Blackstratblues is a solo project of Warren Mendonsa, who is a guitarist, songwriter, producer and recording engineer. Warren got his formal start in music in 1998, forming Zero with childhood friends Sidd Coutto and Girish & Rajeev Talwar. Over the years, Zero grew to enjoy nationwide popularity in India, winning competitions like IIT-Mumbai’s Mood Indigo (2000) and RSJ’s Great Indian Rock (2003). With Warren, Zero released 2 albums & an EP – Albummed(1999), Hook EP (2002), & Procrastination (2005).
Besides his work in Zero, Warren recorded & released numerous instrumentals which enjoyed some fame on online music forums like Gigpad, & Harmony Central. He was also involved in many online collaborations with musicians – most notably Adam Martin, Ed DeGenaro, & Zorran Mendonsa – which resulted in a few songs. In late 2004, Warren moved to Auckland, New Zealand, playing his last full-fledged gig with Zero at Independence Rock 2004, a festival they had headlined a few times by now.
During this period (while based in Mumbai), he was also a highly sought-after recording engineer & session guitarist, having worked on various film soundtracks, ad jingles, & other albums. Artists/musicians he has worked/played with include Vishal/Shekhar, Instant Karma, Shankar/Ehsaan/Loy, Ram Sampath, Lezz Lewis, Shefali Alvares, Gino Banks, Naina Kundu, Tough on Tobacco, Soulmate and HFT. After moving to Auckland, Warren began work on solo instrumental material. This resulted in his debut solo album, Nights In Shining Karma which was released on 18th April 2007 as a free digital-only download. From Wikipedia:The album garnered significant appreciation & fame on online music forums.
From 2005-2010, Warren worked as a guitarist/producer/recording engineer in Auckland, working with local artists as Emma Walter, Johnny Barker, Renee-Louise Carafice, Lisa Crawley, Black Sand Diva, Lorina Harding, The Aristocrats, Ghosts of Motat, and produced singer/songwriter Donna Dean, whose album “What Am I Gonna Do” won dual national awards for Best Country Song and Best Country Album of the year. On 15th December 2009, Blackstratblues released The New Album to hugely positive critical and fan response. The album was made available for free download for some time on the Blackstratblues website, and till date more than 6000 downloads have been recorded. Since October 2010, Warren has been based largely in India and has worked as a guitarist and producer with Ankur Tewari, Nikhil D’Souza, Shazneen Arethna, Ashutosh Pathak, Karsh Kale, Vir Das’ Alien Chutney, Vishal/Shekhar and Oscar winner A.R Rahman. He appeared on Coke Studio Season 2 with Karsh and Ehsaan-Loy, and on Season 3 with Amit Trivedi, Salim-Suleiman, Hitesh Sonik and Clinton Cerejo.
The current Blackstratblues line up includes Jai Row Kavi (Indus Creed, Tough On Tobacco, Karsh Kale) on Drums, Beven Fonseca (Clinton Cerejo) on Keyboards and Adi Mistry (Shankar Ehsaan Loy) on Bass. The band has played some prestigious gigs such as NH7 (2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013), Sulafest 2012, Indigo & Blues 2012 and Mahindra Blues Fest 2012. Their third album is expected for release later this year. Collaborators include Karsh Kale and Nikhil D’Souza.
About the album:
In contrast to most instrumental guitar albums, Nights In Shining Karma travels effortlessly between melodic, ethereal and beautiful mood pieces and rocking, up-tempo numbers. Warren Mendonsa navigates through this varying musical landscape with a sure hand and impeccable musical instincts, creating an album both guitarists and casual listeners will find alternately touching, uplifting and energizing. Eschewing the gymnastic stunts of many high profile solo guitar artists, Mendonsa’s stunning technique weaves itself subtly into the musical tapestry of completely realized songs, rather than mere vehicles for a vulgar display of ability. With golden tones and unassailable taste and touch, Mendonsa echoes Gilmour and Johnson without being derivative of either.
Nights In Shining Karma is surely the ‘I’m here!’ album from an emerging master.