I have been a big fan of Zakir Hussain’s tabla playing since I first discovered him back when I first heard him play in the jazz/Indian group Shakti. He introduced me to the amazing things that are possible with the tabla and because of him I once tried to learn this great instrument but soon realized I would only ever be an amateur at it. To me Zakir is probably the most exciting percussionist to see live and his albums are always worth checking out. I enjoy his traditional Indian music but I what I love best about his musical catalog are his fusion projects where he combines different genres from around the world. One of his latest such projects is a pairing of Indian musicians with Celtic musicians, Distant Kin, which was recorded live at the SF Jazz Center in 2015 where Zakir Hussain is a resident artistic director. The music on Distant Kin is very merry as fits these two musical traditions and stirs up images in my mind of older times steeped with mysticism and wonder. On this live album he is joined by the Indian musicians Ganesh Rajagopalan (violin) and Rakesh Chaurasia (bamboo flute) with the Celtic musicians Charlie McKerron (fiddle), Patsy Reid (fiddle), Tony Byrne (guitar), John Joe Kelly (bodhran, for a great bodhran solo check out this amazing video: John Joe Kelly Solo), Jean-Michel Veillon (flute) and Fraser Fifield (pipes and whistles). I knew from the first track “Jig O’ Beer & Chai” that I was going to thoroughly enjoy this album.
There isn’t a bad track on this album and it is difficult to decide which one is my favorite whether it is the opening track or “Trinkamp/Trajir” (that has a great bodhran solo) or “Watergirl and Then Some” (which has a nice long tabla solo). This is a great album that I hope inspires more Indian/Celtic crossovers and while I would have loved to see this great ensemble of musicians on stage performing together I will just have to look forward to the upcoming Zakir Hussain/David Holland tour instead.