Fifty years of Shakti

Starting 17th of August, international supergroup Shakti will perform across the U.S., celebrating their 50th anniversary. The group was formed by renowned tabla percussionist Zakir Hussain, English guitarist John McLaughlin, Indian violin player L. Shankar, and ghatam player T. H. “Vikku” Vinayakram in 1974.

Since then, the group has continued to thrill fans all across the world with their mesmerizing collaborations combining Indian classical music with jazz and rock elements.

Alongside Zakir Hussain and John McLaughlin, the group now boasts violinist Ganesh Rajagopalan of “Ganesh-Kumaresh” fame, “Vikku” Vinayakram’s son Selvaganesh, and veteran singer Shankar Mahadevan. To mark their 50th anniversary, Shakti released their new album titled  “This Moment” on June 23. their final tour, the first in 45 years, will launch in Boston in August.

On their North American tour, the group will be supported by a rotating cast of musicians, including Jerry Douglas, Bèla Fleck, Brill Frisell, or John Scofield.

The musicians who form international supergroup Shakti
To mark their 50th anniversary, Shakti released their new album titled  “This Moment.” (image courtesy: Shakti)

Ustad Zakir Hussain spoke to Anuj Chakrapani on the eve of the Shakti tour.

On his love for San Francisco Bay Area

It is great to be celebrating 50 years of Shakti in California, especially in San Francisco. I consider this city my home and have been in love with this place for several decades.

On Shakti’s pioneering fusion music in the U.S. in the 1970’s

San Francisco, in the 60s and 70s, was a melting pot of music. Artists from all over the planet came here and settled. There were artists from India, Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, South East Asia, and Europe. Some of the most famous rock and roll bands lived here – all hanging out together.

Jam sessions were always on, and the exchange of music language was in full swing. I was lucky to have arrived here at that time and be accepted into the fold by all these great maestros. When John McLaughlin and I first played together, it was here in San Francisco in the living room of the legend Ustad Ali Akbar Khan. There was nothing but inspiration everywhere.

The challenge of getting Shakti moving forward was all handled by John Bhai. It was his energy and his desire to see this to fruition. His love for Indian music and our deep friendship overcame all obstacles aside and put Shakti on the musical landscape.

On Shakti’s 50th anniversary and his relationship with John McLaughlin and Vikku Vinayakram 

The secret of the group’s success is the deep love we share between us. Together, we have experienced what an honest, reverent, and full-of-love creative process can be. 

On Shankar Mahadevan

Shankar Mahadevan joined the band in the late 90s, when the band reformed as “Remember Shakti”

It seemed like a natural climb onto the next shelf. For decades, Shankar-bhai had been a fan of and grew up listening to the music of Shakti. He understood the energy of the group, and most importantly, he added something special to the band – a sonic layer that enhanced Shakti’s sound and raised the bar.

Anuj Chakrapani loves music and cinema among all art forms. He believes their beauty lies in their interpretation, and that the parts is more than the sum. Anuj lives in the SF Bay Area and works for a...