It’s an improbable story: A Hawaiian guitarist ventures to India and ignites a craze for lap steel. Indian filmmakers and composers embrace Hawaiian guitar and incorporate its keening sound into their Bollywood productions. A few enterprising young musicians take note of the lap steel’s melodic expres- siveness and begin modifying archtop acoustics with sympathetic and plucked drone strings, making
them suitable for playing ragas— the melodic patterns and modes in traditional Indian compositions. Soon
these hot-rod guitars are accepted as legitimate instruments for performing Indian classical music, and a new
breed of virtuosos emerge to write yet another chapter of the guitar’s unpredictable evolution.
All this and much more actually happened, but if you’ve never heard the music spawned by this cross-cultural collision, you’re not alone. Most Western guitarists are unaware of their Indian lap-slide counterparts and
the vibrant sounds they create.
In the next few pages, we’ll explore what is now known as Indian classical guitar, or Hindustani slide, and
learn how the tradition continues to unfold today. We’ll hear from several leading exponents of the genre and
discover what albums played pivotal roles in its development. And, of course, we’ll gaze at the mindboggling
guitars that are at the heart of this music.
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