Tabla Beat Science :: Talamanam Sound Clash, Further Adventures in Hypercussion
[palm pictures]   review from sharaab  

From the Tabla Beat art to the Tala Matrix sound, one knows this is going to be a different experience altogether. The Talamanam Sound Clash double DVD's eye-catching and hypnotic interface takes Doze Green's brilliant neo-Hindu illustrations/graffitti art to a new level by incorporating 3D layering and kaledioscopic effects. Each of the menus feature different pieces from Doze Green's cover art; in the "Song Selection" menu a pair of eyes stare out hauntingly before shifting and fading into multiple copies of itself. And in the "Bonus" section of the DVD the disembodied heads of Kali's rakasha necklace float on top of a psychedelic color-changing mandala pattern...

The concert starts out on a classical tip with Ustad Sultan Khansaheb and Zakir Hussain playing the beautiful "As Always." Throughout the concert images of the musicians are interspliced with footage from India: street shots, the Kumbha Mela, children playing, workers on their daily commute, rural villages and urban sprawls. The imagery by itself is thought-provoking, but combined with the ethereal beauty of Khansaheb and Zakir-ji's music, it truly elevates beyond the realm of a Discovery/Travel Channelesque videography. (For those who want to see the concert without this imagery, there is a Multiangle Concert option which allows you to switch back and forth between different camera angles of the musicians instead). There also are big differences between this DVD and other classical concerts you may have seen. The first is the unusual stage setup, which comes as no surprise to Tabla Beat Science fans: a drum kit, keyboards, racks of amps and sound processors, and the Midival PunditZ laptop setup. Secondly, the concert, which was filmed in San Francisco's world-famous Fillmore auditorium, has no seating. Audience shots show a primarily young, multicultural crowd, standing, nodding heads, waving and shouting especially when the performers go into a particularly elaborate musical passage. No seated, crosslegged, uncles and aunties quietly relishing a purist Indian classical concert...

The songs themselves flow together seamlessly, with Karsh Kale on kit and Bill Laswell on bass joining the classical performers seemingly right in the middle of "As Always," which then heads straight into the amazing "Sacred Channel." The MidiVal PunditZ also chime in with laptop stylings, as well as behind-the-scenes maven Fabian Alsultany (aka DJ Sultan32) who handles keyboards. But the main focus is the amazing interplay between Zakir Hussain, Ustad Sultan Khan, Bill Laswell, and Karsh Kale, four seasoned musicians who are obviously on top of their game. Especially impressive is Karsh Kale, who at his young age not only meets his esteemed colleagues in terms of skill, but also shows an uncanny ability to lock on and improvise with Zakir Hussain's expertly timed rhythmic chops. This is no small feat considering that Zakir-ji is probably the best percussionist playing in the world today. Speaking of Zakir, he expands his tabla setup to include multiple drums and percussion instruments of varying flavors, in which several instances he connects with blockbuter energy and precision timing. The skill and versatility of this musician, along with Ustad Sultan Khan, is truly inspirational to watch. And last but not least, Bill Laswell adds some well needed low-end bass frequencies to the proceedings, at times playing his bass like a groove instrument, and at other times running it through high-end processors and playing it as a warped, hyper-kinetic lead synth/guitar.

Another highlight in the DVD comes early on, with the magnificent rendition of "Mengedenga," which brings Ethiopian singer Gigi to the front of the stage and highlights her ethereal voice alongside Ustad Sultan Khan's, who of course is no slouch in the vocal department either. After that, the PunditZ and Karsh Kale share a moment of unapolegetic tabla'n'bass where Kale displays his tabla skills as well, while the PunditZs show off their technical wizardry by cutting up and recontextualizing vocals from the previous song. The visuals in this section also get more frenetic, with sped-up of shots of grafitti and the like.

The only weak part of the DVD was in DJ Disk's scratching on some, but not all of the tracks. Although his turntablist skills are indeed formadible, the contribution was hit-or miss. (Although, in his defense, the hits were great. At one point, Zakir Hussain turns his head and points to the turntables and shouts out an amusing "Yeah!"). However, this is a minor complaint in an overall unbeatable performance. The second disc of the set shows the latter half the live concert, including tracks like "Magnetic," "Satellite," and "Devotional" all of which spring to life in the hands of these amazing and talented musicians.

A huge advantage to the DVD is the ability to hear it mixed in Dolby Digital 5.1 or DTS 5.1, making the sound quality near-perfect. Palm obviously put a lot of time, care and production value into this DVD, and it shows. In addition to the concert itself, there are bonus features including a psychedelic video remix of "Magnetic," a making-of documentary including a press conference, and also a spoken-word piece performed by Ajay Naidu. Not only that, but stick the second disc into your computer and you'll get two bonus MP3 remixes. But beyond all this, the DVD serves a greater purpose. It thoroughly mesmerizes those that watch it, seasoned TBS fan or curious newbie. If Indian Classical music is ever to find an audience among a younger generation, it will be vehicles like this that will do it. Palm Pictures and everyone involved should be congratulated for bringing such an amazing exeperience to light and allowing people to bring it home with them.

Sharaab is THE DJ/Producer bringing the noise to Atlanta, GA, USA. Visit Sharaab online for more info.]

buy now

  1. As Always (pick)
  2. Sacred Channel (pick)
  3. Mengedenga
  4. As We Drift
  5. Vinylskin
  6. Magnetic
  7. Satellite (Show Me the Worth of the World) (pick)
  8. B Still Transient
  9. Bol Parhant
  10. Devotional