Over the several decades Trilok Gurtu, tabla talent and multi-percussionist, has worked with an extraordinary array of diverse musicians. At Sadler’s Wells, the Trilok Gurtu Orchestra (Carlo Cantini on violin, Roland Cabezas on guitar, Johann Berby on bass and Phil Drummy on a variety of instruments) was joined on stage by Jan Garbarek, an outstanding saxophonist, and the London Octave Orchestra.
The evening began with the primeval, other-worldly, reptilian-like sounds of the didgeridoo. The music then took the audience on a journey traversing across continents that defiantly, refused to be categorised. “Music is one,” declared Trilok. It wove a path that had faint glimmers of blues, country and western, rock, jazz, gypsy dance music, Bollywood and much more. Taking in works from Bach, Elgar, Japanese composer Takemitsu and Philip Glass, it was an accomplishment that clearly had many hours of work put into it and stood head and shoulders above the usual cross-cultural fare that is presented to audiences.
Trilok Gurtu, sometimes sitting, often standing was surrounded by a drum kit, tablas, a variety of other drums and shakers, and a bucket of water! Trilok orchestrated most of the proceedings from the right of the stage as the compositions journeyed across continents and genres, stitched together with a heavy dose of percussion.
One of the many highlights of the evening, which twisted and took sharp turns, sometimes midway through the piece, was the beautifully melodic, soulful saxophone-playing by Jan Garbarek. His distinctive style, featuring long sustained notes reminiscent of Islamic prayer calls eased its way in and out of periods of silence. And while the rest of the evening was fun and exhilarating, it is the saxophone that continues to linger with me long after the performance.