When the mesmerizing sounds of flamenco guitar music begin to fill London’s halls and theatres, you’ll have Vishnu Sai and John Taylor (L to R in Photos) – founders of the unique duo Londolé – to thank for that exciting local musical phenomenon.
The London-based musicians have been busily rehearsing the vibrant sounds of a guitar style that appeals to more than just the sense of sound. Flamenco guitar, employing numerous percussive and rhythmic techniques, is an explosive style of music emanating from the Spanish culture as early as the 16th century.
A synthesis of four cultures – the Jew, Moors, Gypsies and the indigenous Andalusians – it is music that both Vishnu and John clearly love and are striving to bring to local audiences and far beyond. Their debut gigs have been met with resounding approval.
“I moved to London about 10 months ago and one of the first things I did was to take out an ad, looking for a guitarist to perform with,” said Vishnu. “There were a couple of hundred applicants but John was the first. I chose him.
“It was a very good decision because stylistically and creatively we mesh together very well. It’s a very good feeling playing with John. I love the power and feeling of flamenco music and I’m hoping our audiences will come away, moved emotionally, personally and as individuals who will come to love this art form.”
An accomplished classical and jazz instrumentalist, John admits, with a touch of modesty, “I have a lot to learn when it comes to flamenco. When I first heard Vishnu, I was a bit intimidated by his mastery, but that didn’t last long. He is, in fact, very easy to play with because he is so musical and so open in his ability to blend, develop and nurture the total sound.”
Both are soft-spoken so the music talks for them.
An animation producer and founder of Animasai Studios, London’s first animation company of its kind, Vishnu is a CG generalist artist. As a musician, he has composed numerous musical scores and more than 3,000 songs.
Able to play virtually any musical instrument and style from classical, flamenco, Indian, South American music to brutal death metal, he epitomizes the definition of the complete musician. After finishing high school, he travelled to Tampa Bay, Florida, during the golden years of Death Metal, to pursue his dream of becoming a metal guitar player.
His early studies in medicine became his priority so he did not continue auditioning for his favourite bands. In Canada he played the bass for a band called Mystics for the Black-O-Rama annual international reggae festival. A few years later, he became the lead singer and guitarist of Los Hipocodríacos, literally translated, The Hypochondriacs. It was an immediate success, invited to open for two of the top rock bands in Mexico, El Tri and Los Caifanes.
As a child he lived in Spain for some time, learning music from his mother, who bought him his first guitar at the age of 12. His father taught him how to play his first song, the famous Malagueña in flamenco style.
Originally from Cape Town, South Africa, John completed a Bachelor of Music degree at Rhodes University in Grahamstown, South Africa – a classical degree with guitar as his major instrument. As well as playing classical guitar he conquered other styles with different bands over the years.
He started out playing rock music in a high school band and at university was a member of a popular band One Large Banana, which enjoyed top 20 successes in South Africa. The group recorded and released its own CD which took off with national radio stations. Turning his talents to jazz, he headed to the globally acclaimed annual Cape Town Jazz Festival.
“I experimented with playing other styles of music and then settled into playing a lot of solo classical and jazz guitar,” he said. “I travelled to Japan for three and a half years where I did a lot of solo performing. While there I met my Canadian spouse and moved to London, Ontario.”
In Canada he’s played on the 'A' Channel morning show, Rogers TV and performed for the president of the University of Western Ontario. Recently he was featured at the Live@99 concert with some of Southern Ontario's finest musicians.
“As well as performing as often as possible, I’ve been a guitar and music teacher for many years,” he said. “In South Africa I was a high school music teacher, a guitar teacher in Japan and now currently in Canada. I teach all styles on the electric and acoustic guitar.
“There is no question, flamenco is technically demanding to play but it is so much fun. That’s what we are hoping to bring to our audiences – that sense of fun, improvisational adventure and the blending of our styles. It is very inspirational.”
While drawn to the technicality of flamenco, Vishnu said he is also fascinated by the appeal the music holds to those from other fields. “The lead guitarist of Metallica, Kirk Hammett is one example. Musicians of many different styles are often awed and influenced by it.
“For John and me, the passion and love of the music comes first. In the end, we want to bring happiness to people.”
Click to listen to a live video-clip of Londolé
This interview can also be found at here at The Beat.