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Shakti With John McLaughlin - Remember Shakti - Saturday Night in Bombay CD (album) cover


Shakti With John McLaughlin

Indo-Prog/Raga Rock

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4 stars Master guitarist John McLaughlin once again redefines the meaning of fusion in this year 2000 concert recording, and likewise reaffirms his deep affection for classical Indian music and philosophy.

But please don't confuse the ongoing Remember Shakti project with its late '70s namesake, unheard by this critic, but judging from reviews a different animal altogether. Instead of being an actual band, Remember Shakti is (was?) more of a free-form, open-ended collaboration between McLaughlin and an interchangeable cast of traditional Indian musicians, typically spearheaded by tabla virtuoso Zakir Hussain.

For this gig, performed on Hussain's home turf, the ex-MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA leader was joined by a small army of local players, employing a vast array of arcane instruments with unpronounceable names: kanjira, tavil, mridangam, pakhawaj, and so forth. The music, not surprisingly, is firmly rooted in ancient Indian aesthetics, but don't let that scare you away: this is magical stuff, played with enough skill and energy to translate across any cultural barrier.

Every performance is galvanized, and McLaughlin in particular is near the top of his game (or is that simply because his electric guitar is the only instrument here I can readily identify with?) Listen to his adrenalin-fueled duel with mandolin player U. Shrinivas in the breathless concert opener "Luki", with its airtight Jazz Rock tempos maybe the most accessible track here to unacclimatized Western ears (it's also the only McLaughlin-penned composition on the entire disc). Marvel too at the quiet intensity of his solos over the haunting strains of the Indian zither in "Shringar", at 26+ minutes long clearly a highlight of the evening.

Even with genuine, recognizable drums and occasional singing (typically the hyper-drive scat of Shankar Mahadevan), the sound is obviously more Indian than Anglo Saxon. But it shouldn't be dismissed offhand out of unspoken cultural chauvinism. Consider this: if the exact same music had been played with conventional rock instruments (imagine it as an OZRIC TENTACLES album), this CD would be widely hailed as modern ethnic-trance masterpiece.

Sometimes it's all a question of perspective. And isn't that the ultimate goal of any stab at musical fusion? To help foster an awareness of a wider musical spectrum beyond the narrow comfort zone of our own cultural preferences?

Report this review (#168212)
Posted Sunday, April 20, 2008 | Review Permalink
2 stars Remember Shakti? Actually no I don't. This is my first encounter with them. However, I would like to go on record and say that I dig Indian music and I also dig jazz-fusion, so naturally I wanted to hear this Jazz-Fusion-Indian album. Shakti was initially a fusion project between phenomenal jazz guitarist John McLaughlin and some Indian musicians in the 1970s, but disbanded after a few years. Some 20 years later Shakti reunited and one of the results of that reunion is this particular live album. Having not heard their 70s albums I cannot comment on how this compares to those older albums, but I do know that this live album is a pretty fascinating experience. The two tracks I want to point out are Shringar and Bell' Alla. These are both quite exceptional. McLaughlin is really on fire here and plays his guitar as if it was a sitar. Rather convincingly I might add. The other two tracks are non-essential and both feature a vocalist singing in a particular scat style that becomes a little annoying after awhile. I've never been a fan of scat singing personally. This album is not really essential for progheads unless of course they are a little bit curious about jazz-inflected Indian music.
Report this review (#1151579)
Posted Thursday, March 20, 2014 | Review Permalink

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