Waltons World Masters - Trilok Gurtu

Trilok Gurtu

Trilok GurtuPerformance

When Tuesday, 1 April 2003, 8 pm
Where National Concert Hall, Main Auditorium
Presented by Waltons New School of Music
Supported by RTÉ lyric fm

Cormac Larkin preview (Sunday Tribune)
Jim Carroll concert review (Irish Times)


When Wednesday, 2 April 2003, 11 am
Where National Concert Hall, John Field Room
Presented by Waltons New School of Music in association with National Concert Hall Education & Outreach
Supported by IRMA Trust, Remo and RTÉ lyric fm

Cormac Larkin, The Sunday Tribune, 30 March 2003

ONE of the most fascinating spectacles in all of music, and one which should not be missed in the National Concert Hall next week as part of the Waltons World Masters series, is the sight of the percussionist Trilok Gurtu performing live. Gurtu's drum kit, if you can call it that, is one of his own devising, mixing western and Indian elements with an assortment of bells, gongs, and cymbals. Unlike western drummers, Gurtu prefers to kneel at his instrument, occasionally operating a hi-hat or a bass drum with one foot raised, depending on his requirements. At other times, he delves into the bewildering array of objects surrounding him on the floor, ranging from Indian tablas to a bucket of water.

If the sight is transfixing, then the sounds he conjures from this percussion menagerie are doubly so, as Gurtu is one of the first Indian musicians to successfully transfer the subtlety and complexity of Indian drumming to the western drum kit.

In many ways the two traditions could not be more different. The western drum kit is the direct descendant of a marching band percussion section, whose military object was straightforward - scare the shit out of your enemy by being as loud as possible. Hence the size of the bass drum which is pounded with a felt mallet, and the sharp metallic attack of the snare drum played with two sticks.

Indian drums, in contrast, are usually much smaller, and are pitched at the volume of the human voice. Moreover, they are played not with the arms at full stretch, but with infinite subtlety using the tips of the fingers.

What Trilok Gurtu has managed to do is take the intense grooves and complex polyrhythms of the Indian tradition and transfer them to his own version of the Western kit without any loss in the intensity of the Indian material, but in a form that can happily be performed alongside electric guitars and synthesisers.

Gurtu was born in 1951 in Bombay into a musical family, and began playing the tablas at the age of six. His grandfather was a well-known sitar player and his mother is the vocalist Shobha Gurtu, who is a celebrated exponent of Hindustani classical music. However, by the age of 14, Gurtu had already heard Miles Davis and John Coltrane and began playing jazz.

In 1973, he came to Europe with an Indian jazz-rock group and stayed. Since then he has divided his time between Europe and the US, collaborating with a wide range of musicians, including Charlie Mariano, Don Cherry, Jan Garbarek and Rainer Brunninghaus, with whom he played a memorable concert in Trinity's Edmund Burke theatre in the late '80s. He was also a member of the ground-breaking 'world music' group, Oregon, replacing the late Collin Walcott.

It was probably his association with John McLaughlin however that nally catapulted Gurtu to the international fame he now enjoys. Over a series of albums, beginning with 'Live at the Royal Festival Hall' (1989, JMT), McLaughlin's trio, including Gurtu on his hybrid drum kit and the bassist Kai Eckhardt, forged a new rock-oriented fusion of jazz and Indian music, which enjoyed much popular and critical acclaim. Gurtu's playing in the trio was a revelation to many drummers and he has been instrumental in bringing new and more complex time signatures into jazz.

Since his association with McLaughlin, Gurtu has become a 'world music' superstar, leading his own bands and recording a series of crossover albums embracing jazz, Indian music, African music and dance. In 1993, he recorded 'Crazy Saints' (CMP) which featured a stellar cast, including Weather Report's synthesizer genius, Joe Zawinul and the immoderately famous guitarist Pat Metheny. That year he also toured in a duo with Zawinul, confirming his status as a superstar, with an appeal stretching far beyond the confines of the jazz world.

The group which Gurtu is bringing to Dublin is something of an unknown quantity. In recent years, the percussionist has been concentrating on his own 'world beat' projects, with perhaps less spectacular artistic success than his jazz collaborations, at least to my ears.

His recent releases, such as 'The Beat of Love' (Blue Thumb, 2001) are hybrids of African, Indian and western dance rhythms.

While undeniably appealing, they don't have the same raw energy as his jazz playing, although his most recent work does seem to represent a renewed interest in his Indian roots.

The line up for the concert in the National Concert Hall on Tuesday night includes vocals, synthesisers and sitar, and he will also give a masterclass on Wednesday morning in the John Field Room which will be a must for all drummers, not to mention everyone else.

Jim Carroll, The Irish Times, 3 April 2003

Anyone who has experienced the majesty of Indian tabla master and percussionist Trilok Gurtu will testify to the primal power of the drums. From Bombay, Gurtu's exploits with Don Cherry, Gilberto Gil and Bill Laswell, as well as his seminal contributions to the John McLaughlin Trio, have sealed his reputation as a rhythm master.

In Dublin as part of the World Masters series presented by Waltons New School of Music, Gurtu gave a good-humoured, virtuoso display of what he terms 'mass-ical' music, sounds for the masses rather than the classes. Accompanied by Ravi Chary on sitar, London-based vocalist Sanchita Farruque and Celia Regianni (keyboards and samples), Gurtu's skills allow him to fuse and blend a mouth-watering selection of styles, from the traditional wash of fluid Indian and silky African rhythms to out-there drum-shaped sounds, wonderfully eclectic patterns and waywardly melodic textures....

A hypnotic rendition of 'Eastern Journey' allowed the group to sketch out a fusion which coiled from soft Indian whispers to more layered and driving funk. While some of the ensemble pieces suffered a little from a heavy reliance on samples, you couldn't say the same thing about Gurtu's two solo runs.

The verve, complexity, inventiveness and execution of these pieces showed why the percussionist is so highly regarded. What started with Gurtu tinkering with his kit (including all manner of bells and gongs) built into a storm of masterly rhythm, incorporating displays of human beatboxery (usually the confine of hip-hop acts), intricate tabla playing and highly involved drumming. As drum solos go, you'd listen to them again and again.

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