Zakir Hussain’s intention of “showing that Indian and Celtic musicians are not that dissimilar” resulted in a coming together on this Celtic Connections opening concert that was so successful at times that it was almost impossible to say which tradition the music represented.
The tabla master may have thrown out his advance preparations when he arrived in Glasgow, as he claimed earlier this week, but what was achieved here was a flow of ideas that sounded entirely natural and passed easily from musician to musician and from stage to audience.
The mood was relaxed. No-one was there to impress by technique alone and yet there was musicality in abundance.
An introductory salvo by the Boghall and Bathgate Pipe Band’s drum corps, complete with almost balletic co-ordination and intricate stick control, was the overture for the first cultural mingling, with Gaelic singer Jenna Cumming and Indian violinist Kumaresh trading vocal phrases before fiddles, pipes, whistle, bamboo flute and percussion quietly but effectively phased in by turns and the “Intic” ensemble, as Hussain dubbed them, gained persuasive momentum.
Hussain played his musical director’s role superbly, allowing his musicians space to create and letting the music breathe.
His own duet with bamboo flautist Rakesh Chaurasia was magnificent, with Chaurasia showing wonderful breath control and sighing articulation that was both uplifting and deeply soulful and other highlights included exchanges between profoundly expressive Indian violin and percussion and a trio of bodhran, dholak and tablas.
The show as a whole, however, was the star, understated, moving and grooving, and will surely be among the medals when it transfers to the London Olympics.
Star rating: ****