Percussionist Zakir Hussain is a master musician on the tabla – and just about every other piece of percolating percussion that he can lay his hands on. And Niladri Kumar is a virtuoso on the sitar.
Hmmmmmm? Why not put these two magnificent Indian performers on the same stage at the intimate and oh-so-acoustic-friendly Swyer Theatre in The Egg?
What do you get? Well, world-class world-music magic!
The first set was straight-ahead traditional ragas and such. Remember, in India you have to prove that you know what you’re doing, traditionally speaking, on your instrument before earning the green light to go ahead and start mixing it up with other music.
The second set was a dizzying world-music mix of new age stylings and lots more. From raindrops to computer-generated sound tapestries, the duo made the evening a soundscape to remember. Kumar’s fingers flew all across the instruments fret board with aplomb – so many strings, so few fingers – and made it all seem so effortless.
Hussain could have been sleepwalking while playing, and we wouldn’t have been any the wiser. His playing was trance-inducing, and his magnificent command of the instrument was positively breathtaking.
It’s amazing that these two world-class musicians – with or without computer generated back-drop sounds – could make their music sound as if at least two other musicians were on stage playing right along with them.
Review and photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk
Excerpt from David Singer’s review at The Daily Gazette: “Both come from a family of musicians, Kumar a fifth-generation sitarist. Both play steeped in the tradition of their instruments but are credited with modernizing their instruments. Kumar occasionally played recognizable guitar licks — using his whole body to play during one climactic moment — and Hussain easily chased him down with drum moves common among western set drummers. Make no mistake, they played far outside the boundaries of both eastern and western traditions, creating beautiful sounds and intensely deep moments that required little effort for the listener. While the music feels foreign and inaccessible at first blush, it is quite easy to fall into.”