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Leverett musician finds inspiration through politics, life as an immigrant and social work

  • Deep Chinappa fronts the “Deep C Divers,” an unsigned Boston-based group that combines a smorgasbord of musical genres — world, funk, reggae, jazz — with ’60s British rock music. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo

  • Deep Chinappa fronts the “Deep C Divers,” an unsigned Boston-based group that combines a smorgasbord of musical genres — world, funk, reggae, jazz — with ’60s British rock music. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo

  • Deep Chinappa holding an electric guitar he bought second-hand in a Brattleboro thrift store. The eclectic electric guitar suits Chinappa, a practicing Hindu from South India who once covered American rock ’n’ roll songs at packed stadiums across the nation, and later toured New England with a Goth metal band. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo

  • Deep Chinappa was born in Mysore, India, a city with a population about one million. In part because of that, he speaks five languages — Hindu, Tamil, Kannada, Coorgi, Malayalam and English. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo

  • Deep Chinappa fronts the “Deep C Divers,” an unsigned Boston-based group that combines a smorgasbord of musical genres — world, funk, reggae, jazz — with ’60s British rock music. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo

  • Deep Chinappa holding an electric guitar he bought second-hand in a Brattleboro thrift store. Deep Chinappa holding an electric guitar he bought second-hand in a Brattleboro thrift store. The eclectic electric guitar suits Chinappa, a practicing Hindu from South India who once covered American rock ’n’ roll songs at packed stadiums across the nation, and later toured New England with a Goth metal band. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo



Recorder Staff
Thursday, January 11, 2018

Self-taught Leverett musician Deep Chinappa, 49, purchased a B.C. Rich ‘flying V’ electric guitar for $300 two years ago at Twice Upon a Time secondhand store in Brattleboro, Vt.

Airbrushed skulls adorn the front of its once mint condition body, and on the back is a now peeling sticker of Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of knowledge, music, arts, wisdom and nature.

“Wild, right? It plays really well. The sound is amazing,” Chinappa said recently, turning the guitar over while seated on a maroon couch in the teal living room of his 1760s farmhouse across from Leverett Crafts & Arts Center on Montague Road.

Large speakers were stacked against a wall, yoga books sat on a table beside another guitar, and statuary weighed down shelves surrounding the space. Soft morning sunlight fell on a tall painting of a woman tenderly holding a child, an original oil piece by Stacey Temple, Chinappa’s life partner.

“I couldn’t wrap my head around someone who would put this sticker on the back, with the skulls on the front,” he continued.

The eclectic electric guitar suits Chinappa, a practicing Hindu from South India who once covered American rock ’n’ roll songs at packed stadiums across the nation, and later toured New England with a Goth metal band.

These days, Chinappa fronts the “Deep C Divers,” an unsigned Boston-based group that combines a smorgasbord of musical genres — world, funk, reggae, jazz — with ’60s British rock music. Other band members are guitarist Paul Erlich, John Bordage on drums, and Gregg Marcus on bass. Locally, the band has played at Greenfield’s Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center, Deja Brew Cafe and Pub in Wendell, and the Harp on Sunderland Road in Amherst.

Deep C Divers’ sound has morphed over the years, coinciding with Chinappa’s constantly evolving artistic journey. Song lyrics are influenced by politics, life as an immigrant, and Chinappa’s full-time profession as a social worker at Boston Partners for Youth with Disabilities, a nonprofit organization.

In its latest album, “Making Waves,” bluesy light guitar riffs accent fast moving bass-lines, funky electric keyboard notes and swaying drum patterns. The songs are catchy, easy to dance to, and Chinappa’s lingering vocals stretch across musical measures, sounding eastern at times — a nod to his native heritage.

“The essence of most of my music is to be at peace,” Chinappa said. “Most of my songs I’ve written in five minutes. It all just flows through me. I don’t have to think about it.”

Chinappa was born in Mysore, India, a city with a population about 1 million. In part because of that, he speaks five languages — Hindu, Tamil, Kannada, Coorgi, Malayalam and English. At age 19, musical proficiency in English earned him a spot as singer for “The Unknowns,” an Indian cover band that performed classic western rock songs across the nation. Once, Chinappa’s group played for a crowd of 40,000 people.

“I grew up loving The Beatles and Nat King Cole. That’s been a huge influence. Later on, I got really into ’70s rock,” he said. “Between 21 years old to 25, I worked with a producer singing jingles for commercials. I made a career doing that.”

Clients included small businesses and large corporations like Honda.

“In the mid-’90s, I came to the states to attend Berklee College of Music,” Chinappa explained. But music school didn’t work out because “I was always a creative musician, and didn’t want to be pigeon-holed into sounding like Elton John.”

Instead, Chinappa fronted a Goth metal band called Sift (which still performs today), recording two albums. “I had long black hair. We played all the big venues in Boston: Mama Kin Club, The Rathskeller, The Middle East,” he said.

Over the years, he taught himself guitar. Then, in 1999, Chinappa broke out on his own, drifting away from metal music to form “The Deep C Band,” which eventually evolved into “Deep C Divers.”

Since then, the band has found success, performing in some prestigious Boston venues including The Middle East. But they haven’t had a “big break,” yet, Chinappa said — something he’s hoping for in 2018.

“Hopefully, this year will be a year of opportunity,” Chinappa continued, noting plans to begin hosting periodic open mic nights across the street at Leverett Crafts & Arts Center and at The Taproom in Hadley. “I feel like I’m in my prime right now,” he said.

The first event at Leverett Crafts & Arts Center is in talks for April, coinciding with a gallery show featuring Stacey Temple’s oil paintings. More information on Chinappa and the Deep C Divers, visit at: www.deepcdivers.com.