Producer/percussionist Trilok Gurtu has spent the fifteen-odd years since the release of his first solo album Usfret exploring the potential of collaborations between musicians from the Indian, jazz and African traditions. Over the years he's moved from an energetic avant-garde approach to make gentler, more accessible music.
Remembrance features musicians of the quality of the sarangi player Ustad Sultan Khan, the flute of Ronu Majumdar, the tabla player Zakir Hussain and the vocalist Shankar Mahadevan. Trilok's mother Shoba Gurtu makes her first recording with her son since Usfret. With this cast list, it's no surprise that the most successful pieces on Remembrance are those most grounded in the classical Indian tradition.
The album's opening track 'Brindavan Dance' is a potentially off-putting percussion and programming workout, dated and somewhat unattractive. But on 'Expression Of Love' we hear Shankar Mahadevan and Shoba Gurtu combine over gentle santoor, Sultan Khan's shocking sarangi and Trilok's syncopated trap drums to powerful and atmospheric effect. Although nothing at all like a traditional raga, except perhaps in the passages of impossibly fast extended harmony, it's simultaneously forward-looking and rooted in tradition, combining an unusual arrangement, sophisticated production and extraordinary musicianship.
'Witness to Marriage' follows, with an affecting Bollywood string arrangement and African vocal sample building into something of an epic of insistent funk and north Indian percussion. The light, but enchanting 'Our Heritage' showcases Majumdar's flute. Trilok syncopates trap drums beneath the flute and a rolling synthesiser sequence, giving the tune his rhythmic trademark.
It's quickly obvious that the arrangements and the studiocraft here are grounded in pop territory, for all the album's glorious musicianship. 'Greetings', where Zakir Hussain does his 10,000-fingered tabla thing over synth bass and distracting sequenced synthesiser, exemplifies this.
Where Remembrance really comes to life, as it does on 'Evening In India', simply harmonium, vocal and percussion, it's really quite splendid.
Reviewer: Neil Bennun
All Music Guide