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Live in San Francisco at Stern Grove Live

4.3 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews

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LIVE IN SAN FRANCISCO AT STERN GROVE

Amazon.com

What do you get when you mix tablas and turntables? One answer is Tabla Beat Science. This double-CD live effort proves that Indian classical and modern electronic-based music can cohabitate, particularly when the talented likes of tabla great Zakir Hussain and sarangi player Ustad Sultan Khan (both exponents of Indian classical music) combine with bassist Bill Laswell, drummer Karsh Kale (both involved in modern world music fusions), and several other guests. Laswell is an expert at organizing these kinds of musical mash-ups, but he's done something special here: his dubby bass lines sound great next to hyperpercussive tabla beats, and the voices of Khan and rising Ethiopian siren Gigi meld together particularly well on such tracks as "Nafeken" and "Mengedege." The tunes here are more jam-oriented than on the group's studio album Tala Matrix, but this only further illuminates the trancelike quality that brings these different schools together. Live in San Francisco at Stern Grove is a prime example of what can be accomplished with an open mind and formidable musical skills. --Tad Hendrickson
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (July 9, 2002)
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Format: Live
  • Label: Palm Pictures (Audio
  • ASIN: B000069B11
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #78,430 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Peter Palermo on June 5, 2006
Format: Audio CD
I was lucky enough to be part of this recording and the rehearsals leading up to it. Reviewers who bemoan the lack of melody at this performance have a legitimate complaint. But this is due to the totally new format these musicians were working under. If you pull together a band of virtuoso jazz musicians who have never played live together before, they will speak a common language of standards and form (head, solos, head, done) that will allow them to work as unit playing melodic tunes. The repertoire is deep and the shared knowledge is broad. Not so here, these guys are making it up as they go, they are blazing the trail and it's obvious.

That is not to say that there is nothing here, there is. These are amazing musicians engaged in a long improvisation of texture and rhythm. I tend to think of it as watching the surf. To some, it may seem monotonous, but to me, each wave is different and the overall effect is hypnotic.

The audience ate it all up. 10,000 people on their feet and dancing to these world beats. I remember one moment in particular where the band had laid back and let Zakir take a solo, Zakir's solo was reaching a climax and Laswell jumped back in. He owns the frequency band below 80Hz and you could feel the concussive power of his bass in your gut, it passed through your body like you were made of jello and washed over the crowd which responded with an estactic release of mass joy. Amazing.

The day leading to concert was spent in a rehearsal hall, working out about 6 different songs. These weren't so much songs as structures for improv. We shared burritos from the Mission and had a few laughs. These guys were fun and total pros. It was an experience I won't forget.
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By A Customer on June 5, 2003
Format: Audio CD
On the live front Laswell unleashes the touring version of his Indian rhythm-drenched collective, Tabla Beat Science, on this double CD recorded at San Francisco's long-running summer festival at Stern Grove park. While their debut 2000 studio incarnation Tala Matrix, which was billed as `adventures in electro-acoustic hypercussion', featured the quadraphonic tabla talents of Indian whiz Zakir Hussain, jazz-fusionist Trilok Gurtu, UK/Asian Underground producer/percussionist Talvin Singh and San Francisco beat-groover Karsh Kale, only Hussain and Kale are onboard for this live edition. But they're enough.
Also present from the original lineup are classical Indian sarangi master/ vocalist Ustad Sultan Khan and Laswell himself on bass, with added guests; the alluring Ms. Gigi, Bay area turntable-ist DJ Disk, and New Delhi-based mixing duo MIDIval Pundits. Combined they're a formidable team.
Zakir alone is worth the price of admission here. His calm demeanor belies the powerful rhythms that continually leap from his hands. A tabla player's tabla player, Hussain has an immaculate percussive pedigree (the gifted son of the late Alla Rakha, the longtime tabla partner of sitarist Ravi Shankar), with an almost unbelievable level of dexterous speed and skill at his disposal. Throw him together on `Sacred Channel' with Laswell's thundering underwater bassline and Kale's crisp kit drumming, and you create an explosive chemical reaction which can match virtually any power rock trio for rhythmic intensity.
Gigi attempts to calm things down a bit from time to time, as on `Nafekefi', trading subtle Ethiopian/Indian vocals with Sultan Khan, but it's a lost cause, and da boys quickly start propelling the proceedings forward again, with sub-dub beats and blistering audio assaults.
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Format: Audio CD
...and so am getting this without having heard it in mixed CD form; as much as a memento as in confidence that it will be enjoyable upon 2nd listening, so to speak.
The crowd was an interesting and uniquely Bay Area melange of a) the large local Hindustani community which turns out in force for almost any appearance by Zakirji and Sultan Khansahib and b) the hipster-electronica scene, with the usual other San Fran boho/liberal archetypes also well represented.
Those who have the Tabla Beat Science studio CD will note the absence in this live show of 2 players from that CD: Talvin Singh, who failed to show at the last hour due to his being sick with a cold in London, and the Hamburg-based multi-percussionist Trilok Gurtu, who, I heard from an Indian friend who hung out with him at another Calif. festival that same summer, apparently wasn't invited by the others to take part in the live tour. It's shame neither was there, as Talvin, along with Karsh Kale, is one of the best examples of the intersection of the Indian classical tradition with modern dj electronica, while Trilok is the best Indian multi-percussionist I've ever seen (in my case, his taking over the percussion role in the band Oregon from the deceased Colin Walcott was a major revelation; as another reviewer put, "with Trilok Gurtu, Oregon rocks like they never have before..."
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Format: Audio CD
Tabla Beat Science was (is?) a unique collaboration-- a crossing of electronica and traditional Indian musics in a largely improvised fashion. If this sounds interesting to you, read on, otherwise you're more likely to be happy skipping this one.

From the first song, you'd have no idea this is anything other than a traditional Indian album, Ustad Sultan Khan's sarangi soars over tabla performance from Zakir Hussain (and maybe Karsh Kale as well?), its a very traditional setting-- the playing is fantastic, but its nothing out of the ordinary for over fifteen minutes. Then something changes. Kale sits at a western drum kit, kicks in a monster beat and is joined with a dub-ish baseline courtesy of Bill Laswell. Electronic sounds and rhythms highlight the music (courtesy of DJ Disk, MIDIval PunditZ, and Fabian Alsultany).

The album really continues along this trend-- the music is engaging, gripping, powerful, and well conceived, and the musicians are very clearly having a blast playing it. It drifts in and out of traditional musics of various forms, but never quite settles on anything except being very heavily groove oriented, even when Laswell assumes a more esoteric stance. Occasionally vocals (courtesy of Khan and Gigi Shibabaw) join the fray, and it sounds to my ears like musicians come and go during different pieces. The emphasis for the most part is on the tabla, and Hussain delivers the goods like no one can.

I actually find the second disc far more engaging than the first, it includes a great vocal piece and an all out turntable/tabla war that is not to be missed. It may seem gimmicky to some, but try to avoid stereotypes and expectations about the turntable-- take it as a percussion instrument and you're bound to be intrigued. I really can't say enough good things about this record, my only regret is that i never got to see this band live.
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