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So…I just saw John McLaughlin, the ground-breaking 70’s band Shakti’s guitar player (and in these videos), live on Tuesday. John and his most recent band, The Fourth Dimension, play jazz fusion music….quite different from what we hear in Shakti, but also very similar. You could call Shakti “Classical Indian Fusion.” The show was quite good, but the simple opportunity to see a master guitarist perform was what moved me to go, even though I couldn’t find anyone to go with me. At $20, I couldn’t resist.
For those that are hearing this name for the first time, John McLaughlin is a master jazz guitarist that has been active for 5 decades. He’s recorded albums and songs with the likes of Carlos Santana, Miles Davis, Chick Corea, The Rolling Stones, Zakin Hussain, and Buddy Miles. He even jammed with Hendrix in an electric-acoustic fusion jam one morning (from 2-8am!).
In the ’70s, John and his band Shakti were instrumental in inspiring the Western interest in Eastern music; particularly the exploration of East-meets-West fusion music. In 2010, Guitarist Jeff Beck called him “the best guitarist alive”. In 2003, McLaughlin was ranked 49th in Rolling Stone magazine list of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.”
Take note that tabla master Zakir Hussain was one of Shakti’s founding members, and thus, you will hear him in this recording as well. He is one impressive musician. Ever since I first heard this recording, about 10 years ago, I’ve been astounded by the beauty and power that this music displays. As John has said, “music is the one true language”, and I would agree. From Pythogoras’ “Music of the Spheres”, to the universal “Om” sound, to physical music such as this…music has the power to center, focus, and transport us in a way that nothing else can, as well as inspire joy and ecstasy! You could say all life is music, for those that can hear it.
In “Shakti”, and in these videos, McLaughlin used a special custom guitar that replicates the sound that a traditional sitar would make, yet is distinctly different. For those interested, here’s a detailed description.