Disbanding in the late 1970’s, Shakti lay dormant for two decades whilst all the musicians involved pursued other directions; John McLaughlin who chose to go in multiple acoustic and electric directions continuing to earn major audiences and plaudits, violinist Shankar who created a series of minor masterpieces deserving of much greater recognition and also helped compose a notable number of high-profile film scores, and Zakir Hussain and T. H. ‘Vikku’ Vinayakram who both built massive discographies of fusion and world-music, while also taking on noteworthy music education roles.
Approaching the year 2000 and McLaughlin and Hussain decided that the time felt right for the reformation, and further development, of the Shakti group. However, while McLaughlin and Hussain were able to contact and link up with Vinayakram, none of the three could find Shankar, and so instead decided to continue on without him, replacing him for their return tour with bansuri player Hariprasad Chaurasia.
Initially touring in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the independence of India and Pakistan, this double-set is taken from that tour and a good thing too, with the musicians here always going to have excelled more in the live arena than that of the recording studio.
Less percussive and rhythmic than the original Shakti, here the music is more introspective and thoughtful, and also happily, much more emotionally reaching. The best example here being the hour-long epic ‘Mukti’, which despite its length never feels long or dragging, but frequently, like much here, does bring a wave of euphoria to the listener. Everything here is played for the musical moment, with no egos vying for the spotlight, and no solos dominating the other musicians – here the musical interplay is everything.
Remember Shakti remain a pretty much one-off group of unique and uniquely inspired players that continue to fuse western improvised music with the music of India in an equally unique and compelling way. As with the original Shakti, if you hope to hear blistering lead guitar lines from McLaughlin, then you’re in the wrong place. Here though is a strong, intelligent and emotional musical group that offers languid meditative deeply reaching music of a very high order.