Revival presented Korla Pandit, one last opportunity for a cult following and resurgence. He made a cameo appearance in Ed Wood and did a recording with the muffs. Korla Pandit’s sold-out show at San Francisco’s legendary bimbo’s 365 club was one of his last performances.Long before Liberace graced the stage, there was Korla Pandit. Korla Pandit was a pianist from New Delhi, India, who appealed to the national audiences in the 1950s with his exotic compositions on the Hammond Organ, and his novel keyboard skills. Korla Pandit specialized with the Hammond Organ, complemented to his right with a Steinway piano. He mostly played the organ, sometimes piano, and occasionally one of each with both his hands. Korla Pandit did not heavily indulge in blues or rock and roll, but rather smoothly navigated between all kinds of music, playing ethnic and traditional music, show tunes, popular tunes, and music from across the globe. Korla Pandit appeared in 900 episodes of his show–Korla Pandit’s adventure in music–aired on Los Angeles local television. In the show, he was well dressed in a silk brocade Nehru jacket or suit and donned a turban featuring a single shimmering jewel. Their spiritual, mysterious Indian man with a sly grin and hypnotic gaze was transfixing. Korla Pandit was known offstage as the “Godfather of Exotica” and was living the American dream. He had a beautiful blonde wife, two kids, a house in the Hollywood hills, and his social circle included the likes of Bob Hope and Errol Flynn. In addition to this, he had floral decorated organ floats in the Rose Bowl parade of 1953. Like most of the things in Hollywood, it was all mirrors and smoke. His charade of course, was not his stage name but rather his race. Born John Roland Redd, Korla Pandit was a light-skinned African American man from St. Louis, Missouri. This was a secret caller kept until his death.
The documentary “Korla” explores the career and extraordinary life of Korla Pandit. Filmmakers Eric Christiansen and John Turner grew up in the San Francisco’s Bay Area listening to Korla Pandit’s music and watching his show on TV. The two filmmakers worked together for more than 30 years in San Francisco’s KGO-TV, where Korla Pandit aired on a live show in the 1960s. Christiansen and Turner fell under Korla Pandit’s spell learning about Korla’s true identity in a Los Angeles magazine revelation in 2001, 3 years after Korla pandit died. Korla Pandit was a slight man with a beautiful smile who spouted pearls of wisdom regarding the universal universality of music and how he could get along better. It was not easy to question a person with such ideals.
According to legends, Korla Pandit was a child prodigy born to a French opera singer, and a brahmin priest in New Delhi, India. At the age of 11, Korla Pandit migrated to England and then to America to pursue his classical music training at the University of Chicago.