Artist Profiles: Trilok Gurtu

Trilok Gurtu

A renowned master musician and composer, Trilok Gurtu has been at the forefront of innovative musical collaborations for the past years.

The son of one of India’s most beloved classical singers, Shobha Gurtu, Trilok first picked up the tabla at the age of six. He went on to invent a peerless style, blending contemporary rock and jazz forms with classical Indian techniques, and developing an unorthodox East-West drum kit, with Western drums arranged on the ground, Indian-style, alongside his tablas and percussion instruments.

A four-time winner of the Down Beat Critic’s poll in the Best Percussionist category, Gurtu’s technique is indisputable and his resume speaks for itself: he has performed with a host of the world’s greatest musicians. Don Cherry, Jan Garbarek, Joe Zawinul, Pat Metheny, Bill Evans, Angelique Kidjo and Oumou Sangare have guested on his recordings.

Trilok has in turn appeared on albums by John McLaughlin, Pharoah sanders, Nitin Sawhney, Lalo Schifrin, Gilberto Gil and Bill Laswell, Gurtu’s music often finds its way onto the turntables of UK producer/DJs like Talvin Singh and Asian Dub Foundation.On last year’s African Fantasy album, his Blue Thumb debut, Gurtu developed an innovative marriage of African and Indian musical traditions.

On the Beat of Love, Gurtu widens and deepens the interplay between African and Indian Musical forms, achieving an even richer integration of the two by featuring more Indian vocalists and combining vocals from Indian and African artists. “We have the sense of both continents all the way through,” explains Badarou. “Some tracks have the Indian taking the lead and the African backing, some songs in reverse. I hope we achieved a synthesis of both.”

For his latest recording project, Indian-born Gurtu pairs with West African producer Wally Badarou. Gurtu and Badarou drew deep inspiration from Gurtu’s previous Blue Thumb release, African Fantasy, as they traveled to the capitals of Africa and India, gathering rhythms, street songs and musical friends, preparing to record the project.

They assembled the stories and sounds they found with the help of Grammy-winning engineer Matt Howe (Lauryn Hill) and Squeeze’s Chris Difford (who wrote the lyrics for “Ola Bombay” in addition to supervising part of the recording at his Helioscentric studio in East Sussex, England).

Trilok Gurtu

The result is a forward-thinking mix of trans-national world music styles. “We make bridges, not barriers. This is what the world requires…Technique is OK to prove your art, but it’s not everything. Only feelings will reach the people.”

In 2005, The Trilok Gurtu Collection came out. It assembled some of master percussionist Trilok Gurtu’s best tracks from the CMP catalog, where Trilok released albums over a span of 20 years, on this Silva Screen Treasury reissue (SIL-CD-3014 UPC 738572301422). The record came out June 6th, at a reduced price point. The Trilok Gurtu Collection features some of his most memorable collaborations, including the Gurtu/Zawinul Ballad for Two Musicians, and the tribute to his great friend Don Cherry “Cherry Town”. Also featured are saxophonist Jan Garbarek, percussionist Nana Vasconcelos, saxophonist Bill Evans, guitarists Pat Matheney, Ralph Towner and David Gilmore, Indian vocalist Shobha Gurtu, violinist L. Shankar, and his long-time friend, trumpet player Don Cherry.


La Terra (The Earth), with Aktuala (Bla Bla, 1974)
Tappeto Volante (Flying Carpet) with Aktuala (Bla Bla, 1976)
Apo Calypso, with Embryo (1977)
Friends, with Toto Blanke Electric Circus (1979)
Family, with Toto Blanke Electric Circus (1980)
Personal Note, Mark Nauseef with Joachim Kühn, Jan Akkerman, Detlev Beier (1982)
Finale, with Charly Antolini (1983)
Song for Everyone, with L. Shankar (1985)
Usfret (CMP, 1987)
Ecotopia, with Oregon (1987)
45th Parallel, with Oregon (1989)
Live at the Royal Festival Hall, with the John McLaughlin Trio (1990)
Living Magic (1990)
Always, Never and Forever, with Oregon (1991)
Que Alegria, with the John McLaughlin Trio (1992)
Crazy Saints (1993)
Believe (1995)
Bad Habits Die Hard (CMP, 1995)
The Glimpse (1997)
Kathak (1998)
Cor, with Maria João & Mário Laginha (1998)
African Fantasy (2000)
The Beat of Love (2001)
Remembrance (2002)
Miles Gurtu, with Robert Miles (2004)
Broken Rhythms (2004)
Farakala (2006)
Arkeology (2007)
Massical (2009)
Piano Car, with Stefano Ianne (2010)
21 Spices, with Simon Phillips & NDR Big Band (2011)
Spellbound (Sunnyside, 2013)

Author: Angel Romero

Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music music for many years. He founded the websites and Angel produced several TV specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World.


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