Zakir Hussain’s tabla brings Indian classical music into the 21st century with Triveni at The Egg

Both The Beatles and The Grateful Dead were inspired and influenced by Indian classical music. Simple and sublime, the sounds of the tabla (Indian twin drums), veena (Indian lute) and singing fiddle are influenced by the discipline of years of teaching and an Indian heritage that stretches back over a thousand years.

Three of the world’s most renowned artists in these traditions perform The Egg on Sunday, April 10and. Zakir Hussain, Kala Ramnath and Jayanthi Kumaresh perform together as Triveni named after the mythical site of the union of three sacred rivers in India. The name well represents the confluence of the varied musicality that the three maestros bring to this collaboration.

Generally considered the best tabla player in the world, Hussain teamed up with Mickey Hart, percussionist in The Grateful Dead, a key man in the hedonistic psychedelic movement that forever changed the definition of popular music and pop culture. At Mickey Hart’s Planet Drumhis Grammy-winning CD in 1991, included the best percussionists from many different world cultures, including Babatunde Olatunji, Airto Moreira, Giovanni Hidalgo… and Zakir Hussain.

Talk about a culture shock! “I was able to execute thousand-year-old ideas and repertoires and stuff almost perfectly and play them all, but when I got here, and I ran into Mickey Hart, suddenly a whole different world opened up. is open,” says Hussain. .

“I was suddenly confronted with all these very different ways of understanding rhythm and being able to express it. Some were very rhythmic, very scientific like mine. But some were very open, very lyrical, very fluid and very spontaneous, laid back or pushed forward, and suddenly looking at the rhythm in a very rigid, box-like way was not the way to go. I had to be open.

Hussain’s work with Mickey Hart taught him how to advance the worldview of the tabla from an accompanying percussion instrument to a lead instrument in concerts. So the master who went to graduate school at the University of Washington and had spent his life studying his father’s tabla (also a world famous tabla player) became the student of a man whom society “straight” considers one of the most famous hippies in the world.

“Coming from India into this world and thinking I was going to teach them Indian music, it became a teaching and learning experience,” says Hussain. “It shaped me in a few areas like no other in India, and I was blessed to be able to have that color in me that appealed to young audiences all over India and gave me a shelf a bit more raised to live than other young tabla players of my generation.

Four years ago, Zakir Hussain performed to a packed house at Troy Music Hall. To say the show was intoxicating is an understatement. Entire Indian families were present, some in ceremonial dress. As the start of the show approached, there was a palpable buzz that abruptly stopped as two musicians took the stage, bowed to their fans, and began to play.

The sound started out as a pure bugle call from the flute and built into a back and forth of flute and tabla that swirled around and around in increasingly energetic flights. Audiences of all ages were completely silent until after repeated epiphanies they burst into applause.

Hussain does for the tabla what Bela Fleck does for the banjo. He develops an instrument once considered only intended for accompaniment in a lead role. He makes the two tablas sound like four instruments at once. Each hand plays a different tabla. He gets a variety of textures depending on how far he hits it in the center of the tabla, how hard he hits it, and whether he uses his palms or fingers to strike, slide, or pop the stretched skin.

Joining Hussain at The Egg are two artists whose legacies stretch back centuries with academic credentials unmatched by nearly any American musician.

Dr. Jayanthi Kumaresh is one of the leading artists in Veena (basically, the Indian lute) today. A sixth-generation musician, she started playing Veena at the age of three and is one of the youngest Veena artists to be awarded All-India Radio’s highest A-TOP GRADING. She has performed at the San Francisco Jazz Festival, the United Nations in New York and the Northwest Folklife Festival in Seattle. She founded the Indian National Orchestra, where 21 musicians playing different Indian instruments came together under one banner to present Indian classical music. A researcher, she holds a doctorate for her work on “Saraswati Veena playing styles and techniques” and leads workshops and lecture-demonstrations around the world.

Maestro Kala Ramnath with his “Singing Violin” ranks among the best and most inspiring instrumentalists in the world. His playing was featured on the Grammy-nominated project Miles from India, and his compositions appeared on the Grammy-winning album. 27 pieces and 50 for the Future by the Kronos Quartet. The UK based company songs the magazine named Kala Ramnath as one of the 50 best instrumentalists in the world and selected her album, Kala, as one of his top 50 recordings.

Kala has performed at India’s most prestigious music festivals and performed on global stages such as the Sydney Opera House, Paris’s Théâtre de la Ville, London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall, the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco, the Esplanade in Singapore, Carnegie Hall in New York, the Rudolstadt Festival in Germany and the Edinburgh Music Festival in Scotland.

Hussain credits Mickey Hart and Planet Drum for enabling his muse in a way that unleashes his classic Indian muse in a way unique to the style. “Mickey Hart was very important, very humble, and he asked for help from these great masters himself initially, and that’s why they were with him, and when I arrived, they were there, and through him, I was able to receive this information in its most organic and honest form.

“Global drum beats have become the highlight of music content in stadiums and so on. It’s something that didn’t exist in the mid to late 80s when we were struggling to put the Planet Drum albums there, and then finally he won the Grammy and it all kind of went wild.

To achieve this, it took an incredible adjustment in attitude. Here’s how Hussain did it. “I had to figure out the words ‘groove’, ‘in-the-pocket’, etc., and there’s the tempo. This is where you need to be, and you don’t drive it. You just let it move quietly. All those kinds of things weren’t the problem in Indian music. You have just played the material.

Triveni performs on Sunday April 10and at 3 p.m. at The Egg at the Empire State Plaza in Albany. Tickets are $34. You can purchase tickets in person at the box office, by calling 518-473-1845 (TDD 518-473-4168), by faxing your order to 518-473-1848 or by mailing your order to PO Box 2065, Albany, NY 12220.

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