Monday, January 24, 2005

Remembering Shakti

Remember Shakti played in Hyderabad yesterday. Well, honestly I don't - remember them, that is, and shocked a couple of people by asking John McLaughlin who? But I had heard a little of Zakir Hussain and U Shrinivas and more than I liked of Shankar Mahadevan. So I went.

Honestly, I was disappointed. As I have been telling anyone who asked, the ensemble was considerably less than the sum of its parts. It wasn't 'composed' fusion music as much as a fun jamming session that worked in places and didn't in others.
In fact, the two pieces that were composed - Lotus Feet and Maya (Shrinivas' composition) were magnificent. The percussionists took a back seat, as they sometimes must, and Shrinivas and McLaughlin held sway. Aah, music with silences is the best music of all and they succeeded with those pieces.

I sometimes feel annoyed when superior artistes pander to mediocre crowds, giving them gimmicky flourishes and showy displays of technique. But yesterday brought a pang of sympathy. What are they to do? After all, even if you can't quite call them entertainers, they are nevertheless performers. What can they do if an audience sits on its hands after a pensive, deeply-felt piece and breaks into thunderous applause in the middle of a fast paced routine they could execute in their sleep?

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