The Incredible Korla Pandit

23 02 2017

Do you know about Korla Pandit?  Have you even heard of him?

Yeah, neither had we, until we recently caught the better part of a PBS World documentary about this fellow.  A real enigma, but one that was eventually figured out (to a certain extent) by a journalist, shortly after his death.

 

Being as we are nearly at the end of Black History Month in the U.S., I thought it germane to share this incredible story.  Korla, of mixed African-American and French heritage, assumed the identity of an Indian musician in order to be accepted during his time. The documentary suggests that racism and Jim Crow policies would have made it difficult, if not impossible altogether, to perform and pursue a career otherwise.  A contemporary of Liberace’s, he was one of the earliest musicians to be featured on a television broadcast in the U.S.

PBS SoCal has some additional info and links here.  We highly recommend this excellent and entertaining documentary about a very interesting man and persona.  He was an incredible musician as well – play the video above, of Korla performing Miserlou on an electric organ and a piano simultaneously!

By the way, in the documentary, I happened to pause it to refresh my cocktail, and noticed that the frame it froze on included an address on Los Feliz Blvd (an address where he was performing).  I looked it up on Google Maps and looked at the street view, curious as to what was there these days.  It appears to be an apartment building, but next-door to it (or perhaps the correct address?) is a curious institution that seemed to fit right into the allure and mystery of Korla Pandit:

screen-shot-2017-02-23-at-4-06-57-pm

 

That website takes you to the University for Philosophical Research. Some interesting info about that institution can be found on Wiki.

More music from Korla Pandit (a solid 35-minute chunk):

 

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