Fusion music Music

The tabla that spoke

From monologues to jugalbandis — intense musical conversations transcending genres made the Guruttama concert memorable

The audience seemed to vanish for the six musicians on stage, as they played for the Guruttama concert, organised by Shakti Foundation at The Music Academy, for charity. Instead, they had eyes only for each other on stage, as if caught up in intense conversation, in a language only they are privy to.

On the keyboard was Stephen Devassy, who incidentally, turned 38 that day. Taking care of the strings were lead guitarist Dominique Di Piazza, bass guitarist Mathias Muller, representing the jazz and blues front, while Abhijit Nair played the Carnatic violin. On percussion were Rodney Holmes with the drums, and tabla player Bickram Ghosh.

“This concert is about spreading peace and love,” declared Stephen before starting the show, in tune with Shakti Foundation’s mission of building a more inclusive society for children with disabilities. However, he forgot to add, that there would be just the right amount of madness.

Dressed in all-white, the jazz quartet of Stephen, Dominique, Mathias and Rodney jumped right into it with a composition by Mathias. Rodney shone in this, as a powerhouse of a drummer. In the following piece, the four were relentless, the apparent lack of silence bringing in a sense of urgency.

However, the true magic happened when Abhijit and Bickram joined the four, in a fusion of Jazz, Blues, Carnatic and Hindustani. The set list, curated by Raju Rajamani, comprised iconic guitarist John McLaughlin’s ‘Little Miss Valley’, a fun Blues riff, the fusion ‘Ahimsa’, that sounded Indian, though it had been composed by Mathias, and mandolin legend U Srinivas’ Indian version of ‘River Song’, in raag Des.

The ‘River Song’, meditative and soothing in its use of the violin, was a tribute to the late Velan Raghuvir, founder of Shakti Foundation. It was moving to see Stephen lose himself in this piece, with closed eyes and a face scrunched up in passion. The song flowed as gently as the river it is named after.

The tabla that spoke

Bringing the madness back, however, was Zinc, a composition by Bickram Ghosh, which literally, put the spotlight back on percussion. Though the drums and the tabla provided steady support to the strings and the keys throughout, it was here that they got to show off their skills. The hook line, incidentally, sounded like James Bond readying for a mission.

Bickram and Rodney’s jugalbandi embodied a friendly ‘music-off’ between the East and the West; as the tabla and the drums tried to best the other. “You may have seen drums and bass, but now you’ll see drums and face,” joked Bickram, as he proceeded to alternate beats on his tabla, chest and cheeks, turning his entire body into an instrument.

The six came together once more for the final song: a conversation of sorts, where each player got his monologue. The solos became shorter — down to a single note — and more light-hearted, with each round. And so, the musical baton passed around, ending in a storm of collective music — a fitting tribute to Shakti Foundation’s idea that a supportive group amplifies individual beauty.

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Printable version | Feb 19, 2020 5:57:17 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/music/shakti-foundation-concert-for-charity-conversation-in-fusion-music/article26366159.ece

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