Opening Concert - Pulse of the World with Zakir Hussain
Sushil Dade reports
I just got home from an amazing opening concert with Indian tabla legend Zakir Hussain, who took to the stage with a cast of dozens after a two day residency in Glasgow collaborating with Celtic folk musicians Michael McGoldrick, Ross Ainslie and Charlie McKerron.
The concert started in bombastic style with the Boghall and Bathgate Caledonia Pipe Band drum section. The high energy drumming soon melted into soundscapes and textures from the East. Haunting Gaelic vocals mixed with flutes and inventive use of strings, and a perfect marriage between Indian tabla and Celtic bodhran emerged. At times the musical compass pointed firmly to the East but always swiftly moved back to the west, from Mumbai to Boghall in three simple chords. The players showed great sensitivity, giving space and time for each others' expressions, largely featuring acoustic sounds but underpinned by a backbone of electronic tambura.
Zakir's use of solo tabla was tantalising and he demonstrated the art form to the full, using 'bhole' (which translates as syllables or words), to display the many sounds and colours available from these two deceptively simple drums. His pace varied from minimalist to furious, like a man machine.
The audience was captivated for the whole two hours - you could hear a pin drop in the hall. There were moments of humour too - Zakir introduced the band tuning up for the second set as an ancient Chinese piece - 'chew ning', geddit? - possibly also a reference to Ravi Shankar's legendary comedy moment at Woodstock where he received rapturous applause for his tune-up.
It was a victorious opening concert for Celtic Connections 2011 - a storming beginning to the festival demonstrating that Indian and Celtic traditions have plenty of common ground.