Zakir Hussain - Skinner Hall, Vassar College - October 7, 2012
Hussain was my first close-up exposure to a tabla player in action, so I got a better understanding of how the deep talking drum (Bāyāñ or Duggi) works, especially in the hands of this master. Rakesh Chaurasia was his flute partner, an equally amazing player. He produced an astounding range of tonality from what is essentially a bamboo stick! Hussain’s intermittent educational narration was much enlightening and appreciated, including the fact that the piece in the first half was edited down from the extended length of its formal completeness. Post-intermission maintained the rigor of technique but was a bit looser in a few regards; while jamming around Hussain showed us just what that talking drum could do, throwing in a few quotes from western pop, such as the “Smoke on the Water” riff. The encore was a dialog that let them do the equivalent of trading eights, awesome! I can’t really figure out either of their signatures; I’m guessing that Chaurasia used some sort of nickname. Martel Recital Hall in Skinner Hall (I guess the latter is the name of the building) is becoming one of my favorite indoor venues; I almost always get good seating, the lights stay on enough for me to work, and there is invariably access to the artists after the concert.