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Live in San Francisco at Stern Grove

Tabla Beat Science

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Album Review

Imagine you were having a dinner party and invited six or seven of your closest friends, each of whom is considered a master in their respective field. Let's say that throughout the night you introduced topics of conversation you knew would be of mutual interest to everyone, and you recorded the interchanges between these great minds for posterity's sake. No offense, but the results couldn't possibly be any more intriguing than this two-CD set, which is essentially the result of just such an experiment. Only in this case, the host is legendary bassist/mega-producer Bill Laswell, his friends rank among the world's greatest musicians, and the dialogue comes in the form of largely improvised cross-cultural collaborations between them. Don't let "Taaruf," the transcendent opening epic featuring tabla virtuoso Zakir Hussain and vocalist/sarangi master Ustad Sultan Khan, scare you: though the song's 16-minute length might put off those with short attention spans, it's an excellent appetizer for the stylistic smorgasbord that awaits. The following track, "Sacred Channel," adds Karsh Kale's jazz-rock drumming and Laswell's dub-influenced basslines to the mix, while "Nafekefi" features dynamic vocalist Ejigayehu "Gigi" Shibabaw. By the end of the first CD, turntablist DJ Disk and electronic experimentalists MIDIval PunditZ and Fabian Alsultany have entered the fray, and the songs have covered ground ranging from Indian classical and Ethiopian pop to funk, hip-hop, and drum'n'bass. It's an eclectic sound, to be sure, but if genre-defying, boundary-breaking music is your bag, Live in San Francisco at Stern Grove does it better than any live album since Miles Davis' electric period.

Biography

Genre: World

Years Active: '00s

The North Indian drums know as the tabla were said to have been invented in the 13th century by Amir Khusrau, a disciple of the Sufi saint Hazrat Nizemuddin Aluya. At the time, Khusrau sawed a pakhawaj (a single two-headed wooden drum) in two. Though no one may never know exactly why Khusrau felt it necessary it to saw a pakhawaj in half, his act gave birth to the tabla. Since that time, the tabla have been conceived to accompany vocalists and such instruments as the sitar (a multi-stringed...
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Live in San Francisco at Stern Grove, Tabla Beat Science
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