On Stage: Zakir Hussain brings classical rhythm to Zellerbach

By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

Zakir Hussain

On April 7, area music fans will have the opportunity to hear one of the legendary masters of Indian classical music perform live in concert with two of India’s emerging new luminaries in a special concert at the University of Pennsylvania’s Zellerbach Theater (Annenberg Center, 3680 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, pennlivearts.org).

Zakir Hussain, a master percussionist in North Indian Hindustani classical music, is recognized as the world’s premier tabla player. He will perform on stage in a trio format with Kala Ramnath, and Jayanthi Kumaresh – the Triveni Trio..

Hussain is today appreciated both in the field of percussion and in the music world at large as an international phenomenon. A classical tabla virtuoso of the highest order, his consistently brilliant and exciting performances have not only established him as a national treasure in his own country, India, but gained him worldwide fame.

His playing is marked by uncanny intuition and masterful improvisational dexterity, founded in formidable knowledge and study. The favorite accompanist for many of India’s greatest classical musicians and dancers, he has not let his genius rest there.

Widely considered chief architect of the contemporary world music movement, Hussain’s contribution to world music has been unique, with many historic collaborations, including Shakti, which he founded with John McLaughlin and L. Shankar, Remember Shakti, the Diga Rhythm Band, Making Music, Planet Drum with Mickey Hart, Tabla Beat Science, Sangam with Charles Lloyd and Eric Harland.

He is also known for his recordings and performances with artists as diverse as George Harrison, YoYo Ma, Joe Henderson, Van Morrison, Airto Moreira, Pharoah Sanders, Billy Cobham, Mark Morris, Rennie Harris, and the Kodo drummers.

“This is the first tour we’re doing in front of people after a long layoff because of the pandemic,” said Hussain, during a phone interview Tuesday from a tour stop in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

“It’s such an exciting event to be able to connect with people in a live event. The music just blossoms.”

Hussain stayed very busy during the pandemic.

“I made two recordings – one with John McLaughlin and one with Dave Holland,” said Hussain. “The one with John McLaughlin was celebrating the 50th anniversary of Shakti, our band from a long time ago.

“I’m now mixing a new Planet Drum album with Mickey Hart. I’ve also been working on a few film scores. It’s been busy.

“The technology to do this remotely has existed for years but has never been used until lockdown. Now, it’s possible to prepare for a tour on computer. When all this happened, it was a boon. We found ways to make it work well. It was exciting to be able to do it.”

Hussain’s prowess as a tabla player came naturally – even genetically.

Hussain’s father Ustad Allarakha Qureshi, popularly known as Alla Rakha, was an Indian tabla player specialized in Hindustani Classical music. He was a frequent accompanist of the world’s greatest proponent of Indian classical music — sitarist Ravi Shankar.

Hussain was a child prodigy.

His father taught him Pakhawaj from the age of 3 years. Alla Rakha belonged to the tradition of tabla playing known as the Punjab baaj, one of the six main traditions (baaj) of north Indian tabla drumming, the others being Delhi, Benares, Ajrara, Farrukhabad, and Lucknow.

Hussain was touring by the age of 11. He went to the United States in 1969 to do his PhD at the University of Washington, receiving a doctorate in music. After that he began his international career, including more than 150 concert dates a year.

“For the first 15 years of my life, it was only Indian music,” said Hussain, during a recent phone interview. “When I got to America, I was exposed to jazz and gamelan. I spent another eight years trying to get used to that.

“Now, with younger Indian musicians, they grow up with exposure to music of the world. They are learning all the music and it appears to them as one entity. They know 50 times more about music of the globe than I did when I was 25.”

Hussain’s current run of shows features the “Triveni Trio” – Hussain on tabla, Ramnath on violin and Kumaresh on veena, a stringed instrument with an elongated neck and two hollow gourds.

“They are like daughters to me,” said Hussain, who earned the Padma Bhushan (the third-highest civilian award in India), the United States’ National Heritage Fellowship, Officier in Francés Order of Arts and Letters, and an honorary doctorate from Berklee College of Music. “I’m 72 and they are about half my age. It has become like a family.”

Triveni is the mythical site of the union of three sacred rivers in India, and the name aptly represents the confluence of the varied musicalities which the three maestros bring to this collaboration. A hallmark of Zakir Hussain’s iconic career has been his groundbreaking work at the forefront of brilliant musical dialogues between Hindustani (North Indian) and Carnatic (South Indian) music.

“It is not a challenge to blend Hindustani and Carnatic music traditions – if you open your mind,” said Hussain, who has composed three concertos including the first-ever concerto for tabla and orchestra (premiered in India in September, 2015 by the Symphony Orchestra of India).

With Ramnath, an innovative representative of North Indian raga tradition, Kumaresh, the leading exponent of the ancient South Indian veena, and Hussain seamlessly stitching North and South Indian rhythm traditions to provide a bridge for veena and violin to meet, Triveni is a fluent, joyous and entirely original musical conversation.

The group perform what is known as jugalbandi, which is named after the mythological meeting place of India’s three sacred rivers. Jugalbandi, meaning “entwined twins,” is a mostly improvisational form of music where two musicians with different instruments perform a duet, each playing a solo before returning to a base motif.

“Jugalbandi is a collective interaction,” said Hussain. “It is seamless. Maybe since there are three of us, we should call it ‘Trigalbandi.’

Ramnath, whose guru (teacher) was the famous Pandit Jasraj, has been awarded the Sangeet Natak Akademi Puraskar presented by India’s National Academy of Music, Dance, and Drama. It is the highest recognition a practicing artist can receive in India.

Her playing has been featured on the Grammy-nominated “Miles from India” project, and her compositions have appeared in the Grammy-winning album “27 Pieces” and the Kronos Quartet’s “50 for the Future.”

Born into a dynasty of prodigious musical talent, one which has given Indian music such violin legends as her paternal uncle Professor T. N. Krishnan and paternal aunt Dr. N. Rajam, Ramnath’s prowess as a violinist began manifesting early. Recognizing her innate talent, her astute grandfather, Vidwan A. Narayan Iyer, took her under his tutelage.

Kumaresh, who has won a multitude of awards and is considered one of the best veena players in the world, has been captivating audiences around the world for 30 years.

She has performed at many international festivals, including the San Francisco Jazz Festival, the Darbar Festival, the Queensland Music Festival, the Darwin Music Festival, and the Adelaide Music Festival, and at prestigious venues such as the United Nations in New York, the Palladium, Indiana, the Théâtre de la Ville, Paris, and the Northwest Folklife Festival, Seattle.

She has received many awards in India, including the Sangeetha Choodamani, the Kalaimamani from the Government of Tamil Nadu, the Veena Naada Mani, the Kala Ratna, the Sathyashree, and the Gaana Varidhi, to name a few. She is a seven-time recipient of The Music Academy, Chennai’s Award for Veena.

As a collaborator, she has performed with legends such as violin maestro Shri. R. Kumaresh, flautist Ronu Majumdar and tabla master Hussain.

A pioneer, she founded the Indian National Orchestra, in which 21 musicians playing different Indian instruments came together under one banner to showcase Indian classical music. As a researcher, she holds a doctorate for her works on “styles and playing techniques of the Saraswati Veena.”

“The violin is 500 years old and the veena is an out-and-out ancient Indian instrument,” said Hussain. “The show will touch on 800 years of Indian music.”

Video link for Triveni Trio — https://youtu.be/lWAUUxORHiQ.

The concert on April 7 at the Zellerbach Theater will start at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets are $84.

It’s been quite a while but, finally, Bitch is back.


Bitch is back with a new album – “Bitchcraft,” which was released on February 2, 2022 on the Kill Rock Stars label.

Bitch is also back with her first tour in years.

The tour started this week at the Rockwood Music Hall in New York City and will conclude on May 27 at Pensacola Unleashed in Pensacola, Florida.

The talented singer/violinist/songwriter will bring the tour to Philadelphia for a show on April 8 at PhilaMOCA (531 North 12th Street, Philadelphia, 267-519-9651, www.philamoca.org).

“Bitchcraft” was born in a move from New York City, where Bitch had lived for 15 years, to a log cabin in the woods. There was all the time in the world to make art, and it was there, in the cabin, that Bitch began to write some of the songs that would appear on Bitchcraft.

“I moved into this little log cabin in Michigan with my partner,” said Bitch, during a phone interview last week from her home in Los Angeles.

“We were there for three years. That’s where I laid the foundation for my new album. I probably wrote five songs there and then continued to tweak them. ‘Bitchcraft’ really was crafted.

“My partner and I had started this food company and that ate up a lot of time. I spent a lot of time working on these songs. I was taking time off from shows. It inspired the biggest side of myself sonically.”

Prior to moving to Michigan, Bitch was living in Boston. When it was time to leave Michigan, she headed to L.A.

“I moved to L.A. because the entertainment world was there,” said Bitch. “I had gone to the cabin to rest and get off the road. I went to L.A. because it was time to get back in – and head to the sunshine.

When Bitch moved to Southern California, “Bitchcraft” stated to shapeshift again.

She called on Anne Preven (Beyonce, Madonna, Demi Lovato) and God-des who helped her crystalize her vision in terms of writing and production. She called on Roma Baran (Laurie Anderson) to produce the violins on “Polar Bear.” She called on Melissa York (Team Dresch, The Butchies) and Faith Soloway (Transparent) to co-write a couple of the songs.

The album is pure 2022 sensibilities with roots in the 1980s. There are sonic touches that are reminiscent of the past yet impossible to pin down.

The songs are so real and so vibrant – and so relatable.

For example, ‘Hateful Thoughts’ shows real emotion of dealing with love and hurt — universal whether it’s a guy and a girl, two guys, two girls – it’s just two people and the emotional struggle they go through.

“Pages’ is another song that brings up things that need to be addressed.

“‘Pages’ was about looking inside for answers,” said Bitch. “God-des was a big part of that song. She got me to rewrite the lyrics. She told me to write about that chapter of my life.

“I’ve released a couple singles off the album – ‘Hello Meadow!,’ ‘Easy Target,’ and ‘You’re The Man,’ which came out in January. Then, the single ‘Noting In My Pockets’ came out a few days before the album dropped.”

According to a release from her record company, “‘Bitchcraft’ is like Joni Mitchell set to a click track. It’s queer Cyndi Lauper. It’s neon pink, in your face, ready to hex you with its brilliance. It’s an unbelievably fun record that is extremely capable of breaking your heart a little bit. It also makes you think — about the state of the world, about evil politicians, about what it means to exist as a woman, and how to find joy along the way.”

One of the songs about the state of the world – climate change, specifically –is “Polar Bear.” Bitch sings, “I can hear the heart of the polar bear – and I know she’s scared.” It’s hard to listen to Bitch’s plaintiff vocals and not be affected.

“Most of my current show will be songs from the new album,” said Bitch. “But I’m also going to do some tried-and-true classics.”

Bitch has released four previous albums and has had several musical incarnations.

She started her music career as one-half of the somewhat radical duo Bitch and Animal and then embarked on a solo career around 2005.

Her first albums were “Be-Sides, one take wonders and poems,” which was self-released in 2005, and “Make This Break This,” which was released in 2006 on the Kill Rock Stars label.

In 2008, her musical project was B+TEC which had evolved from Bitch and the Exciting Conclusion, and that incarnation produced an album titled, “B+TEC” (2008, Conclusion Short Story Records).

A few years later, Bitch went back to being a solo artist. She just released an album titled “Blasted” on her own label Short Story Records in 2010. In addition to producing the album, she also played all the main instruments with various guest artists on different tracks. Bitch’s last album prior to a hiatus that lasted almost a decade was “In Us We Trust” (2013) Short Story Records.

Now, the long wait is over, and Bitch has treated her fans to her most impressive record to date.

It’s often been said that good things come to those who wait. “Bewitched” offers proof positive to that cliché.

Video link for Bitch – https://youtu.be/vFxdTDreoJE.

The show on April 8 will start at 8 p.m.

Tickets are $15.

Steve Hackett

Back in November, progressive rock guitar legend Steve Hackett announced that he would be bringing his “Genesis Revisited: Seconds Out + More Tour” to the states for a two-month run in April and May after a highly successful tour that played to packed houses throughout Europe).

Hackett will play three shows in the area – all at the Scottish Rite Auditorium (315 White Horse Pike, Collingswood, New Jersey, scottishrite.com).

The visit to New Jersey, which runs from April 7-9, will be the only multiple show run in one North American city. It’s not surprising given that the former Genesis guitar ace has bult a strong local following with sold-out shows in recent years at the Santander Arena in Reading, the Keswick Theatre in Glenside, the Grand in Wilmington and the Scottish RiteAuditorium.

It would be an understatement to describe Hackett’s fanbase in the area as sizable.

Genesis was one of the best progressive rock bands ever — one of the genre’s trailblazers – and Philly always hosted SRO crowds. The band in its original state broke up quite a while ago and prospects of any type of reunion featuring Peter Gabriel and Hackett are non-existent.

Fortunately, Hackett, who is renowned as an immensely talented and innovative rock musician, is keeping the timeless music of Genesis alive.

He was lead guitarist with Genesis as part of the band’s classic line-up with Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins, Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford – the line-up that produced several of the band’s most-acclaimed albums including “Selling England by the Pound” and “The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway.”

Hailed for his electric guitar playing and his composing, Hackett employs influences from many genres, including jazz, world music and blues. He also has made classical albums that include renditions of pieces by composers from Bach to Satie.

Hackett’s shows feature two parts – one set devoted to a particular Genesis album and the other featuring various tracks from his solo albums and other Genesis LPs.

In 2017, Hackett’s “Genesis Revisited with Classic Hackett” celebrated the 40th anniversary of the classic Genesis album, “Wind and Wuthering,” Hackett and his band also played Genesis fan favorites such as “The Musical Box” and other Genesis numbers never performed before by his band. He also included some material from “The Night Siren.”

The tour prior to that was “From Acolyte to Wolflight Tour 2015” which celebrated his latest solo album “Wolflight” and the 40th anniversary of the release of his first solo album “Voyage of the Acolyte.” The also featured a unique blend of Hackett solo material and Genesis classics, including as-of-yet unperformed Genesis material.

His Keswick shows in 2014 were part of the “Genesis Extended Tour,” which was a continuation of the 2013/2014 “Genesis Revisited II Tour.” That tour, which broke box office records in the UK, Europe and Japan, featured all Genesis material accompanied by a specially designed light show.

Hackett nails the Genesis sound with his band, which features regular musicians Roger King (keyboards), Jonas Reingold (bass), Rob Townsend (saxes/flutes), Nad Sylvan (vocals) and Craig Blundell (drums).

“Nad’s vocals are special,” said Hackett. “Nad has always been a chameleon. He sounds like Phil. He sounds like Pete. Nad is a strange one in that way he has of doing other people’s vocals.”

The focus on this tour will be on Genesis’ “Seconds Out” album with the addition of “Selling England by the Pound” for some of the shows.

“I’ll be playing all of ‘Seconds Out’ from start to finish,” said Hackett, during a phone interview Wednesday from a tour stop in Harrisburg.

“I’ll also be doing some songs from my latest solo albums, ‘Surrender of Silence’ and “Under a Mediterranean Sky’ along with a tiny bit of ‘Trick of the Tale.’”

“Seconds Out,” the second live album by Genesis, was released as a double album in October 1977 on Charisma Records. It was the band’s final album to feature Hackett prior to his departure. The majority was recorded in June 1977 at the Palais des Sports in Paris during the Wind & Wuthering Tour. One track, “The Cinema Show,” was recorded the previous year at the Pavillon de Paris during their A Trick of the Tail Tour.

“With ‘Seconds Out,’ Genesis picked songs from previous albums and brought them up to date,” said Hackett. “There were about six or seven albums to draw from.”

Hackett joined Genesis at the beginning of 1971 and gained an international reputation as the guitarist in the band’s classic line-up alongside Peter Gabriel, Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford and Phil Collins. His intricate guitar work was a key element of Genesis’ albums from “Nursery Cryme” (1971) to “Wind And Wuthering” (1977) including the classic “Selling England By The Pound.”

After leaving Genesis at the end of 1977, Hackett embarked on a solo career, which now spans more than 30 albums, and demonstrated his extraordinary versatility with both electric and acoustic guitar.

Hackett is renowned as both an immensely talented and innovative rock musician and a virtuoso classical guitarist and composer and this was recognized in 2010 when he was inducted into the Rock Hall of Fame. He has also worked alongside Steve Howe of Yes in the supergroup GTR.

According to Hackett, “I’m thrilled to bring ‘Seconds Out’ back to life, featuring Genesis material at its most exciting and virtuosic. This time with all numbers played in full plus additional surprises.

“We recorded a show in Manchester last fall, and it came across very well. It sounds better than the original. It sounds like what it should have sounded like.”

Hackett turned 72 in February and has showed no signs of slowing down.

According to Hackett, “We’re touring the world again now, and I intend to continue. It feels terrific to be back in the saddle with such great audience response and fronting a fantastic band.”

Video link for Steve Hackett — https://youtu.be/DhXFA7B08xM.

The shows at the Scottish Rite Auditorium will start at 7:30 p.m. each night.

Ticket prices start at $39.

Rick Braun photographed by Raj Naik in 2021

When jazz trumpeter Rick Braun performs onstage, his concert is like a gourmet entrée at a fine restaurant.

When Braun performs in the area this weekend, his performances will be like gourmet entrée in a smorgasbord of delectable treats.

Braun will play three concerts at this weekend’s 31st Annual Berks Jazz Festival (berksjazzfest.com).

On April 7, Braun will perform as part of the Chuck Loeb Memorial All-Star Jazz Jam along with Gerald Veasley, Keiko Matsui, Brian Bromberg, Eric Marienthal, Everette Harp, Adam Hawley, Curtis McCain along with a special performance by Patti Austin.

The show is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Grand Ballroom at the DoubleTree by Hilton Reading (701 Penn Street, Reading). Tickets are $59 with reserved seating.

On April 8, Braun will perform as part of the Anniversary Celebration Concert along with Lindsey Webster, Keiko Matsui, Brian Bromberg, Eric Marienthal, Everette Harp, The Berks Horns and Adam Hawley,

The show is scheduled for 6 p.m. at the Scottish Rite Cathedral (470 South Seventh Street, West Reading). Tickets are $59 with reserved seating.

On April 8, Braun will headline the “Fest Finale” with a concert at the Scottish Rite Cathedral. Braun will perform with Gerald Albright and special guest Jeff Lorber.

The show is scheduled for 6 p.m. at the Scottish Rite Cathedral. Tickets are $59 with reserved seating.

Braun has been touring in March and April in support of his new album, “Rick Braun.”

The tour brought him to Philadelphia on March 26 for a show at Rivers Casino.

“I’m looking forward to playing the festival in Reading,” said Braun, during a recent phone interview from his home in Woodland Hills, California. “I’m doing a bunch of shows including the last show of the festival with Gerald Albright and Jeff Lorber.

“A lot of my new album was done during the pandemic. People were coming off when things loosened up but a lot of it was done by me – mostly me.”

The new self-titled album from the chart-topping multi-instrumentalist moved into the Top 5 biggest selling contemporary immediately after its release and the lead single, dance floor anthem “Feet First,” continues to be a fixture at radio.

Jazz Times noted, “Rick Braun has established himself as one of the most popular and prolific artists within the smooth-jazz genre…But his commercial success belies a strong affinity and facility for mainstream jazz” and described the album as “filled with impressive chops and relentless grooves.”

Released via his own indie label, Brauntosoarus Music, “Rick Braun” arrives 30 years after his debut album, “Intimate Secrets,” propelled Braun from sideman to chart-topping front man and acclaimed producer.

“Intimate Secrets” launched him to contemporary jazz stardom and made him one of the genre’s most influential artists and producers.

“30 years and I’m still doing it,” said Braun, who grew up in the Lehigh Valley and graduated from Allentown’s Dieruff High.

Some of his chief influences were jazz greats like Till Bronner, Clifford Brown, Freddie Hubbard, Lee Morgan and Chet Baker, in addition to Philly originated legends from The Brecker Brothers and Jeff Lorber and fellow Allentown native Keith Jarrett.

“I attended Eastman School of Music in Rochester (NY) and then moved to L.A. after I graduated. I worked as a songwriter for Warner Chappell and had a Top 20 hit with REO Speedwagon (“Here With Me”). I played with a lot of bands out here and toured with Rod Stewart.”

Braun’s resume includes work with Crowded House, Tom Petty, Sade, Tina Turner, Rod Stewart and Glenn Frey. He has amassed more than 20 No. 1 Smooth Jazz hits (including “Notorious” and “Grazin’ in the Grass”), produced No. 1’s for David Benoit, Marc Antoine and Jeff Golub, and created two of the genre’s most impactful dual albums ever (“Shake It Up” with Boney James, “RnR” with Richard Elliot).

“While I was a songwriter, I started writing music for trumpet and get a record deal with Mesa/Blue Moon, which ended up being part of Warner Bros.” said Braun.

“It wasn’t difficult to write for trumpet. Instead of lyrics for vocals, I wrote for my instrumentation. It was kind of seamless.”

Video link for Rick Braun — https://youtu.be/oGifQOx6TRk.

Kennett Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org) is presenting a show by Solar Federation on April 9.

Jamey’s House of Music (32 South Lansdowne Avenue, Lansdowne, 215-477-9985, www.jameyshouseofmusic.com) will host Michael London & Friends on April 8 and Danielle Miraglia on April 9.

There is also the Thursday Night Jazz Jam on April 7 featuring the Dave Reiter Trio and the Sunday Blues Brunch and Jam on April 10.

The Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8389, www.ardmoremusic.com) will present Motet on April 8 and Cowboy Junkies on April 9.

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