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Concert Review: Jan Garbarek und Trilok Gurtu im Staatstheater Darmstadt

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“Trilok Gurtu review – a unique Indian percussion maestro”

Ronnie Scott's, London
The Indian master's collaborators weren't quite in his league, but with all ears on his extraordinary drum vocals, it didn't matter.

John Fordham - The Guardian, 25 March 2014 - read review at

“Beat Goes On For Trilok Gurtu”

In an exclusive interview with Eastern Eye, Gurtu speaks about his work, spirituality and journey through a world of music.

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Interview with Trilok in Florence - 14th July 2010

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"Meet the Musical Maverick" - Deccan Herald - 21st Feb 2010

Article by Utpal Borpujari

“Trilok Gurtu is an enigma in India’s creative sky. He has steadfastly refused to play to the gallery. But, despite not bowing to market dictates unlike many of his contemporaries, this percussionist son of legendary vocalist Shobha Gurtu has been able to carve his niche in the world of jazz, rock, classical, ethnic and world music.”

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Concert Review - Zug, Switzerland - 5th Dec 2009

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Trilok Gurtu Unveils Material From New Album At London Show - Thursday, 16 April 2009

Next month Massical, the upcoming album from Trilok Gurtu comes out, and ahead of its release the Bombay-born percussionist performed at the Jazz Café in Camden last night at the Songlines magazine 10th anniversary show.

»Read the full review at

Salle Pleyel, Paris - 6 Nov 2008

(Review from

Les alliages iconoclastes de Trilok Gurtu embrasent Pleyel

LE FIL MUSIQUE - C'était hier soir, salle Pleyel à Paris. Un extraordinaire concert réunissait l'Inde et l'Afrique, autour de Trilok Gurtu, le roi des tablas. L'Italie, la Norvège, l'Espagne et l'Australie étaient aussi invitées à cette grande fête des sens. Eliane Azoulay raconte.

L’inde et l’Afrique réunies par la grâce de la musique ! L’as des tablas Trilok Gurtu, natif de Bombay, installé en Occident depuis 1973, avait invité, hier soir, deux musiciens qu’il vénère, le saxophoniste norvégien Jan Garbarek et la diva malienne Oumou Sangaré. Avec un violoniste italien, un bassiste réunionnais, un guitariste espagnol, un souffleur australien (flûte et didgeridoo), il a tissé, deux heures durant, ce 6 novembre, dans une Salle Pleyel en délire, une incandescente mosaïque de ragas, de jazz et d’univers mandingues.

Au cœur du dispositif, la savante mathématique des rythmiques indiennes distillée par Trilok Gurtu aux tablas, à la batterie, au cajon. S’y greffait une frénésie haletante entre funk et jazz-rock distillée par les cordes pincées tandis que le violon mimait les mélopées indiennes. Est arrivé le souffle onirique de Jan Garbarek, s’envolant vers d’antiques mélodies européennes. C’est alors qu’Oumou Sangaré, géante en jupe/pagne et bustier de strass et de satin bleu nuit, a fait son entrée. Dans cet univers d’hommes assez pudiques, les uns grisonnants (Gurtu et Garbarek), les autres assez jeunes, son explosive sensualité a rayonné, puissante, terrienne. Jamais elle n’avait été aussi radieuse, jamais son chant n’avait été aussi bien mis en valeur : reproduit, par fragments, sur le saxophone jazzy de Garbarek, embrasé, loin de toute répétitivité, par les alliages iconoclastes de Trilok Gurtu. Le concert s’est achevé sur des déluges d’onomatopées rythmiques improvisées par le tablaïste. Et le public ne s’est pas fait prier pour s’y essayer avec lui. Grandiose.

Trilok Gurtu’s iconoclast combinations set La Salle Pleyel ablaze

Last night, Salle Pleyel in Paris. An extraordinary concert linked India and Africa, around Trilok Gurtu, the King of Tablas. Italy, Norway, Spain and Australia were also invited at this big celebration of the senses.

Eliane Azoulay describes the concert:

India and Africa united by the grace of music! The tabla master Trilok Gurtu, born in Bombay and living in the west since 1997, had invited, last night, two musicians that he adores: Norwegian saxophone player Jan Garbarek and the Diva from Mali Oumou Sangare. With an Italian violinist, a bass player from La Réunion, a Spanish guitarist, a wind instrument player from Australia (flute and didgeridoo) he wove, over two hours, this 6th November in a concert hall filled with a delirious pubic, an incandescent mosaic of ragas, jazz and the Malian music universe.

At the center of the exploration, the mastered mathematics of Indian rythms distilled by Trilok Gurtu at the tablas, at the drums and on cajon. Added to this, the breathless frenzy of funk and jazz-rock distilled by the pizzicato strings while the violin imitated the Indian chants. Added to this, the dreamlike blow of Jan Garbarek taking flight into old European melodies. At that moment, Oumou Sangaré, very tall in a wrapped skirt and night blue satin bustier with glass pearls, made her appearance. In this universe of rather discreet men, some of them turning grey (Gurtu and Garbarek), the others rather young, her explosive sensuality shone, powerful and earthy. Never had she been that radiant, never has her singing had such a great support: reproduced, in fragments, by Gabarek’s jazzy saxophone, set ablaze, far from any repetition, by the iconoclast combinations of Trilok Gurtu. The concert finished on a flood of onomatopoeias, rhythmically improvised the the tabla player. And the public did not need much of an invitation to try alongside him. Grandiose.

Palatia Jazz - 21st June 2008 - Review in Die Rheinpfalz

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Trilok Gurtu & the Arke String Quartet, Old Fruitmarket, Glasgow

ROB ADAMS - The Herald - February 05 2008

Last time Trilok Gurtu played the Old Fruitmarket, the rake sloped down towards the stage and there was a power cut. I'm still not convinced about the reversal of the layout of the venue, although I understand the reasoning behind it, but this was the Indian percussionist at full wattage.

Of all the collaborations he's featured in - and there have been many - Gurtu's meeting with the Arke String Quartet has to rank among the best. The Italians, who substitute double-bass for cello, use pick-ups to enhance their instruments' natural sounds and are not above adopting ukulele-style strumming if the music so demands, create a fabulous sound. They can be an all harmonics and flutey-toned backdrop or upfront soloists - violinist Carlo Cantini's bite and intensity is almost supernatural - or they can gang up with Gurtu in fiercely tight riffing reminiscent of the percussionist's sometime partner in crime, guitarist John McLaughlin.

Another Gurtu co-conspirator, Joe Zawinul, sprang to mind with Cantini's street-sounds-flavoured composition, Fez. And if the rowdy behaviour of a previous audience inspired another piece by Gurtu himself, such disrespect wasn't going to happen here as Gurtu seduced the auditorium with awesome percussion magic and pure theatre, culminating in the audience singing along with his intricate tabla rhythm vocables.

Earlier, another cross-cultural collaboration, India Alba, had set the scene admirably, merging adapted pipe marches with Indian violin and tabla ragas, cittern-led Scots-Indian melodies and the late Gordon Duncan's famous bagpipes setting of AC/DC's heavy-rock anthem, Thunderstruck. Along with Gurtu's gang, this quartet brought Celtic Connections 2008's Old Fruitmarket programme to a satisfying close while keeping the audience primed for future adventures.


By Cynthia Wilson -

If ever there was a truly cyntillating sound, it comes from Trilok Gurtu's talking tablas. Super star Gurtu is the classical music world's best kept secret, but a famed and favourite at festivals of jazz, pop and world music all around the globe. Classic in his disciplined approach to percussion, Trilok Gurtu has collaborated on over 80 CD's with the most eclectic group of top musicians imaginable.

Now celebrating 20 years of such collaborative performances, Gurtu has recently released a double CD, 'The Definitive Trilok Gurtu'. Actually, with someone so eclectic, catching him on merely two CD's could really never be definitive!

We caught up with him last week when he performed, again in incomparable collaboration, at Amsterdam's famed classical temple, The Concertgebouw. The occasion was the 60th anniversary of Radio Netherlands Worldwide whose broadcasts in 10 different languages around the globe foster not only freedom of press and expression but support correct information concerning Holland, its culture and politics (as Radio France is to France, Deutsche Welle to Germany and BBC World to the UK).

Who better to explicate this international mission than a musician like Gurtu, who, in said concert, worked with musicians from Curaçao,Venezuela, Argentina, Suriname, Mali, France, and o yes, Holland.

Front stage Concertgebouw was exciting, backstage was fascinating, 'the making of' of these performances where Trilok Gurtu was exemplary in his dedication to great music, rehearsing for the first time with all the other musicians involved: 'good music is one, it is not music from Africa or from America or from Germany, it is one like God is one...musicians make bridges not borders, that is what the world requires'.

His drum set alone demands an extensive and specific set up as it is a combination with a parallel only found in hip fusion cooking: a good chunk of fresh Indian vegetables, a pinch of jazz salt, a good dose of worldly peppers topped by a sauce of personally supervised spices collected on his travels. The correct metal bucket of water was found only at the last minute, making Gurtu's famed, intimate water rhythms thankfully possible.

His interest in all music is boundless. 'What's that?', he asked as my ringtone (Scherzo from Bruckner's Seventh Symphony) interrupted the conversation. 'You know who rights the best melodies? Mozart! You hear them once, you never can forget them!' 'All jazz is really Bach, Bach wrote the best progressions'...'know any good young Dutch composers? Tell me!'.

Food (and wine) are the passions that accompany this musical chef. Trilok Gurtu is always interested in, talking about, and enjoying good food, as eclectic in his taste buds as in his musical taste. He is open and encouraging to all musicians, as long as they are serious about their work. Totally demanding in how he spends his time, a long drive to an isolated rehearsal location was spent in practice, tapping the surfaces within reach in the Jeep that transported him (with a small trailer full of his drum set dutifully in pursuit). Turning up the heat in frosty Holland, he smiled: 'I need a bit more India!'.

What would it really sound like all wondered, this elegant Indian in his beautiful silk outfits, barely viewable amidst a battery of percussion odds and ends, including of course his water bucket?

Sound checks were lengthy and demanding, the tuning and acoustics have to be just right, but all the collaborations were warm and intimate as musicians who had always dreamed of performing with him actually got down to business: the classical timpanist Nando Russo ('I have followed him since I was a child'), the Dutch pop phenomenon Bløf ('we always thought, if we could ever play with someone like Gurtu!')

'Yes, yes, good, good, we will make this work', he encouraged. It sounded, surprisingly enough, melodious. Gurtu sings percussion, teaching timing by getting his students to sing rhythms, and literally singing them himself, as when he takes the pop solo to new heights with his vocal acrobatics.

Trilok Gurtu is at home in any musical setting, with singers, with a classical string quartet, with the brass section of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, even with royalty itself. Backstage again, but now after the concert, Holland's Princess Máxima did not rush home as was expected, but stayed on to meet Gurtu, fascinated too by all the musical tête-a-têtes he had inspired.

Trilok Gurtu once again came and conquered, leaving his public in breathless admiration, excited and certainly intrigued.

Cyntillating for sure.


Trilok Gurtu and Selva Ganesh on percussion and the East-West exchange - published in The Hindu online.
»Read the full interview here


"Lucky Miles" by writer-director Michael James Rowland and with music by Trilok received a 5-star review when it opened at the Adelaide Film Festival on Feb 22.

» Read Variety Review here

» Adelaide Film Festival

"Arkeology" - Trilok Gurtu with the Arkè String Quartet


Another Trilok triumph.

Once again, the Indian percussionist and composer Trilok Gurtu proves himself to be among the world’s most adventurous, skilled and intelligent fusionists, on this spectacular marriage between East and West, in collaboration with Italy’s Arkè String Quartet. Many of the best fusions are sound collisions, their very success based on a thrilling clashing of cultures. Arkeology is different, for it seeks to emphasise not the differences but the seamless empathy between two apparently contrasting musical worlds.

The opener, ‘Balahto’, is one of Gurtu’s three featured compositions and is typical of the approach, kicking in with an urgent insistent bass pattern over skittering Asian percussion before the Western classical strings take up a dancing melody with a vaguely Celtic feel.

Nobody’s showboating or trying to outplay each other: every instrument, Eastern and Western is carefully calibrated in perfect balance.

Oddly, it’s often the compositions by the Italian quartet that have the strongest Asian feel. ‘Kermanşah’ is written by violinist Valentino Corvino but has Gurtu’s dreamy tabla playing to the fore, and bursts of Indian tala singing over some lovely, Gypsy-like strings, while ‘Fes’, composed by fellow violinist Carlo Catnini, is another sublimely moody piece that unites Asian, Mediterranean and North African influences. There’s both an attention to detail and a broader, cinematic quality. To say that in places it sounds like high-class film music is no criticism at all.

Nigel Williamson



John L Waters
Friday February 23, 2007
The Guardian

You never know quite what you'll get with Indian percussionist Trilok Gurtu. Of course, there are fabulous sounds and rhythms, but the context is always new. At last year's Womad festival, he was fronting a loud, multicultural fusion band; recent projects have seen him team up with DJ Robert Miles and Sting.

Tonight's gig, like his new album Arkeology, is a collaboration with the Arke String Quartet, an Italian group with double bass instead of cello. This is a plus, since it means that bassist Stefano Dall'ora can team up with Gurtu's hybrid drum kit: more western on the floor, but with tablas on the top. These accomplished players mesh and weave in the best 20th-century manner, and violinist Valentino Corvino is a passionate soloist. Their tunes imply Indian, Balkan and Celtic rhythms, in asymmetric time signatures that suit Gurtu down to the last demisemiquaver: he flies around the six-, seven- and 14-beat patterns.

On record, the sound is warm and pleasing. Played live, it's hotter and spicier. Arke play with all the fire of a jazz group without losing the emotional expressiveness of strings; there are hints of the Mahavishnu and Penguin Cafe Orchestras. However, this collaboration has a charm and character all its own, typified by compositions such as the sprightly, reel-like Taranta Suite, the moody Fes and Gurtu's engaging Balahto, which has a brief reprise at the end of a well-deserved encore.

Master drummer Trilok Gurtu lust for eyes and ears.

Tromp jury member treats public to his expertise.
By René van Peer

EINDHOVEN – What would an Indian tabla-player sound like if you placed him behind a drum kit? Master percussionist Trilok Gurtu, jury member of the Tromp Competition, answered this question during a concert in Muziekcentrum in Eindhoven last Tuesday. Gurtu performed with his band before an extremely enthusiastic public.

His show was a real treat. Gurtu’s music combines elements from traditional Indian percussion with Western jazz, but then with a solid rock beat. This is no half-hearted fusion. With a guitarist and violinist following his rhythms perfectly, the band sounded like a concentrated version of the Mahavishnu Orchestra from the seventies. The exceptional musicians gave an alert performance on a knife’s edge. They had to, with a drummer that played his instruments with imagination, moved from one instrument to the next with ease and performed the most complicated rhythms within the framework of the music. His two improvised pieces were sensational. Gurtu gave it his all, with his hands and feet beating, rolling and tapping independent of eachother. His tablas were often the focus of the performance. He used his fingers to roll out the most complex patterns, which he then chanted back in the sounds used by Indian tabla students when they begin to study the art. Gurtu amazed the audience not only with his incredible craftsmanship but also with his humorous presentation.

Tromp Festival. Trilok Gurtu and band: Roland Cabezas, guitar; Carlo Cantini, violin; Stefano Dall’ora, bass. Tuesday 10 October in Muziekcentrum Frits Philips, Eindhoven

Pearls of the Tay, Perth Concert Hall

The Herald : September 19 2005

WHILE it is understandable that Scotland's national orchestra was chosen to open Scotland's newest concert hall, let's hope that Saturday's gala is a more accurate statement of intent. Rarely have I attended an event with a clearer message. Here was music presented and played as the one true global language - with all the possibilities for hope and reconciliation that contains - by musicians of the very highest calibre.

Usually when we refer to “world music” it refers to sounds from elsewhere in the world. Not here. Directed by virtuoso percussionist Trilok Gurtu, it was firmly rooted in the traditions of the new building's local area. As embodied by, for example, singer Sheila Stewart and the Aberfeldy Gaelic Choir, but spanned the globe. The programme built almost imperceptibly from Stewart's solo Queen Among The Heather, via a sextet fronted by Mridula Desai that swapped eight-bar solos across continents to music for 18 musicians that included a glorious funked-up Killiecrankie before a pipe tune from Rajasthan arranged for an alternative 18, including Tunder Jegede's Kora, a samba band from Perth College and two members of the Herald Angel-winning Vale of Atholl Pipe Band.

There were smaller delights too: Margaret Bennett's unaccompanied Gaelic waulking songs sparring with Gurtu's own native mouth music; Pete Clark's Repertoire of Niel Gow fiddle tunes spiced with Kora and Carlo Cantini's electric violin; Fraser Anderson's specially-written The Fair Maid Smiles given wider resonances by an obligato from Desai, the Indian singer proving to be a superb musician.

That, of course, was what made this concert truly great: the consummate skill of everyone on stage and the complete absence of tokenism in the involvement of the non-professional performers. This was a one-off, a truly special occasion it was a privilege to attend. Let's have more of them.

Trilok Gurtu

Queen Elizabeth Hall, London

The Guardian : Tuesday July 27, 2004

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.

A world in your ear

The Guardian : Friday November 8 2002

Trilok Gurtu's latest is not pure jazz, or pure Indian, or pure anything. It's just great.

Trilok Gurtu is some musician: not just a bandleader, drummer and percussionist but a great showman. He works with legends, such as Zawinul and McLaughlin; he writes songs with Salif Keita and Chris Difford (Squeeze). His performances are drawn from the improvisation traditions of Indian classical music and jazz, but he has an urge to communicate that transcends the intrinsic "difficulty" of such music.

Some of Gurtu's previous albums have been tentative, laden with stars, as if worried that nobody would buy a record that was pure Gurtu. African Fantasy included some great players, but had a production sound that was closer to US session jazz. The Beat of Love was more disappointing, the gloss of Wally Badarou's over-production tending to bland out the spiky charm of Gurtu's personality.

With Remembrance (Universal, £12.99) by Trilok Gurtu, we're getting much closer to the real man. There are still plenty of guest stars, but they're Indian singers, such as Shankar Mahadevan and Shobha Gurtu (the drummer's famous mother), and instrumentalists, such as Zakir Hussain, Sultan Khan and Ronu Majumdar, a stunning flute player. But this is not pure Indian music - it's an entertaining fusion of Gurtu's musical passions with a liberal dose of electronic, sequenced percussion and synthesized textures swirling among the sitars and clay pots.

The title track could be one of the Zawinul Syndicate's more commercial pieces; Expression Of Love has a Giorgio Moroder/ Midnight Express feel with its hustling percussion, sustained synth pads and snatches of speech; Witness to Marriage is sexy and spiritual. Some of Gurtu's tracks are just great tunes, which would be great for daytime radio play if we had a popular station prepared to champion world music. And although I can't imagine Gurtu reaching this stage in his career without his jazz experiences, it's not a jazz album; it's not even just a world music album. Remembrance is simply a great album on anyone's terms.

The European version of Gurtu's Remembrance has 11 tracks; the UK version has 13, adding two "bonus" remixes: Talvin Singh's pumping version of Planet Earth and a nervous Badmarsh & Shri remix of Maya. They're not terrible, as dancefloor remixes go, but they're not wonderful either.

I guess the record company is doing what it thinks best to market this album, but the lack of confidence is disappointing.

Though it's been a good year for world music CDs, I'd say Remembrance was a better "listen" than recent albums by Tony Allen, Kimmo Pohjonen and Los de Abajo and Orchestra Baobab, all of whom feature as nominees in the BBC Radio 3 Awards for World Music. Gurtu is a nominee in the "Asia-Pacific" section, along with Mahwash and the Ensemble Kaboul from Afghanistan, but he could have easily been nominated for the "boundary crossing" category.

A listen to Wild Serenade (Label Bleu, £14.99) by DuOud, nominated in the "Newcomer" category of the awards, makes the immensity of Gurtu's achievement clear. Gurtu's band play the new Islington Marquee on Sunday November 17, competing with LJF gigs by Juliet Roberts, Oliver Mtukudzi and Bembeya Jazz, Chucho Valdes.