By Logan Hall
Ojai residents see their share of world-class musicians perform all around the valley. Acoustic guitar master and former Ojai resident Raj Rathor is one of those musicians and after an almost 20-year absence from Ojai’s music scene, Rathor is heading back into town to perform for the citizens of the valley on Dec. 3 at 4 p.m. at the Ojai Playhouse.
Rathor’s style can best be described by calling him a one-man band. He doesn’t have a harmonica around his neck or a drum and cymbals attached to his feet, and he doesn’t play over recorded background music. When listening to some of the tracks on his new CD, “Tales of time and Eternity,” one might be fooled into believing that Rathor, who now lives and performs in Las Vegas, is accompanied by a percussionist and a bass player. At the very least, it sounds as though there are two separate guitar players.
That, however, is an illusion created by Rathor and his fret board wizardry.
The album features songs comprised entirely of one man playing one guitar. While laying down a bass line with the thumb on his right hand, he proceeds to play rhythm, and even lead guitar with the rest of his fingers —- all at the same time. Rathor’s genre of music, aptly called fingerstyle guitar, combines melodic phrasing with driving beats and often-intricate bass lines. When it comes to the composition of his songs on the guitar, he has, as he puts it, “learned to approach it as an orchestra rather than one single instrument.”
The acoustic guitar was not the first instrument that he picked up. “My parents brought me back a ukulele from Hawaii,” he said.
He said that it was while plucking away on his ukulele that he heard what a guitar could do. “When I was 9 I was up in the Sequoias in the summer,” he said. “Suddenly I heard someone playing a Martin guitar under those big beautiful trees. It changed my life and set my course from that moment on.”
With influences like guitar legends Chet Atkins, Jerry Reed, Bert Jansch, and John Fayhey, Rathor began tailoring his style after his heroes. “He says one musician in particular really made a mark on him. “Lenny Breau was the biggest influence on me,” he said. “There was a whole new direction to go in with Lenny.”
Rathor says that the highlight of his career was a local performance with Breau in the ‘80s back when Wheeler’s Hot Springs was called Bowman’s at Wheeler Hot Springs. “He spent some time with me in Ojai,” said Rathor. “I used to play at Bowman’s and Lenny came and sat in one night. That was the most memorable thing for me.”
Rather says he has quite a show planned for his hometown when he returns in December. With four guitars, including a 12-string guitar custom made to go along with the bottleneck he uses for a slide, and two albums of solo acoustic guitar tunes released, he says there will be plenty of guitar pickin’ and foot tappin’. “The 12-string bottleneck guitar is just a great-sounding instrument.”
Local fingerstyle guitar master Alan Thornhill has played gigs with Rathor and urges people to check out his upcoming show. “It’s just unbelievable that it’s all solo acoustic guitar,” said Thornhill of Rathor’s music. “We’re lucky to have him play here in town.”
Rathor says he will also hold a guitar workshop for aspiring musicians the day after his performance. “I’ll be there to answer questions and to help people along with their playing,” he said, adding that players who take the workshop should bring their guitars for hands-on instruction.
For more information about Rathor’s music log on to jazzcatrecords.com and call (702) 812-7957 to sign up for his guitar workshop.
This is the google site link