Reviews, profiles and news about music in Chicago

Preview: Zakir Hussain and the Masters of Percussion/Symphony Center

Indian Classical No Comments »
Photo: Jim McGuire

Photo: Jim McGuire


Son of tabla virtuoso Ustad Alla Rakha Khan, Zakir Hussain began life as a tabla prodigy in his native India, becoming a disciple of his legendary father before embarking on his own career at the age of twelve. His American debut saw him performing with Ravi Shankar.

In addition to his contributions to Indian classical music where he also vocalizes in the traditional manner, Hussain has long enjoyed cross-fertilizing Indian music with other genres, including Western classical music, jazz, rock, blues, Bollywood, et al. He co-founded the fusion group Shakti with guitarist John McLaughlin, the Grammy Award-winning “Planet Drum” and “Global Drum Project” with Mickey Hart of the Grateful Dead and has performed and recorded with a wide diversity of artists across genres including George Harrison, Yo-Yo Ma, Van Morrison, Mark Morris, Christoph Eschenbach, Rennie Harris, the Kodo Drummers and Bela Fleck and Edgar Meyer, among others. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Anoushka Shankar/City Winery

Folk, Indian Classical, Jazz, World Music No Comments »


After dabbling with electronic music in collaboration with Karsh Kale on “Breathing Under Water,” and then pursuing flamenco-fusion on her own “Traveller,” sitarist Anoushka Shankar returns to her classical roots with “Traces of You” while still keeping other genres within arm’s reach. The opening track “The Sun Won’t Set,” for instance, is a beautiful ballad recorded in collaboration with her half-sister Norah Jones, and is much closer to Jones’ alt-folk style than to Indian music.

Though much of the disc is dedicated to Indian ragas, some of the tunes venture into completely different directions. “Metamorphosis” brings together traditional and modern sounds, including electronics and electric bass, while the soft, piano-centric ballad “Fathers” has elements of modern jazz. Read the rest of this entry »

Record Review: “Tales From The Grand Bazaar” by Bombay Dub Orchestra

DJ, Drum 'n' Bass, Electronic/Dance, Indian Classical, Orchestral, Record Reviews, Vocal Music, World Music No Comments »


On their sixth musical foray, the duo formed by Garry Hughes and Andrew T. Mackay emerge with their trademark mix of electronica, orchestra and Indian sounds. During their career they have collaborated with luminaries like percussionist/composer Karsh Kale (who co-produced one of their earlier efforts) and sitarist Anoushka Shankar, all the while maintaining a tendency to focus on a dance-floor-friendly format.

This time around, they lean toward a more diverse direction by incorporating Asian-centric grooves. For instance, “Blue Mosaic” features wordless vocals and the koto, a traditional Japanese instrument, while “City of Amber” contains a fierce drum ‘n’ bass groove, much to the delight of DJs and remixers. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Anoushka Shankar & Guests/Pick-Staiger Concert Hall

Flamenco, Indian Classical, World Music No Comments »

Photo: Harper Smith


It took a while for sitarist Anoushka Shankar to get out of her comfort zone as an artist. Her first releases mostly consisted of ragas written by her father Ravi, but after 2005’s “Rise,” she began expanding her musical horizons by incorporating jazz, world music and electronica (2007’s excellent “Breathing Under Water” is a great example) while collaborating with other musicians.

On “Traveller” (Deutsche Grammophon), she takes things up a notch by mixing her signature sitar sound with the sounds of flamenco. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: T.S. Sankaran/Millenium Park

Festivals, Indian Classical, World Music No Comments »


When we in the West think of Indian classical music, we tend to think of instruments exclusively associated with that tradition such as the sitar and the tabla, but there is a long tradition of flute performance in India that predates its use in the West but which makes use of the same ragas and rhythms of Indian music though in a more subtle manner. This rare performance by Indian flute virtuoso T.S. Sankaran is part of the four-day “Dance India: Choreographing Traditions” festival and conference that is attracting Indian musicians and dancers from India and elsewhere and which will present Sankaran accompanied by Srikanth Venkataraman, a master violinist in the Indian classical tradition, and G. Vijayaraghavan on the South Indian drum known as the mridangam. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Music Without Borders: Anoushka Shankar & Karsh Kale/Pritzker Pavilion

DJ, Indian Classical, World Music No Comments »


Unlike a certain other daughter of legendary Indian sitarist Ravi Shankar who made a household name for herself superficially singing breathy interpretations of standards and elevator jazz, Anoushka Shankar is a multi-faceted musician whose talent is limited only by her imagination. Those of us who follow her father’s career know that it is Anoushka who alternates playing lead and second sitar in Ravi’s ensemble, paying strict attention to the extraordinary demands of his style of Indian classical music. But on her own, Anoushka’s music owes as much to the West as it does to the Indian tradition, and hers is truly a unique fusion of ambient music with an Indian sensibility as her newest album “Rise” (Angel/EMI) attests. A special DJ set by Karsh Kale will open this third and final concert in the City of Chicago’s new world-music series. Read the rest of this entry »