70s Foreigner to play with Niladri Kumar on five-city India tour

January 30th, 2011 - 6:23 pm ICT by IANS  

Mick Jones New Delhi, Jan 30 (IANS) Foreigner, the popular British-American contemporary pop-rock band of the 1970s, is heading to India for the first time in 35 years to collaborate with innovation sitar maestro Niladri Kumar for a fusion concert tour.The five-city tour will mark the coming together of vintage pop-rock and funk-sitar.

The band will play in the capital Feb 11 and follow it up with concerts in Mumbai, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Bangalore. The tour will be sponsored by 100 Pipers.

Formed in 1976 by veteran musicians Mick Jones, Ian McDonald, ex-King Crimson member and vocalist Lou Gramm, Foreigner has sold more than 70 million albums across the globe with hit singles like “Waiting For a Girl Like You”, “I Want to Know What Love Is”, “Feels Like The First Time”, and “Jukebox Hero”.

“This is the first time in 35 years that Foreigner has embarked on an India tour. We wanted to come there a couple of years ago, but re-establishing the line-up kept us busy,” Kelly Hansen, the band’s new lead vocalist, told IANS from Florida.

Hansen, who features in Foreigner’s new CD “Can’t Slow Down” released in 2009 after a long hiatus, has replaced the band’s legendary vocalist Lou Gramm, the former Black Sheep vocalist, a couple of years ago.

The much talked-about rejig brought in three more new faces to the ensemble, Jeff Pilson, Tom Gimbel and Michael Bluestein.

Kelly Hansen is a stranger to Indian music.

“I am not acquainted with the Indian contemporary Bollywood music or classical music. It is our first classical collaboration. I am not really sure if we will have enough time to practice with Niladri Kumar. But we have great expectations and look forward to having a good time in India,” Hansen said.

Niladri Kumar, the inventor of the modified electric sitar which he calls the “zitar”, combines electronica with Indian classical notes in a genre known as the “funksitar”.

He treats the sitar like a guitar and plays classical riffs and notation slides to create rock ragas.

Kumar is the son of veteran sitar exponent Kartick Kumar.

Kumar, who pushes sitar to new boundaries, says the attempt to relate to the GenNext has changed his outlook to sitar.

“Music is meant to touch the soul of the listener and the driving force is to aspire to maintain a fine harmony between tradition and modernity that is in sync with the sensibilities of the global audience,” the musician said.

Foreigner, on its part, sings of young concerns, lifestyle blues, freedom and love that were the dominant issues among the youth of the 70s. They took to soft rock harmonies after the high-decibel music of the 60s and early 70s.

The band, which released its first hit eponymous album in 1977, has been led by English journeyman rocker Mick Jones, the former member of the “Nero and the Gladiators”, “Spooky Tooth” and “The Leslie West Band”.

Jones met Ian McDonald, the former member of King Crimson, and put together the line-up. Lou Gramm later joined the band with Dennis Elliot, Al Greenwood and Ed Gagliardi, forming a sextet.

Hansen said his band has been touring since 2009 to promote “Can’t Slow Down’”.

Responding to a question whether Foreigner was a spent force, Hansen said, “music and bands work in cycles”.

“We have to go through cycles of up times and down times. But Foreigner has been doing much better now than it was doing 10 years ago. It is not easy to live as a musician any more; much harder for bands to survive and do what they want to do.” he said.

“The record companies are not as strong and the radio has lost its strength. Illegal downloading has also made it difficult for bands. Reshuffling the line-up to relate to new fans and re-invent the sound were a challenge,” added Hansen.

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