Sunday, 16 July 2006

Trilok Gurtu & Pandits Rajan and Sajan Misra

Queen Elizabeth Hall

The first time i heard the tabla was during rockin' umbria 1987 or 1988. at those times i had no idea what tabla drums were. a trio, 2 germans and a very old indian guru performed in the magic venue of San Francesco al Prato, an old deconsecrated church with a roofless apse. they played a sort of mystical, magical, mix of indian and jazz, I would think, although memories aren't clear. What I remember vividly is the feeling of revelation. However I didn't act, the rock festival was in full swing and I got carried away by other music and other musicians..
One or 2 years later I saw Joe Zawinul and Trilok Gurtu, I think it was the Pavone Cinema of Perugia, obviously as part of Umbria Jazz. Trilok had a small extra platform, a small stage, raised few cm. above the main stage. He would squat down on the mini stage, on a nice persian carpet, and play his percussions, tabla, a small drum set he would play in a very awkward position, and many other instruments and objects to make noises and sounds. Again it was a revelation, but this time I did my research, bought CDs, learned , listend to more of that music and ever since the tabla is and remains the most amazing drum I can think of, and I am glad I have see even better players than Trilok Gurtu, like Zakir Hussein.
But back on the subject. I saw TG one more time in florence, him and an indian dancer, again a very good concert and dance show.
But years later, more recently, we saw him in a very unfortunate concert at the North Sea Jazz Festival, the venue the Dack Terrasse (spelling could be wrong). Unknown to me, TG had "evolved" into the Asian dance / techno music thing, and was now performing with some woman singer (black but not indian), in a disastrous concert, that suffered not only of technical problems, but especially of the bad voice of the girl/singer , the lack of preparation and the fact that the music was dreadful and possibly also because most of the people knew TG for his more traditional percussion work.
It was horrible, we left after 15 mins, I was really sad that my tabla hero had fallen so badly and embarressed himself (at least in my eyes).

2 weeks ago I saw he was playing here tonight, and although the programme mentioned specifically (and I quote): "The performance, with not an electric instrument in sight [...]" and mentioned instead traditional indian music, I was reluctant. Eventually I was convinced to go, and I must say I don't regret it.

First of all because I had a chance to hear the 2 old indian singers and brothers, Pandits Rajan and Sajan Misra, who are really phenomenal, as well as the music, old classic traditional folk indian music, but also because TG is also back to his old self, a great percussionist. Perhaps the concert could have been rehaersed a bit better, but despite that it was still a "bloody good concert", and thanks to she who convinced me to go.

As usual for indian music concerts here in London, also the audience is a nice part of the show: colourful, cheerful, of all ages, some very old grandmas, large families with all ages in a row.. a great thing to see, although perhaps it makes us a bit sad and makes us homesick at least in the fact that we can't take our grannies or parents to these shows (without considering how unusual for them this whole would be... ), it nice to be part of it.

concert info