Arts, Culture & Media

Bass, banjo, and the Indian tabla come together

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The trio at Carnegie Hall, NYC, 4/28/09

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The three musicians Bela Fleck, Edgar Meyer, and Zakir Hussain started working together in 2005, when Fleck and Meyer were commissioned to write a concerto.  They then decided that their dream would be to collaborate with Zakir Hussain.  That dream was realized with the "Triple Concerto: The Melody of Rhythm," which is on their new CD, performed by the trio with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

Fleck, Meyer, and Hussain like working together so much that they are taking their show on the road this fall.

Meyer says, of working with Hussain, "We have been fans since we were half this age, or younger.  He brings a knowledge of a lot of different musics, starting with Indian classical music, but a wide range of experience in almost every kind of music that I am aware of."

"Working with someone so venerated and ancient, I felt that I had a lot to learn from a gentleman like that," says banjoist Fleck.

"Ancient?" asks Hussain, humorously.

"I think when he plays his tabla, it is just pure music.  I was curious to see just how he would combine all of these worlds." says Fleck.

These three masterful musicians come from very different backgrounds, but they have one thing in common:   a desire for and a history of bringing different, and often disparate types of music together.

Hussain, the tabla player, says, "First, it is an honor to be playing with these two incredible musicians, and friends -- now family.  When that kind of a relationship gets established between people, the music takes on a very special connection.  It's from the heart. 

"In this collaboration, for me, it has been a great learning experience to watch an Indian melody emerge, and then how it suddenly transforms through Edgar's vision of a Western classical point of view, and how Bela just takes it and makes it so incredibly rooted in an earthy, folk vision.  When all of this comes together, the melody just assumes a kind of shape and form and beauty that is so unbelievably unique."

Fleck says of the creative process, " I think we all just wanted to be ourselves because everyone has a very strong personality, musically.  If we could all find a way to do our best to be in a comfortable zone where we could do our thing, to be stretched enough to do it not the way we always do it with everybody else we play with, that we would all be happy with what came out."

"One thing that has been a special pleasure for me," remarks Meyer, "is that everyone thinks like a composer.  Nobody is super-worried about trying to get this lick in or that lick in there.  At the same time, you feel all three people trying to see the whole song, wherever they are in it."

"For me, it was much more fun, probably more than the two of you, because I was made to feel that I could do whatever it is that I wanted to do, and whatever I could think of doing," says Hussain.