Gig review/ Trilok Gurtu & The Castle In Time Orchestra



Show: Harmonies In Time

Artistes: Trilok Gurtu with the Castle In Time Orchestra & Chandana Bala Kalyan

Genre: World music

Details: Tata Theatre, Mumbai, February 9

Rating: ****

Whenever one attends a Trilok Gurtu concert, one is guaranteed of a surprise. We've seen the ace drummer often in the 1990s and early 2000s, at the Rang Bhavan, Oberoi or Shanmukhananda Hall, playing with tabla maestro Zakir Hussain, mandolin wizard U. Srinivas or German bassist Kai Eckhardt, or doing a solo set. Even his YouTube videos with guitarist John McLaughlin, keyboardist Joe Zawinul or violinist L. Shankar have been par excellence.

On Thursday night, we were lucky again. Mumbai-bred, Hamburg-settled Trilok teamed up with the Israel-based Castle In Time Orchestra to perform compositions that covered time spans from the historic to the contemporary, and global regions from India to Africa and Europe. The two have collaborated earlier in Jerusalem in 2017, but there were two notable differences this time. From an original orchestra size of 22, this one featured only 11, thus not utilising instruments like the oboe and bassoon. Secondly, the presence of Mumbai vocalist Chandana Bala Kalyan added a fresh Indianness to the sound.

Titled Harmonies In Time, the music blended traditional styles with eclectic world music and avant garde jazz explorations, simplicity with complexity, set structure with random improvisations, technique with theatre. The Israeli conductor, Matan Daskal, wasn't dressed in a suit and didn't stand on a podium. He dressed in casuals, danced vigorously and mathematically to the music and simultaneously conducted from memory. His steps matched the melody, rhythm and harmony in singular elegance.

The Israeli line-up comprised keyboards, guitar, violin, cello, bass, trumpet, trombone, saxophone, French horn and percussion. Trilok's kit was a mix of drum-set and other percussion, with tabla, gongs and cajon added to the mix. Over 100 minutes, the music just flowed seamlessly, beginning with Chandana singing 'Zhala Usheer Aata', followed by a dazzling Trilok solo. 

One wished there were a couple of brief spoken interludes to describe the tracks, specially the compositional style or geographic source of inspiration. From an audience perspective, one recognised Chandana's vocals on 'Saawan Aayo Re', which had some marvellous trumpet and bass sections, or a humour-filled number. In a sudden surprise, one also heard the introduction of R.D. Burman's 'Pyaar Karne Waale'. 

Trilok addressed the audience towards the end, and his wry sense of humour was evident. When the crowd demanded an encore, he said, "I was supposed to go backstage and come back again, but there's no point doing all that". He also talked of adding another beat to a song as he didn't have to pay anything for it.

The show concluded with 'Balatu', which Trilok described as having elements of African and South Indian music. "If your grasp of Indian classical music is strong, you can play any kind of music in the world," the drummer said, to much applause.

The Israeli musicians were fabulous, and Chandana's presence was just appropriate, providing vocals on only some songs. The crowd response was fabulous, though one wished the visitors got a louder applause.

Backstage, it was a pleasure to see drummer Sivamani greet and complement Trilok. One only hoped they could have continued the performance there. Trilok and the Castle In Time Orchestra perform at 1AQ, Mehrauli, New Delhi on February 11. In case you haven't booked your ticket, leave aside everything else.


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