Frontline: Shakti: Still jamming with joy, still making history

Suhrid Sankar Chattopadhyay writes:

The legendary band’s 2024 Grammy win for Best Global Music Album proves the power and popularity of its own unique brand of fusion music.

The year was 1976: the legendary music producer Clive Davis was in a quandary. John McLaughlin and Zakir Hussain had handed him a master tape of a new album called Shakti with John McLaughlin, with McLaughlin on guitar, Hussain on tabla, L. Shankar on violin, and T.H. “Vikku” Vinayakram on ghatam. Davis could not think of a musical category to slot the album in. He had not heard anything like this before: spontaneous improvisational compositions based on diverse musical traditions, including south Indian Carnatic music, north Indian Hindustani classical, Western jazz, and blues. McLaughlin and Hussain were not helping him either: “Call it whatever you want to. For us, it is just music,” McLaughlin apparently told Davis.

Shakti with John McLaughlin was the first album of the fusion band Shakti, which comprised Shankar, Hussain, Vinayakram, and McLaughlin. The band’s path-breaking music added a new dimension to the nascent concept of world music and had audiences all over the world asking for more. It started a trend that has not abated; this was proved all over again when the 2024 Grammy for the Best Global Music Album went to Shakti’s latest, This Moment, released in 2023. In between, Shakti had disbanded and formed again. This Moment features V. Selvaganesh (ghatam), G. Rajagopalan (violin), and Shankar Mahadevan (vocals), alongside Hussain and McLaughlin.

Read the full article in Frontline.