John McLaughlin & Zakir Hussain in Remember Shakti
Selected by Dan Grunebaum
|World music pioneers
As contemporary electronica drowns in a sea of glib samples of traditional Asian music, it' easy to forget that the pioneers of East-meets-West fusion included some of the most gifted musicians of the '60s and '70s. An upcoming reunion concert by Shakti the band formed by jazz guitar virtuoso John McLaughlin and an all-star cast of Indian master musicians should serve as a useful reminder.
An innovator of jazz-rock fusion with Miles Davis and later his own Mahavishnu Orchestra, McLaughlin formed Shakti to explore his interest not only in the music but also in the spirituality of India. He enlisted for the project tabla master Zakir Hussain, violinist Lakshminarayana Shankar, and
mridingam (the classical drum of South India) players T.H. "Vikku" Vinayakram and Ramnad V. Raghavan.
The group debuted with the eponymous album Shakti in 1975, making a strong mark on the world music scene, then in its infancy. It introduced to Western audiences the percussion firepower of tabla player Zakir Hussain, who has worked with Western rock stars like George Harrison and Van Morrison. Hussain, who later went on to win a Grammy for his 1992 collaboration with Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart,
Planet Drum, will also be in Japan later in August for the Sado Island Kodo drummers Earth Celebration festival.
After two more albums, A Handful of Beauty in 1976 and Natural Elements in 1977, Shakti disbanded as the members each went their various ways to pursue other projects.
But in 1998 the group reunited as Remember Shakti, touring and recording a new double CD of the same name, which appeared in 1999. This incarnation also featured new member Hariprasad Chaurasia, virtuoso of the otherworldly
bansuri bamboo flute and an award-winning musician whose compositions have been heard in soundtracks to many Indian films.
Remember Shakti play Sumida Triphony Hall Aug 4. See listings for details.