Fusion Gurus

What Zakir Hussain is to the tabla, Bela Fleck is to the banjo. Both took their respective instruments from ethnic obscurity to global fame, to become significant names in the world fusion music. Edgar Meyer is, along similar lines, achieving that rare feat in the double bass.

Their latest is a collaboration with Symphony Orchestra of India (SOI), India's first and only symphony orchestra that will give its February 2013 Season a legendary twist. Apart from the compositions of Melody of Rhythm, the trio will play new pieces conducted by Zane Dalal on February 22 at the Jamshed Bhaba Theatre, NCPA, Mumbai.

SOI is relatively new, compared to the world's top philharmonic orchestras. But it provided a platform unlike any other for the trio. "This piece would be a way to introduce symphonic compositions with a heavy influence of Indian music to the audience so that they will discover the wonders of orchestral works," says Hussain.SOI conductor Zane Dalal's understanding of both western and Indian music, he hopes, will aid the same.

The three, with their diverse styles, teamed up for the first time in 2006 to make Melody of Rhythm Triple Concerto with the Nashville Symphony. This they later went on to record for an album in 2009 by the Detroit Symphony of Orchestra. The three have since done several performances across the world. Following Mumbai, the concert will travel to Muscat, where they will perform at the Royal Opera House on February 25 and 26.

The tabla, in its more traditional times, would be unimaginable amid a full-blown orchestra. "The tabla is not only rhythmic but also a melodic instrument and it therefore has the ability to wear many hats and lend itself very comfortably to any sort of musical interaction," says the maestro. Meyer views their work as different ways of understanding and playing music. A noted classical bass player, Meyer is also a big name in country music circles of bluegrass and newgrass.

A member of the celebrated band Bela Fleck and Flecktones, Fleck says, "There are things that I can achieve musically while playing with Zakir that I have never experienced before. He is such a supportive player that he has brought new ideas out of me, which I remember and carry with me into my writing, and other musical situations."

Fleck has over 30 nominations and 15 awards to his credit. "Having more exposure to Indian musical concepts is very helpful in becoming a more complete musician," he says.

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