Trilok Gurtu: Master Of Percussion
Gurtu began playing a western drum kit in the 1970s, and developed an interest in jazz. In a 1995 television special on Jimi Hendrix, Gurtu mentioned having initially learned Western music without awareness of overdubbing, which, he said, forced him to learn multiple parts which most musicians would have never attempted. In the 1970s, he played with Charlie Mariano, John Tchicai, Terje Rypdal, and Don Cherry.
In the 1980s, Gurtu played with Swiss drummer Charly Antolini and with John McLaughlin in McLaughlin’s trio, accompanied variously by bassists Jonas Hellborg, Kai Eckhardt, and Dominique DiPiazza. The line-up with Hellborg performed at least one concert opening for Miles Davis in Berkeley, California in 1988.
Collaboration between Gurtu and McLaughlin included vocal improvisations using the Indian tala talk method of oral drumming notations for teaching drum patterns. Sometimes, Eckhardt would join in with hip-hop beat-box vocals for a three-way vocal percussion jam, while Gurtu and McLaughlin would throw in a few amusing words such as some Japanese brand names mixed with some Indian words.
Some of the unusual aspects of Gurtu’s drum playing include playing without a drum stool, in a half-kneeling position on the floor, and the use of an unconventional kick drum that resembles a large drum head with a kick-pedal, and a mix of tablas and western drums. Gurtu’s unique percussion signature involves dipping cymbals and strings of shells into a bucket of water to create a shimmering effect.
In the early 1990s, Gurtu resumed his career as a solo artist and a bandleader. Various noted musicians have backed him on a number of his CD releases.
In 1999, Zakir Hussain and Bill Laswell founded a musical group, Tabla Beat Science, which played a mixture of Hindustani music, Asian underground, ambient, Drum and Bass, and Electronica. Gurtu joined this group along with Karsh Kale and Talvin Singh. The group released three albums before going dormant in late 2003.
In 2010, Trilok Gurtu played on the album Piano Car, an opera of minimalist composer Stefano Ianne with Ricky Portera, Nick Beggs (Kajagoogoo), Mario Marzi, Terl Bryant (John Paul Jones/Led Zeppelin), John De Leo.