Atchafalaya Swamp

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Orgasm in the Realm of The Religious

A week ago I thought I had died and gone to heaven in the Merdeka Hall of the Putra World Trade Center. I was in sheer ecstasy (minus the pills, thank God) -experiencing the foremost exponents of the Electric Guitar, Tabla, Ganjira, Mandolin and the Human Voice perform that night.

Watching the frenzied orgy on stage by the five Kurta-clad maestros was something truly bordering on the orgasmic.

Some of the latecomers even faced my wrath for disrupting my state of total rapture - where I gave them a whispered tongue lashing (lest I disrupt my "trance" even more). Those idiots who hadn't set their mobile phones to Silent Mode were not spared either.

Damn, it was that good, and my ears are still ringing from the sonic sensuality a week later.

Now I know why people turn to Sufism.

How, do you ask, can five guys in Kurtas (one Caucasian, four Indians) come on stage, only to sit cross-legged - and enthrall a standing-room-only audience?

Easy. If you we're to realize that the five guys on stage are geniuses - and that their talent must be God Given. To paraphrase The Star's reviewer, 'musicians armed with such heavenly music'.

And heavenly they were, as no way can music such as this spew forth from mere mortals.

Way back in the Seventies, and as hormonally-imbalanced Form Three schoolboy with eclectic tastes in music, Liverpool Press books and La Scala, I was already listening to John McLaughlin.
It was an uncle's LP actually, and I think it was called "The Inner Mounting Flame". McLaughlin was the prime catalyst for several of Miles Davis' early forays into marrying jazz and rock, the most notable being "Bitches Brew". The original '72 Shakti line-up had Billy Cobham on drums, Jerry Goodman on Violins, Rick Laird on Bass and Jan Hammer on Keyboards. Violin maestro L. Shankar also toured and recorded with the group at some point .
In 1973, McLaughlin and his close friend Carlos Santana (with Santana taking the first name Devadip, while John took on Mahavishnu) were united by their spiritual guru Sri Chimnoy. This culminated in a critically-acclaimed duet album called "Love, Devotion, Surrender", possibly Santana's ONLY spiritual album to date.

And Ustaz Zakir Hussain? And what about this living genius?
The son of the legendary Ustaz Alla Rakha (Ravi Shankar's super sideman), Zakir moved to the States in 1970 to move in circles considered the super-galaxy of musicians, and by '92 had already bagged a Grammy for Best World Music category (together with Grateful Dead's Mickey Hart). In between engagements with Shakti, he also tours with brothers Fazal and Taufiq Quereshi.

Zakir is 56. But from what pictures I saw on album sleeves from the Seventies - damn - he still looked the same; the same fervor, the same boyish enthusiasm. Coming from the great Sufi traditions of Ustaz Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan he surely must've discovered the Fountain of Youth - on stage he still looked liked an over-eager schoolboy! And the tones - the tones - that he coaxed out of the tabla made you believe the tabla could be played like a guitar or piano.

U Shrivanas, the most youthful member of the troupe is probably the best mandolin player in the world (the mandolin looks like a guitar except it's a lot smaller - used a lot in Country and Western music) . My God, his telepathic interplay with ace slinger McLaughlin was a sight to behold. The incredible jazz runs, fingers flying across the frets in a cascade of orgiastic tones showcased the perfect menage-a-trois between Carnatic (South Indian), Hindustani and Western jazz!

I think I've run out of superlatives, because how could a bloody earthenware pot (ganjira) be coaxed to create those supreme sounds by the miracle percussive hands of Selvaganesh (ganjira, ghatam, mridangam) I don't bloody know.
Shanker Mahadevan's four-or-five octave voice will
quite possibly haunt me forever.

The audience, mostly musicians themselves, were all in awe, big time. Some had mouths hanging open through-out the performance. I suspect all live acts in clubs or bars around KL were closed that evening because anybody who's anybody in the local music fraternity had turned out in full force.
During the intermission, I rushed to the men's room to light up with drummer Zahid (Sheila Majid, Michael Veerapan) and drummer Tom (Headwind), where I also had the good fortune of bumping into local guitar supremo Josie Thomas. Boldly taking our smokes out of the toilet and into UMNO's No Smoking foyer, I suggested to Josie that he get the latest "Trisum" CD, a new release by Dewa Budjana (of "Gigi" - considered Indonesia's best rock guitarist), Tohpati and Balawan - Indonesian guitar legends in the veins of 3G.
Now this is uncanny and certainly begs belief - but when I read the Star's review on the concert a few days ago, the reviewer mentioned that Dewa B too was in the audience!
Holey - Schmoley!

Incidentally Dewa Budjana had just released a solo album in the States called "Home". Peter Erskine, who had "discovered" Budjana, basically twisted Sony BMG's arms to bring Budjana to the States. The sophomore effort features Erskine, Dave Carpenter and Reggie Hamilton. It was actually their second collaboration after the success of 02's "Samsara" .
Peter Erskine is of course a former member of Weather Report with stellar giants Wayne Shorter, Jaco Pastorius and Joe Zawinul. Erskine's polyrhythmic playing can also be heard on albums by Diana Kraal, Linda Ronstadt, Steely Dan, Elvis Costello, Joni Mitchell, Kate Bush and Lee Ritenour, to name a few. In 2005 Erskine took the Grammy for Best Jazz Album, together with Randy and Michael Brecker for his performance in "Some Skunk Funk".
Now if Pete E thinks that Bali native Budjana is worth recording with - then that's saying a lot.

Anyway, I kicked myself for not paying attention. I'm sure Dewa B was in the men's room with me at the Merdeka Hall that night but like I said, nobody was paying attention. Except, of course, for the Star's Nantha Kumar who spotted him amongst the audience.

Needless to say, we walked out of the hall feeling we had just had a profound religious experience.

A spiritiual orgasm of the highest order?
Without a doubt, yes.
Please also go to fellow blogger's Rajaram for his excellent take at http://rajahram.blogspot.com/2007/06/19-shakti-india-beat-3.html

(Photo Credits: Copyright © Malaysian Tenpin Bowling Congress, 2007)


J.T. said...

Give any instrument to a musical genius (who knows how to play it) and he/she will transport you to a different world.

Listening to a full blown symphony orchestra playing classical music from my favourite composers does to me what these talented few did to you. I close my eyes and I hear those instruments sing. ahhh...

Some singers have a way of doing it too. I have to stop what I am doing and let them penetrate my senses. much like reading your entries :)

Anonymous said...

Orgasmic music? I am one of those poor unenlightened souls. But Liverpool Press Series....Sweet memories. They don't have those anymore, do they? Pity my my three sons. I think you should write about it somedays. Your talent in writing would make reading (Liverpool Press Series) it respectable or spritual, you might say.

acciaccatura said...

betul tu mat salo. we've met and you've seen me. then probably you would understand how the purity in music makes me what i am now. mahu lebih dekat denganNYA.

Nak Tak Nak said...

I wasn't there, I didn't get the orgasm that you got but reading your write-up, what can I say man. Two thumbs up for the review.

Mat Salo said...

J.T. - oh puhleeeze... Please don't say that word "penetrate" - to many people (me included!) it has a different connotation - Hahaha.

Dear anonymous.. Are you seriously suggesting that I revive the stories like the ones in Liverpool Press? If I remember right, it has plenty of tales of incest - and that word - with many "n's" and "g's" at the end as in I'm C**mmmm********nnnnggggg!" The longer the better, I guess. Sigh. I have two boys too and I don't think their missing anything...

Mat Salo said...

Acciacatura - I think I understand you perfectly. My way of thinking too..

Thanks Cikgu Nazir.. appreciate it.

Anonymous said...

Agreed with the n's and the g's and some stories were incestuous to our asian culture albeit the characters were non blood related. I believe porn or smutty materials is a part and parcel of growing up and untill a certain stage, one would abandon it or throw it away like a pair shoes when a teenager's feets outgrow it. Those books were swapped and circulated around in our class of 77/78 and we now have lawyers, accountants, enggineers and other respectable and productive citizens. Just being nostalgic for suggesting you to write about it.

Anonymous said...


tokasid said...

Salam Matsalo:
I forgot about that show completely.When I read McLaughlin coming( not as in Cooommmiiiinnnnggggg Liverpool press version)I promised myself to go.
But other things came up and I totally forgot. Leceh betoi.

Thanks for your review.Thats better than the STAR's review( sorry Nantha Kumar) for its a very personal review and I can relate to it.

McLaughlin...guitar supremo. Never bored to listen when he was playing with Sakhti( is guitar sounds like a Sitar and like Ravi Shanker too) or with Al Dimeola or his solo efforts.Who mis Lee Rit or earl klugh or anyone compared to McL?

As for Sakhti's music you've it all bro.

Dewa B Home album is superb and its good they have entered the US market. I got that when I was in Jogja. Tohpati too.But I've never heard of Balawan's album. Next time kot.
TQ Matsalo for the orgasmic review.

J.T. said...

How about 'pierce'? Still putting your mind in the gutter? hahaha
Hey, you started it. I had to go with the flow. ;D

OK, wash out those thoughts... This is an excellent review. now, where did I put my cyber-ciggies? :D

shar101 said...

Wah Lau Weh!

MS the music reviewer and pretty, pretty good at it. Lurve the sensual slant.

Did they make a live recording of the show, bro? Sometimes, they would but it's only for 'members'.

So, you definitely had FIVE reasons to rush home, didn't you. Good to see you at the NPC after the show though it's for another reason.

Liverpool Press? Heck, I thought it was Rear Window.

Hmmm..wonder what's Eva doing right now.

Apandi said...

I can appreciate the rest of your jabber in this post but ahhhhhh Liverpool Press. What memories that brings, BTW it is also responsible for "stirring" my interest in the English language he he he

tokasid said...


After Liverpool Library( I now wonder that most of schoolmates supported Liverpool FC whether it has got to do with the circulations of Liverpool books) became scarce in Aloq Staq there was Mona gersang....

Heh3..those were the days my friends.

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A Voice said...

Ahhhhh :-(

I didn't know .... LAughlin, Zakir Husin, Peter Erskine? ...

Damn awat tak cakap ?

Seeing thru yr list ... we got toooooooo much common taste in music....

Do you hear mod, punk, classical, reggae, blues, eclectic, ...?

I have feeling you do!!!

Daphne Ling said...

Wow...I'm getting a thrill down my spine even as I write this...It must have been quite an experience sitting there...Thanks for sharing...

ewoon said...

i came. i enjoyed. i orgas(sed).

zorro said...

Hey Swamp Man, no doubt you had an orgasmic bout. I saw it in your face when you came to debrief at the Press Club. Your take on that night reminds me of the hypnotic "Ravel's Bolero"....especially the final BLAST. So when do you come back to earth?

Mat Salo said...

Alaamaak! Been B Z traveling to the land of my ancestors - did my medical and all, so no time to reply.. yet. So let me try. First, thanks y'all for dropping by. Now for the "hit list":

Encik anonimos and Encik Kapitan Linggi: the former - thanks for the widget tip thingy - might try that. The latter - and also for the former 'nymos - didn't know the Liverpool Press series had such an "impact" on us who born the Sixties.

Dok TA: Jelesnya.. didn't know you already have the '05 "Home" album ngan Peter Erskine et.al. Sini Bpn tarak. I'm still hunting. I will get you the Trisum CD Insya'Allah. You WILL be blown away!

My review better than Nantha's eh? Kecik hati member tu... hehee..

Shar.. I think you're totally smitten by comments left by "honeybunch/sweetpots".. or is it "honeypots"? *Sigh* when will she see fit to come-a-callin'?

A Voice - honestly, I didn't know abt it until my crony Petron Ass client wanted to give me his freebie ticket (coincided with the Asian O & G conference). But I was willing to pay for it. That's why I took them to NPC post-orgasm to contra the favor.

Hey man.. best nya if can relive those days. Right now I'm listening to a lot of Thin Lizzy. The late Phil Lynott was genius too..

My set list on my 8 GB Ipod if you were to go thru' pening kepala. Everthing fm Led Zep, Flyod, Benyamin S, Ebiet, Kla Projek semua pon ada. Hey've you've heard the Comfortably Numb version by Van Morrsison? Best abih bro'!

Daphne my Foochow sister-in-arms.. Appreciate it Miss. Hope the rcent "storm" didn't affect you personally.

Ewoon! You were there too? If I knew we could've gone to NPC together..

Sure or not? Aboout the "orgas'd" bit..

Unker Zorro!

Hmm.. Ravel Bolero's final blast. Duuno unker. As for 'coming back to earth', as you put it, I hope to be released from the ISS in mid-August. Hope to see you then, Sir!

Rajahram Ramalingam said...

Hi Mat Salo,

Thank you for your compliments of my take of the show. Very nice of you to have introduced me to your buddies. Hope they read my blog and care to COMMENT.

How about yourself commenting off and on, if not daily, in mine. I would love to hear from you!

If I am not mistaken,you said you were in the Borneo rigs. Is that correct?

The Ancient Mariner said...

I was a student in India long before George Harrison came a-calling. I did attend a few concerts but somehow the music didnt move me. I was then high on another music genre, big band jazz, and this I put the blame entirely on the US Army which took Elvis Presley away to Germany.

A lot of pani under the bridge now, mere dost...

mekyam said...

Wow Mat Salo, PASSION is thy name!

I have to say that when you "enthuse" MS, you really break into hues. That is probably why, whether you write about fleeing Sudan by the skin of your teeth or sharing the tribulations of a border-hopping Indonesian masseuse or savouring a ticker-warming outing with the fam, it's such a sweeping experience reading you.

Thank you for this rich and entertaining ride.

Mat Salo said...

Capt Y - looks like you came back refreshed from your Balik Bayan trip ... ha ha ..."pani under the bridge".


Why are your comments are so invigorating? PASSION! ENTHUSE! Yes Mek Yam, I do admit to being over-the-top sometimes (oh alright, most of the time).

But sometimes I think my verbose prose is also much ado about nothing. I'm just jealous by people who could really write.

But hey - Mek Yam, even if one person enjoys it - that would be good enough. But coming from you is a BOON! A BIG BONUS! I'm glad I'm able to entertain you Ma'am ...Thanks.


mat salo

i so can relate to your heavenly orgasmic musical experience!

Jakartass said...

Sorry Mat, but you make a slight mistake when you say "the original '72 Shakti line-up had Billy Cobham on drums, Jerry Goodman on Violins, Rick Laird on Bass and Jan Hammer on Keyboards. This was the lineup of the Mahavishnu Orchestra I saw in London way back in the early seventies.

As I recall, Shakti had John McL, L Shankar on violin, Zakir Hussain and T.H. Vinayakram on ghatam & mdilangan.

Whatever, I'm envious, really envious that you all got to see Shakti Revisited. Why don't we get musicians of this renown and calibre in Jakarta?

Anyway, thanks for your review ~ it's got me digging out my albums with a Shakti connection.