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Asia Trilok Gurtu

Trilok Gurtu (India)

Song : Brindavan Dance
Album : Remembrance (Universal Music)

Visit : worldmusicnet & universalmusicworld
Elsewhere in BBCi : CD review

Long before the UK's Asian Underground scene emerged in the late 1990s, Trilok Gurtu was creating his own experimental fusions between Indian music, rock, jazz and even African styles. So, its no surprise that he's now cited as a major influence by artists like Nitin Sawhney, Asian Dub Foundation and Talvin Singh.

During live performances he often kneels to play his customised east/west hybrid kit of drums, gongs, cymbals, shakers, bells and chimes. His playful approach to music seems to rub off on the audience, who seldom miss a beat during sing-alongs.

Born 50 years ago in Bombay, Gurtu grew up surrounded by music. His grandfather played the sitar and his mother Shobha Gurtu is still popular as a singer of a light classical Hindustani (North Indian) style called thumri. They fostered his natural desire to join in family jam sessions and he began to play percussion instruments from the age of six.

As a teenager, he was soon drawn to foreign sounds and claims to have wanted to play the tablas like Jimi Hendrix played the guitar. After travelling in Europe for two years, he returned to Bombay to work as a professional musician on Bollywood soundtracks, rubbing shoulders with the great playback singer Asha Bhosle among others.

During the 80s and 90s Gurtu lived and worked in Europe and the US, playing and recording with a wide range of performers. Among the most prominent were jazz fusionists Oregon, Brazilian percussionist Nana Vasconcelos, the John McLaughlin Trio, Pat Metheney and Joe Zawinul. He even toured with classical musicians.

He began making solo albums in 1986, and by 1998 had reached a turning point. The African Fantasy album took him away from jazz and towards his most fully realised fusion of African and Indian sounds. Guest appearances by Oumou Sangare, Angélique Kidjo and Zap Mama's Sabine Kabongo helped it outsell all his previous efforts. He followed it with The Beat Of Love, which extended the African connection to include contributions by Wally Badarou and Salif Keita as well as introducing several Bollywood musicians and vocalists.

Trilok's music has come full circle with the release of latest album Remembrance ­ his first recording made completely in India with Indian musicians. These include tabla maestro Zakir Hussain, top Bollywood singer Shankar Mahadevan and, once again, his mum. All this has earned him a BBC Radio 3 Awards for World Music nomination for the second year running.

Jon Lusk 2002

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