The name of Trilok Gurtu, the Indian master drummer, must always be near the top of the list when they programme the South Bank's annual Rhythm Sticks festival. Gurtu does everything right by this event's agenda - he's an open-minded musician who embraces jazz, Indian classical music, abstract improvisation and Asian pop, a dazzling percussion virtuoso, an accessible entertainer.
On this year's visit, Gurtu was probably less traditional and closer to his polyrhythmic funk persona than he has ever been, his playing on grooves a fierce mix of rifle-shot cymbal blows, booming low sounds that shook the hall, and hard, clattering accents. He was accompanied by vocals, keyboards and guitar - strong presences around him were the soul-inflected vocals of London-raised Bangladeshi singer Sanchita Farruque, and the sitar-like electric guitar of Woody Aplanalp.
The band played one long set, and by Gurtu standards, it lacked a little variety, and the contrasts between delicacy and intensity (it was full-on most of the time) that usually make the drummer's shows so absorbing. Aplanalp, however, was blazingly powerful on long, high sounds over the turmoil, and though the guitarist's sinewy phrasing was effective, it was only when he cut loose to a wilder, more abstract phase (releasing a fierce whirr of chords like revolving helicopter blades) that the audience burst into applause.
Farruque mixed soul-inflections and whoopy, zigzagging traditional melody in unison with the guitar on the opener, Gurtu followed with a mix of kit-drum flurries and resonant tabla beats. The singer was at her most affecting on a slow rhapsody accompanied only by Gurtu's mallets and whispering percussion sounds, and Gurtu himself unfurled his full range of effects on a solo percussion display that began with shakers, bird sounds, sinister electronics and howling wind noises, and ended up with breathlessly racing funk.