Gig review: Zakir Hussain and Pulse Of The World, Glasgow

Tabla maestro Zakir Hussain had the Royal Concert Hall mesmerised. Picture: Getty
Tabla maestro Zakir Hussain had the Royal Concert Hall mesmerised. Picture: Getty
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With its usual seating replaced by supper club tables and chairs, Glasgow’s Royal Concert Hall was transformed last Friday into an intimate crucible of pan­global adventure. The refurbishment was in honour of Indian tabla maestro Zakir Hussain and his extraordinary ensemble of culturally diverse musicians.

Zakir Hussain and Pulse Of The World - Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow

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Performing as part of Alchemy Glasgow, a celebration of classical, traditional, folk and contemporary music from Pakistan, India and the UK, Hussain and co proved beyond all doubt that traditional Indian and Celtic music are natural bedfellows. Soul, rhythm, they’re universal. Flanked by six Caucasian musicians playing a sensitive melange of acoustic guitar, woodwind, violin and percussion, Hussain sat cross­legged alongside bamboo flautist Rakesh Chaurasia and violinist Ganesh Rajagopalan.

Their mesmerising instrumentals, though permitted to run free via wild improvisations, were anchored by Hussain’s unearthly lightning rhythms. His hands danced across the skins like spiders dodging raindrops, or Wile E Coyote racing off a cliff and peddling in mid­air. I mean that in the nicest possible way. This was no earnest recital. Rather, it was impish, friendly, contagious. Cheeky traces of The Bonnie Banks o’ Loch Lomond and Ennio Morricone’s theme from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly permeated funky pieces such as Michael’s Mattress, an almighty groove pitched somewhere between Bollywood and a Blaxploitation soundtrack.

When the ensemble played as one, the sound was utterly thrilling. You haven’t lived until you’ve heard bagpipes and tabla in simpatico. There ain’t no ceilidh like a Mumbai ceilidh.

Seen on 22 May