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    India is the Shangri-la of the mind: Mark Knopfler

    Wednesday, February 23, 2005
    When you''re seeking Shangri-La in the mind, come to India, says legendary musician Mark Knopfler, best known as the voice and guitar of the band Dire Straits.

    "India offers a broad spectrum of philosophy and spirituality to those seeking a Shangri-La state of mind," Knopfler, whose latest album too is titled "Shangri-La", told IANS in an interview ahead of his first tour of the country.
    "India has always fascinated me and I am looking forward to the concerts in Mumbai and Bangalore," said Knopfler, who will play in Mumbai March 5 and in Bangalore March 7.
    India, he said, was becoming a bigger market for music. "I believe there always was a market. What is happening now is that there is a greater openness. Asia, indeed India, can no longer be ignored," said Knopfler.
    The guitarist, whose nimble skills have graced albums by Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Buddy Guy, Sting, and Steely Dan, said it was "really thrilling" for him to find out he had a huge fan base in India.
    "(Concert promoter) Venkat Vardhan tells me that I have a huge fan following here which is really thrilling. I am looking forward to playing (in India) and connecting with people who have listened to me all these years."
    Though best known as the frontman of Dire Straits, the band he formed in 1977 with his brother David, Knopfler says the solo career he launched in the 1990s has steered clear of gimmickry while focusing on the music.
    "I fronted Dire Straits. I wrote most of the songs and the tunes," he said, referring to the band that sold millions of records and packed huge arenas.
    "I continue doing so with new band members. Essentially nothing has changed. The difference is that Dire Straits was a rock act, we thought big, we played in huge arenas with lots of sound and light.
    "In my solo career I cut out the gimmickry, sticking to the music...that's how it is now."
    Referring to his current band that features stellar musicians like keyboardist Guy Fletcher, bassist Glenn Worf and drummer Chad Cromwell, Knopfler said: "I write a song and all the musicians contribute various facets of melody to it. It's all very dynamic, cathartic..."
    "Shangri-La", Knopfler's fourth solo album, features several songs based on real life characters like Ray Kroc, the founder of the McDonald's chain, and boxer Sonny Liston -- an offshoot of the musician's fascination with history.
    "Well, let's take (the song) 'Boom, Like That'. I read Ray Kroc's book and then got fascinated with his character. There was a direct opposition in what he thinks he was doing and what we think he was doing.
    "Some people think he wrote the model for American business and did all sorts of wonderful things including bringing affordable food to the masses and inventing a new business model. Now people call burgers junk food and view Kroc as something close to Satan. I write the song using most of his own words...."
    The track "Song For Sonny Liston" centres round the great boxer who died of a heroin overdose. "His was a rags to riches to tragedy story that kinda touched me," Knopfler said. "Moods, stories, they contribute to my creativity."
    Knopfler, who noted he has "lots of projects on the anvil", said he also enjoyed his alternate career doing scores for movies like "The Princess Bride", "Last Exit To Brooklyn", "Wag The Dog", "Local Hero" and "A Shot At Glory".
    "Oh yes, I enjoy scoring for the movies. I have liked all the directors I have worked with," he said.
    Growing up in Newcastle in Britain, Knopfler started out as a journalist covering music before picking up a guitar. Breaking into the charts worldwide with the anthem "Sultans of Swing", Dire Straits had a long and successful run till Knopfler decided to go solo.
    But Knopfler said there's miles and miles to go before he sleeps.
    "(There's) plenty (left to achieve)," he said. "As a musician one always strives to reach for a higher plain, another level of perfection. I want to continue reaching out to people through my music."
    "We are all seekers aren't we? We take different paths, but the goal is the same - meaning and happiness."


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