By R.M. Campbell
Few would argue that Zakir Hussain is one of the most important drummers of the late 20th and early 21st century. A steady presence in the United States since the 1970’s, he has often, well, maybe not often, appeared in Seattle in various venues with various other Indian musicians. On Thursday he returned to Seattle for a concert titled “Masters of Percussion,” presented by the Seattle Theatre Group at the Moore Theatre.
It was a program of his own creation in which he invited leading drummers, as well as the eminent violinists Ganesh & Kumaresh, for a tour of North America. Seattle was the first stop. The house was near capacity and enthusiastic for this show with its multiplicity of talent and offerings.
Seattle historically has not had a large Indian community. But in the past decade or so, more and more Indians have been attracted to the area for its high-tech jobs. In general they are a sophisticated and affluent lot. They also like to hear music of their native country and see dance. Thus, one can now experience a good share of premium musicians and dancers from India. Many of those performances have been on the University of Washington campus. Many still are, with the UW World Series at Meany Theater becoming a major presenter. The Seattle Theatre Group, which runs the Paramount and Moore theaters, has also taken up the charge. Following “Masters of Percussion” this spring is the Nrityagram Dance Ensemble April 17.
The second half was devoted to the particularities of the brothers Ganesh & Kumaresh, accompanied by Hussain and Sharma. The European violin was introduced to south Indian classical music about 1800. A century later it was a fixture in programs of Carnatic music. Now, the violin is also part of concerts of Hindustani music in the north. It is used doubly as an accompanying and solo instrument, It is tuned differently than in the West which gives it a different sound. Instead of resting under the chin, it is held against the chest with the scroll anchored at the ankle. That gives the left hand total freedom to move about the fingerboard. Ganesh & Kumaresh are great experts in the instrument, revealing to a Western ear all the miracles of Indian music — its vibrancy and dynamism.
Parthasarathy’s solo turn was not long but potent and spell-binding. Eventually everybody came on stage, including the folk drummers and dancers, the Motilal Dhakis from Bengal, whose procession through the audience opened the performance.