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2023: reunion concert

Bella Jaisinghani , January 22, 2023: The Times of India

MUMBAI: A musical miracle of modern times will unfold at the NSCI Dome in Worli Sunday. The Shakti 50th Anniversary concert will create history as three original stalwarts of the group-guitar legend John McLaughlin, tabla nawaz Ustad Zakir Hussain and ghatam pioneer Vikku Vinayakram-regroup after decades. Singer Shankar Mahadevan, percussionist Selvaganesh Vinayakram, Vikkuji's son, and violinist Ganesh Rajagopalan are other prominent members of the band which has included other Indian classical legends as well over the years. Shakti has lined up four concerts in India, with the first having taken place in Bengaluru on January 20. Sunday (January 22) is Mumbai's day to enjoy the music, while Kolkata and Delhi will earn the privilege January 24 and 28 respectively.

Mumbai is privileged because Vikku Vinayakram will perform only at this venue. In fact, the long awaited reunion of the artistes with the ghatam legend took place at a suburban hotel Saturday, and the hearty grins and fond embraces made a happy picture. The most noticeable transformation was that the maestro's long hair, which he shakes vigorously while playing, had given way to a sober close cut. Zakir Hussain traipsed behind him chanting, "Spikyman!" to the tune of "Spiderman", and Vinayakram responded with bear hugs.

The passage of time has not dimmed the memorable journey of the past 50 years. McLaughlin (Mahavishnu in the pre-Shakti era), recalled the time he first jammed with Zakir Hussain at the home of sarod artiste Ali Akbar Khan in the US.

Former members of Shakti are still deeply missed, whether it is Mandolin Srinivas who died suddenly in 2014, or L Shankar who lives a quiet life in the US. The band has just released its first album in 45 years, 'Mohanam'. "We started work in January 2020 but the pandemic occurred, and because nobody could travel, we sat in different countries and assembled it online. It felt like we were sitting in the same room!" said McLaughlin. Shankar Mahadevan pointed out, "This is how one can take advantage of electronics and technology if one wants to.”

Typical of collective genius, Shakti's playlist will flow between plan and improvisation. "We did rehearse some basic compositions for three-four days before the Bengaluru concert, but the micro beat, of course, is unpredictable," said Mahadevan. Zakir Hussain added, "We know we have to go from point A to B and C. But how we get there is spontaneous. It is like a flock of birds following the leader. They don't know where it will fly next but they all turn in perfect sync when it turns.”

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