with six-double strings strung with thin slabs of wood- and at times animal gut, the brothers explained. The brothers, who are of Russian-Armenian stock, released their new album “Distance” a couple of months ago.

"It is a compilation of classical guitar music by various composers like Ralph Towner, William Lovelady and Nigel Westlake. We have improvised a bit,” the brothers said.
Their first duet album was released in 2003. "It was a classical album with a few jazz riffs,” the guitarists said. Slava, the older sibling, however, recorded his first album at 16.

"I had a contract with Sony Music. The album came out when I was 18. Titled, 'The Spirit of Spain', it captured the soul of the instrument and its origin in Spain first in classical music and then in gypsy Flamenco music,” Slava said. 
On Tuesday, the duo played a few tracks from their new album, a couple of compositions by the impressionist French composer of the early 20th century, Claude Debussy, and some Latino music. "We have composed original scores from South American music, mostly from Brazil. The compositions are a fusion of traditional folk from south America, jazz and classical music,” the brothers said. The brothers are also familiar with Indian music.

"When I moved to the UK, I met the Indian musician Trilok Gurtu in the 1990s. I liked his music and later played with him at the Womad (World Music and Dance) Festival in Australia. I want to collaborate with him some day. We have also performed with Australia's most popular Indian tabla player Bobby Singh,” he said.            

The siblings, who have trained under their parents - both musicians - say their canvas is open to Indian fusion. Leonard, the baby of the Grigoryan duo, plays a 12-string guitar and “is a John Mclaughlin fan”.

"We usually listen to Pink Floyd, Ralph Towner and McLaughlin. But we think Stevie Ray Vaughn was one of the greatest electric guitarist of all times. Recently, we heard another young guitarist and song-writer - Derek Trucks- play in Adelaide. He, like Ray Vaughn, has spent several years in India. He was discovered by Eric Clapton and the Allman Brothers,” the siblings said.    

The brothers, who have performed all over the world and at several state orchestras in Australia said, “Guitar bridges divides of class, creed, colour, countries and religion. It is the most popular string instrument in the world- one that is portable and can be played by anybody.”