Remember Shakti concert in Budapest proved that music truly has no language.
The temperatures are running low in the city; as the clock ticked towards 7.30 p.m., people trickled into the auditorium like a stream gathering flow. There is a growing buzz and sitting in the upper balcony, you could get a bird’s eye view of the concert hall. The performers walk in with an effortless ease. You can tell that they brought along a rapport and camaraderie as the hall echoed a thunderous applause before it even began.
Melody erupts out of John McLaughlin’s guitar with his back bent and his face flashing a grin to Zakir Hussain, his partner in this musical genius for over 40 years. The tempo gradually increases and right when you were getting comfortable, the music catches you unaware to take you into the fast lane. Each instrument complements the other, the strings of the guitar and mandolin pace the beats of the tabla and the kanjira and Shankar Mahadevan’s voice ties them all together. The group played some of their popular numbers, Bending the rules — a composition by Shankar and Bridge of Sighs. Each melancholy tune of the guitar is caught by U. Srinivas and Zakir Hussain, who adds his effervescence. One couldn’t tell if it was the thrill of listening to music close to heart or experiencing some of the best acoustic arrangements in the world, but you could tell that you belonged in that very moment, destined to witness an exhilarating combination of jazz and Indian classical music. The quintet gives fusion an all new meaning by combining elements of Indian music — both Hindustani and Carnatic with elements of jazz and blues. ‘Remember Shakti’ is a version of the band from the 1970s, Shakti with Vikku Vinayakram, L. Shankar, R. Raghavan, John McLaughlin and Zakir Hussain. A lot has changed in their style, especially with the addition of vocals, but the impact remains the same. Remember Shakti’s rhythm emerges like a phoenix rising from the ashes of yesterday.
What starts out with a thunderous applause must also end with one and the Remember Shakti concert in Budapest got more than that. As the audience stood clapping for over 15 minutes, the group came back to the stage over three times. The applause wasn’t just thunderous, it became deafening and deservedly so.
“You could listen to pop, rock or be into any other genre of music, but call it social conditioning or habits you pick up from living in India, you can’t ignore classical Indian music,” says Prashant Mhatre, as we step out of the concert hall at the Budapest Palace of Arts. Prashant is a marketing manager who has been living in Budapest for close to three years now. Like him there are many other Indians who are hurrying back to their cars with a smile on their face. A chilly evening was warmed by the strums of guitarist John McLaughlin and the resonant beats of Zakir Hussain coupled with the breathless alaaps delivered by Shankar Mahadevan. All this graced by U. Srinivas’s mandolin notes and V. Selvaganesh’s kanjira, ghatam and mridangam. For the Indians in the crowd, this concert was a small trip down memory lane, for the others it was a window to India.
(The concert was held on November 14 at The Budapest Palace of Arts. Remember Shakti is currently touring Europe)