Remember Shakti (UK/India)
September 25, 2003
I know that I am out of sync with the world when I find myself checking off
tasks in my head, while an audience exudes a hysterical frenzy over a
performance. Such was the case for me while viewing the Remember Shakti concert
at the Moore Theatre. The audience consisting mostly of John McLaughlin devotees
and followers of the classical Indian music, leaped out of their seats as the
four musicians including McLaughlin, tabla virtuoso Zakir Hussain, electric-mandolinist
U. Shrinivas and South Indian percussionist V. Selvaganesh glided onto the stage.
And without much fanfare, McLaughlin launched into a display of fast fingers
working over his fret board. But I’ve never been interested in lead guitar
solos, preferring distinct melodic patterns to a rush of notes. And while jazz
doesn’t cling to the top of my favorite musical genre list, I’ve heard lesser
known Indian classical jazz fusion groups that have garnered my undivided
attention including two Canadian groups, Toronto Tabla Ensemble and Autorickshaw.
While I researched information about Shakti, I kept running into British jazz
guitarist John McLaughlin’s “legendary” status, but legendary to who, fans of
jazz, music journalists and ethnomusicologists? I’ll admit that I am new to the
world music scene and I only recently learned of McLaughlin. Certainly his name
never came up around my musician colleagues or in any other setting. Whereas,
Zakir Hussain carries more clout in these parts, especially after attending the
University of Washington musician in residency program many years ago and he has
performed numerous times to Seattle audiences since that time. And while all
four musicians that comprise Remember Shakti exhibit extraordinary musical
talent, Zakir with his joy for life demeanor stole the show, even when he was
merely watching the other musicians perform or rearranging his tabla. I can’t
deny his brilliance.
Remember Shakti pulled out older material as well as, recent compositions,
including, Sakhi that featured Zakir on vocals and allowed both percussionists
to play with their various instruments. McLaughlin also had a new toy to play
with, a laptop computer wired to his guitar that created a synthesizer effect.
And the overall effect of the quartet’s repertoire was one of an improvisational
jam session with a few brilliant solos strung together by nostalgia for the
original Shakti that appeared on world stages from 1975 to 1977. I enjoyed many
of the solos, especially by the two percussionist as well as, fleeting moments
of the musicians connecting on a soul level. And the Ma No Pa raga featured
mandolin and guitar in tandem anchored by beats from northern and southern India
also captivated my ears.
Don’t be mistaken, Remember Shakti is McLaughlin’s jazz fusion extravaganza and
I give him credit for his contributions to Indian and world music. After all, if
it wasn’t for musicians like McLaughlin, Ry Cooder and others, I wouldn’t be
sitting here reviewing a world music fusion concert. Although the word legendary
is overused when marketing artists, I tip my hat to you Mr. McLaughlin as well
as, Zakir, Hussain and the future of world music, U. Shrinivas and V.
Selvaganesh. May the legend continue.
John McLaughlin recordings available: To The One, Electric Guitarist, Floating Point, Extrapolation, Love Devotion Surrender, Inner Mounting Flame, Live at the Royal Festival Hall, Devotion, My Goal’s Beyond, Que Alegria, Industrial Zen, Shakti, Trio of Doom: John McLaughlin Jaco Pastorius Tony Williams, Thieves & Poets, The Guitar Trio, Mahavishnu, John McLaughlin: Concerto for Guitar & Orchestra “The Mediterranean”, Heart of Things: Live in Paris, Remember Shakti: The Believer, Birds of Fire, Devotion, Remember Shakti: Saturday Night in Bombay, Visions of the Emerald Beyond, Between Nothingness & Eternity.