Tag Archives: Hellborg


Our Indian music is fantastic. All of you should know that. It’s more complex than the most complex non-Indian music can hope to be, both in terms of melody and rhythm. Unfortunately, harmony is a concept quite alien to hardcore Indian classical musicians. It is this ‘void’ that is filled up by enlisting western instrumentalists for fusion projects.

Who are these two men?

And when it comes to western musicians eager to explore Indian classical music, they don’t come more adventurous than Bassist Mr.Jonas Hellborg. It’s an ideal combination too, isn’t it? The bass is a fantastic rhythmic and harmonic instrument which can seamlessly incorporate itself into an Indian musical sensibility, especially with lead instruments like the Sitar.

So lets cut to the chase. Kali’s Son is a bass-‘zitar’ collaboration between Hellborg and desi Sitar phenom Niladri Kumar. And how do they sound? Well, Hellborg’s sound – I can tell by the power of deduction – is of an acoustic bass plugged in. It’s a unique sound, hollow and steely, but still fulfilling. It works well for soloing too, and is a guttaral contrast to Kumar’s distortion-d soloing.

Speaking of which, I don’t know if an electric sitar with distortion is a contentious issue, but I think it should be. With the Zitar being a thin stringed instrument like the guitar, a lot of Kumar’s soloing ends up sounding  like Indian classical played on a mandolin or an electric guitar with distortion. It’s fantastic, but even a discerning listener might not notice the difference at first. I didn’t.

If you ask about the songs, um….they are not really songs. They are improvisations between Hellborg, Kumar and Selvaganesh’s astonishing kanjira. The range of percussive sounds he gets from the drum is amazing. It’s way more than most drummers can manage with a million pieces. Hellborg is also exceptional, deftly combining  funk, Hindustani, and god knows what else and chanelling it through that exceptional singing like proto-upright tone. “Shri Shri Vikkuji” has him at his high frequency best. Also, check out the totally psychedelic backmasked bass goodness on “Plastic Puja”. Freaking innovative. And inspiring. I’d never thought of him as a virtuoso before, but I believe he has breached that threshold with this album. His furious rhythm towards the end of “Brightness” is, I think, especially difficult to execute.  

Hellborg is the star. Undoubtedly.

“Kalighat” is a breath of fresh air, in that its light and happy sounding compared to the emotionally intense tracks elsewhere. However, the bass solo is aboslutely epic. This maybe a showcase album for Niladri Kumar, but Hellborg is the star. Undoubtedly.


This is a highly recommended album for all musos. God here for some smoking instrumental jams (though I miss the presence of a kanjira­ solo or two) and inspirational in terms of the possibilities of the acoustic bass and the sitar (argh, Zitar). This sounds right.

- El Bajista


More FUSION reviews HERE.


Michael Shrieve, Jonas Hellborg, Shawn Lane, – TWO DOORS – 1995

Jonas Hellborg has a strange predilection for wierdos. He chooses odd people to do albums with. Really, really odd. Take Paul Hanson. A bassoon player (that’s right, it WAS mentioned in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner) who likes using guitar effects on the bassoon. Mad. Also take his guitarist friend on this album, Shawn Lane, who sadly passed away in 2001.

The cover might suggest otherwise, but I believe this is a collaborating effort first.

He plays guitar like his momma just died. No, scratch that. He plays guitar like his entire family died. In an airplane crash. From a height of 35,000 feet. Into a vat of molten lava. Simply put, he is up there with the maddest guitar players ever. Vai, Satch, Michaelangelo, Buckethead, you name them……

Mercifully, he also has the good graces to lay back and play some ‘relatively’ slow lead stuff and supports Hellborg‘s lead outings very well. Speaking of Hellborg, he is excellent as always, and he tries not to compete with Lane. Instead he focusses on being solid and full sounding, even while playing lead. I’m particularly fond of his super low notes on the lovely and laid back “Caress of Lilith”. He does further sub-bass experimentation on “The Smiling Tarshism”, which is probably the Martian phrase for ‘drum solo with sub-bass accompaniment’. I love it. This is the first time that I actually like his finger-picked acoustic bass tone, which I had earlier denounced as ‘ponderous’.

A good thing about two people like Hellborg and Lane with extremely strong musical personalities is that one player’s style feeds and bleeds into the other player. So this is the first time I’ve heard a metal edge to a Hellborg record. Perhaps this led the recording of Art Metal with Swedish nutcase guitarist Mattias Eklundh. On the other hand, there are definitely Indian Classical flavoured tracks like “Baraji” and “Deep Umbra”.

All this is all fine and good, but I have a few problems with this album. For some reason, this album does not feel as well thought through as his other solo efforts. His other works are great not only in their quality and playing but also in their variety. Abstract Logic has solo Piano, solo Drum and solo Bass tracks, among other completely instrumental excursions. But here, the sound is pretty much identical in terms of guitar sound over bass sound, except the willfully different “Baraji”, “Caress of Lilith” and the beautiful “The Smiling Tarshism”.

Another major problem is that this cannot be listened to more than once. At the point of writing this sentence, I was two thirds through the album, and I had difficulty remembering one memorable groove from the past 45 minutes or so. Its a pity, and its part of what leads me to think not much thought has gone into it. Its quite easy to believe that the three players-all virtuosos in their respective instruments- decided to get together and just wing it. Unfortunately, improvisation can either be a beautiful cosmic thing for the ages, or a steaming pile of horse crap, depending on the way the stars have aligned. This one is somewhat towards cosmic beauty, but falls way short. Its good, but it doesn’t really sound right.

- El Bajista

P.S. – Though this is technically a Michael Shrieve album featuring Hellborg and Lane, I’m filing this under Hellborg for convenience and continuity.

More wierd but wonderful FUSION music HERE.

More HELLBORG’s stuff HERE.


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