1/ As Always (Hussain,Khan) 2/ Sacred Channel (Hussain,Laswell,Kale) 3/ Mengedenga (Shibabaw) 4/ As We Drift (MIDIval PunditZ,Kale) 5/ Vinylskin (DJ Disk,Kale) 6/ Magnetic (Hussain,Laswell,Khan) 7/ Satellite (Show Me the Worth of the World) (Kale,Shibabaw) 8/ B Still Transient (MIDIval PunditZ,DJ Disk) 9/ Bol Parhant (Hussain) 10/ Devotional (Hussain,Laswell,Khan) Recorded live at the Fillmore, San Francisco, California June 21, 2002 Live Recording: Oz Fritz Original processed video footage by Petulia Mattioli aka PM Koma Directed by Alex Winter Edited by Angelo Corrao Audio mixed at Orange Soundstudios, West Orange, New Jersey Mix Translation in Stereo and 5.1: Bill Laswell Engineer: Robert Musso Assistant Engineer: James Dellatacoma Produced by Zane Vella Executive Producers: Paul DeGooyer, Steven Saporta and Zane Vella Axiom: Steven Saporta, Bill Murphy and Steve Dalmer Palm Pictures: Paul DeGooyer and Jeffrey S. Kaye Management: Invasion Group Ltd. - Steven Saporta 5.1 mastering by Michael Fossenkemper at Turtle Tone Studio, New York City Assistant: Alex TheoretZakir Hussain: tabla; Ustad Sultan Khan: sarangi, vocal; Karsh Kale: drums, tabla; Bill Laswell: bass; Eligayehu "GiGi" Shibabaw: vocals; MIDIval PunditZ: laptops; DJ Disk: turntables; Fabian Asultany: keyboards.
2003 - Axiom/MX Entertainment/Palm Pictures (USA), PALMDVD 3065-2 (2DVD)
The concert starts out on a classical tip with Ustad Sultan Khansaheb and Zakir Hussain playing the beautiful "As Always." Throughout the concert images of the musicians are interspliced with footage from India: street shots, the Kumbha Mela, children playing, workers on their daily commute, rural villages and urban sprawls. The imagery by itself is thought-provoking, but combined with the ethereal beauty of Khansaheb and Zakir-ji's music, it truly elevates beyond the realm of a Discovery/Travel Channelesque videography. (For those who want to see the concert without this imagery, there is a Multiangle Concert option which allows you to switch back and forth between different camera angles of the musicians instead). There also are big differences between this DVD and other classical concerts you may have seen. The first is the unusual stage setup, which comes as no surprise to Tabla Beat Science fans: a drum kit, keyboards, racks of amps and sound processors, and the Midival PunditZ laptop setup. Secondly, the concert, which was filmed in San Francisco's world-famous Fillmore auditorium, has no seating. Audience shots show a primarily young, multicultural crowd, standing, nodding heads, waving and shouting especially when the performers go into a particularly elaborate musical passage. No seated, crosslegged, uncles and aunties quietly relishing a purist Indian classical concert...
The songs themselves flow together seamlessly, with Karsh Kale on kit and Bill Laswell on bass joining the classical performers seemingly right in the middle of "As Always," which then heads straight into the amazing "Sacred Channel." The MidiVal PunditZ also chime in with laptop stylings, as well as behind-the-scenes maven Fabian Alsultany (aka DJ Sultan32) who handles keyboards. But the main focus is the amazing interplay between Zakir Hussain, Ustad Sultan Khan, Bill Laswell, and Karsh Kale, four seasoned musicians who are obviously on top of their game. Especially impressive is Karsh Kale, who at his young age not only meets his esteemed colleagues in terms of skill, but also shows an uncanny ability to lock on and improvise with Zakir Hussain's expertly timed rhythmic chops. This is no small feat considering that Zakir-ji is probably the best percussionist playing in the world today. Speaking of Zakir, he expands his tabla setup to include multiple drums and percussion instruments of varying flavors, in which several instances he connects with blockbuter energy and precision timing. The skill and versatility of this musician, along with Ustad Sultan Khan, is truly inspirational to watch. And last but not least, Bill Laswell adds some well needed low-end bass frequencies to the proceedings, at times playing his bass like a groove instrument, and at other times running it through high-end processors and playing it as a warped, hyper-kinetic lead synth/guitar.
Another highlight in the DVD comes early on, with the magnificent rendition of "Mengedenga," which brings Ethiopian singer Gigi to the front of the stage and highlights her ethereal voice alongside Ustad Sultan Khan's, who of course is no slouch in the vocal department either. After that, the PunditZ and Karsh Kale share a moment of unapolegetic tabla'n'bass where Kale displays his tabla skills as well, while the PunditZs show off their technical wizardry by cutting up and recontextualizing vocals from the previous song. The visuals in this section also get more frenetic, with sped-up of shots of grafitti and the like.
The only weak part of the DVD was in DJ Disk's scratching on some, but not all of the tracks. Although his turntablist skills are indeed formadible, the contribution was hit-or miss. (Although, in his defense, the hits were great. At one point, Zakir Hussain turns his head and points to the turntables and shouts out an amusing "Yeah!"). However, this is a minor complaint in an overall unbeatable performance. The second disc of the set shows the latter half the live concert, including tracks like "Magnetic," "Satellite," and "Devotional" all of which spring to life in the hands of these amazing and talented musicians.
A huge advantage to the DVD is the ability to hear it mixed in Dolby Digital 5.1 or DTS 5.1, making the sound quality near-perfect. Palm obviously put a lot of time, care and production value into this DVD, and it shows. In addition to the concert itself, there are bonus features including a psychedelic video remix of "Magnetic," a making-of documentary including a press conference, and also a spoken-word piece performed by Ajay Naidu. Not only that, but stick the second disc into your computer and you'll get two bonus MP3 remixes. But beyond all this, the DVD serves a greater purpose. It thoroughly mesmerizes those that watch it, seasoned TBS fan or curious newbie. If Indian Classical music is ever to find an audience among a younger generation, it will be vehicles like this that will do it. Palm Pictures and everyone involved should be congratulated for bringing such an amazing exeperience to light and allowing people to bring it home with them.
4 out of 5
Sharaab (courtesy of the Ethno Techno website)
A Multi-Angled View of a Pure Sound Experience
This DVD is basically everything I thought I wanted: a visual representation of one of my favorite live albums ever, 2002’s Live at Stern Grove in San Francisco. Tabla Beat Science, as I’ve said before, is a great multi-ethnic jam band headed up by charismatic percussion god Zakir Hussain and featuring some of the real studs of electro-Indian/African/American music, and the idea of seeing how they actually do their shit in concert was almost too much to believe. I mean, I guess I should have known that a label called Palm Pictures was going to do lots of DVD action with its artists. I’m just saying I was excited, okay?
It starts out, as does the original album, with an epic duet between Hussain and sarangi master Ustad Sultan Khan. I was eager to see this because it seemed that there was no way that two humans could make all the sounds they made, but here’s the evidence: yes, Zakir Hussain can make that many timed and tuned drum sounds with just two drums and two hands, and yes, Khan can make an ancient Indian cello-like instrument sound like a violin AND like a metal guitar AND like a sitar, just by varying the way he bows the thing. When you just hear this on disc, it doesn’t really communicate the way these two interact, which is pretty awesome to see-a look or glance here, and they’re off on a new path, clearly improvising all the way, at times bursting into delighted surprised smiles when they see what the other is up to.
If the whole DVD was taken up with these two, I personally would be fascinated, but I realize that this sort of thing isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Director Alex Winter throws in reaction shots of the crowd, obviously digging it in the club, and occasionally tries to pretty it up with haunting images of Indian vistas and cool-looking sculptures, which is admirable in a way, even though it kind of annoys me. But of course the rest of the band has to come in, so it couldn’t just be these two guys anyway.
And it really is a kick-ass band. Indian/American Karsh Kale, probably the second-greatest tabla player I’ve ever heard, sits down at the drum kit and shows he can bash it out with the best; Bill Laswell, who got the whole thing together in the first place, is on bass; the Indian techno team called MIDIval PunditZ are on the decks, sampling and replaying things live during the performance; Fabian Asultany squiggles and rocks out on synthesizer; and XXXX “Gigi” Shibabaw does her singing thing on the far right for a couple of tracks. Every one of them could credibly lead their own band (actually, most of them do), but watching them play together is quite an experience.
But it’s not always a dynamic experience. Hussain and Khan and Kale are undeniably having fun onstage, interacting with and trying to one-up each other-the tabla/drum battle between Hussain and Kale is a hoot, they’re trying to duet beat for beat, it’s awesome-and the performance really revolves around them. But Laswell isn’t having any of that “fun” stuff; his disengagement might be due to shyness or the weird position of being the only “white guy” on stage, but he comes off pissy, a negative energy zone. Gigi is a great singer and has a funky thing going on, but she just appears and sings her tracks to the audience and then disappears without really seeming part of the band. And the PunditZ and Asultany are relegated to background presences, shadowy gnomes doing their brave service without flair or flash.
Which is all fine, not everyone in a band is gonna be all glitz and glamour, that would be boring too. But it sounds better than it looks. There is a momentary tease here when the DVD promises that we can control the images that go with the music by choosing on what to focus-but the alternate images offered are limited, just focusing on one other bandmember or showing pretty landscape shots or crowd reactions or something. I wanted full access, dammit!
Maybe I’m just reacting to the similarities of the music here to the CD they’ve already released; recorded right around the same time, this DVD features either the exact same songs or renamed versions of those tracks, sometimes elongated somewhat but bearing the exact same structure. Come on, where’s the left-field cover of “96 Tears” or “Oops I Did It Again” or whatever? And the extras aren’t really much to speak of: a press conference here, a trip to India there, eh. I would have loved a “Making of the Band” feature, but alas it was not to be. Ultimately, if you have the album, you really don’t need the DVD, and vice versa.
But hey, what the hell am I quibbling about? When it comes down to it, this is a visual representation of some of the most important and beautiful music being made today. It shows not only how that music gets made, but does so capably and with some cool flourishes. So yeah, this is probably something you need if you’re into this kind of music, or international techno, at all.
Matt Cibula (courtesy of PopMatters website)