Wednesday, January 04, 2017

WACKY WEDNESDAY: Korla Pandit's Universal Language of Music

Kolorized Korla
I stumbled on this unique musician via Phil Hendrie's Twitter feed on Christmas Eve tweet:

"Was on @KTLA in the late forties, Saturday nights. Whoever got stoned in those days tuned in religiously"

And there was a cover of a Christmas album that Phil re-tweeted featuring a blue background and black-and-white photo of a mysterious turbanned man sitting at an organ looking as if he were lost on some astral plane.

The artist's name was  Korla Pandit and a quick round of Googling made it obvious why stoners in the '40s and '50s must have loved this guy.

From the Korla Pandit website:
Korla Pandit was TV's first "talking head", except, per mentor Klaus Landsberg's direction, he didn't even talk! Instead he just gazed dreamily into the camera, and into the hearts and imaginations of millions upon millions of viewers over the years, when television was in its infancy and people were captivated by this Mesmerist and his "Universal Language of Music".
Orchids & moonlight, unchained melodies, worshippers from under the water, India's One & Only Song, themes magnetic, played a thousand different ways, all embodied the spiritual and spirited performances of a handsome young man in a turban, a music-box Sabu, he of Indian origin, foreign to American music audiences, foreign to American TV audiences, foreign and yet not foreign at all.

But Korla wasn't from India at all. He hailed from St. Louis, where he was born John Roland Redd. After a frustrating time trying to start a music career, he moved to Los Angeles in 1939 where he began performng as a "Latin" artist called "Juan Rolando."

With the encouragement of his wife, he changed into Korla Pundit, a musical mystic from New Delhi. And by 1949 he got his own program, Korla Pandit's Adventures In Music on KTLA TV.

Korla played his "music of the Exotic East" along with a blend of waltzes, tangos, cha-cha-cha's and other tunes of the 40's and 50's, with even an occasional classic such as "Claire de Lune" or "The Swan" thrown in for good measure. Korla was known for playing both his favorite instruments - the Hammond organ and piano - simultaneously, working the piano with his right hand and the organ on his left. 

Korla died in 1998 at the age of 77. But through the magic of YouTube, his "musical gems from near and far" live on.

Contemplate this:

More than a decade before Dick Dale made "Miserlou" his signature song, Pandit was basking in its mysteries.

Here's one called "Trance Dance."

And here's a sexy Turkish Dance.

And what do you know? There's a documentary on Korla. It aired in October on KOCE, the PBS station in Los Angeles. Supposedly it's suppose to air on other PBS stations early this year.

Korla - Trailer from Appleberry Pictures on Vimeo.

The Cramps dug Korla. Maybe he inspired the introdiction to this classic video


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