When Shakti co-founders John McLaughlin (guitar) and Zakir Hussain (tabla) first directed their virtuosity towards exploring common ground between Eastern and Western musical traditions – starting in private sessions, then on their 1975 debut album – the notion of such a hybrid was so novel that fans, industry executives, and even the media expressed concerned bafflement. Is McLaughlin, former collaborator with the likes of Miles Davis and Tony Williams and the leader of the titanic jazz-rock juggernaut the Mahavishnu Orchestra, really throwing it all away to sit barefoot and play deeply introspective acoustic music with virtuoso musicians barely known to Western audiences?
Fifty years on, McLaughlin and Hussain are still bandmates and brothers, while Shakti’s influence has inspired subsequent generations of musicians to float above political and artistic borders and forge their own global fusions. Concluding in Austin, Texas on September 16, this year’s sold out U.S. tour in support of the group’s first new studio album in 45 years, This Moment (released June 23, 2023), emphasized not only Shakti’s tremendous impact on what we now call “world music,” but also demonstrated the ongoing viability of Shakti’s initial concept. Watch a special performance from the sold-out show at the iconic Ryman Auditorium in Nashville here.
This Moment was recorded in isolation, with each member delivering their contributions separately from their respective home cities. The tour proved conclusively that the album’s thrillingly precise unison passages, high-wire solo statements, and roiling rhythmic intensity were no feat of studio trickery. The tour’s twenty-eight dates were themselves an escalation, as the members of the current Shakti lineup – McLaughin, Hussain, vocalist Shankar Mahadevan, violinist Ganesh Rajagopalan, and percussionist Selvaganesh Vinayakram – grew closer, re-established long standing friendships, and plunged further into the spiritual ecstasy embodied in their intricate, collaborative music. Audiences were awed, and illustrious Shakti fans Jerry Douglas, Béla Fleck, Bill Frisell, and John Scofield – “truly fine musicians whom I’ve admired for decades,” in McLaughlin’s words – took turns performing special solo opening spots.
Now, with the members of Shakti returning to their individual pursuits, what remains are the memories of those riveting concert performances and This Moment – a recording that stands both as summary and extension of Shakti’s reverent, powerful, and revolutionary deconstruction and reassembly of East and West. Of his comrades, McLaughlin professes that “their influence on me as a musician and human being is without equal. It’s really a thrill, and I’m delighted to be part of this marvelous tradition of Shakti.”
“And now,” reflects Zakir Hussain, “the decades of individual music experiences we all have had poured into this gathering's offering has resulted in an extraordinary depth to the sound and interaction of this band.”
What critics are saying about This Moment:
“...extraordinary musical communication that transcends traditions, concepts, and formal approaches, making Shakti a band for the ages.” – Thom Jurek, Allmusic.com
“This Moment, the group’s seventh outing together, captures Shakti once again stretching the boundaries of Hindustani and Carnatic music while injecting Western ideas of harmony into its successful world music formula.” – Bill Milkowski, Downbeat
“The stratospheric level of collective expertise creates a mystical musical vessel designed to take the listener on a transcendental celebration of life.” – Jimmy Leslie, Guitar Player
“...this remarkable album, played with such a high degree of musicianship it seems beyond the realm of mere mortals…. goes beyond anything heard before in jazz…” – Stuart Nicholson, Jazzwise (5-Star Review)