Shakti – Love & Beauty
If we were to ask, what is the one thing that fans of classical music across the world have in common apart from their nerdy exposition of raags and composition; It would be Shakti. On a cold January evening in Bangalore, a remarkable performance left a lasting impression on a longtime fan; not just of the band, but of music. A body of work spanning 50 years, involving maestros and legends of music reunited to delight audiences, old and new, preaching love, unity, peace and beauty.
Amidst a roaring crowd, John Mclaughlin enters first with a demeanor fitting a true down to earth legend. A man who wields the guitar in ways that the west had never seen before. The brains behind the inception of Shakti and also probably its number one fan. You would catch him absolutely in bliss while his bandmates were immersing the audience in some stellar compositions. John was followed by four of India’s gifts to the western world.
An array of talent that stands today at the cutting edge of Indian music. Shankar Mahadevan, vocal mystic, sat at the center of the five piece, embodying the role of bonds between atoms and molecules that hold a compound together. Displaying a vocal prowess like no other, Shankar casually catches and throws raags and taals while he is not hitting notes that is transporting the audiences to far away dimensions of pleasure and tranquility.
Ganesh Rajagopalan, violinist supreme, is the newest addition to the band. However, if you were listening to Shakti for the first time in your life, you would fight everyone who tells you that this is his first performance with them. Ganesh was so effortless that even encore, he didn’t have a problem being so stellar.
As if he was born to be part of this exact band. V Selvaganesh, successor for success, commanded the audience’s attention by grabbing on to, raising and dropping our heartbeats through his prowess of percussion. Although Selva has performed alongside Vikku Vinayakram Ji in Shakti, his biggest victory lay in him making me never think about the absence of his father on Ghatam. Some of the best compositions of the night were penned and performed by the man as he masterfully belted the Khanjira making you wonder if anyone can do that with that instrument.
Zakir Hussain, magnanimity personified, humbly sat at the edge of the stage as if he was saying ‘don’t look at me, look at others’. But, Zakir with his sharp wit and tenacity filled the stage with his presence even when they weren’t performing. The battle of the percussions with Zakir and Selvaganesh was our favorite moment of the performance that really got the crowed riled up.
On that cold January evening in Bangalore, we witnessed a performance that was a personification of excellence, humility, candor and most important of all, Love & Beauty. John walks on to the front of stage, walking across to hug and hold Zakir in a deep embrace while reveling in the claps and chants of the crowd asking for a second encore. To an audience that it has cultivated across five decades, Shakti bows.