On Jan. 17, iconic guitarist John McLaughlin will release a new, collaborative album, Is That So?, which once again teams the jazz-fusion maestro with Indian composer Shankar Mahadevan as well as tabla legend Zakir Hussain for an exploratory melding of Eastern rhythms and melodies with Western harmonies. Today, Relix previewed a new cut from the effort, “Sakhi.”
The track, a portion of which can be heard below, was originally written for Shakti, McLaughlin’s fusion group founded in the ’70s with Hussain and revived in the 2000s with the percussionist and other musicians including Mahadevan. The song has been played live but never recorded in the studio before the Is That So? sessions.
“The idea for this album appeared in my mind early 2013,” McLaughlin explains in a statement. “Shankar and I had been touring with Shakti and I was constantly inspired by his superb voice and gigantic talent. Even though I had studied the theory and practice of Indian music for years, I remain a ‘Western’ musician and one aspect of Western music is the magic of harmony.
“From the outset in the early 1970’s, I constantly researched the possibilities of integrating harmony into the traditions of North and South India while at the same time keeping as close as possible to the melodic rules of the Raga [Indian scales] system,” the guitarist continues. “However, the idea I mention above was to abandon the rules of the Raga system completely and apply my own Western harmonic liberty to the amazing voice of Shankar Mahadevan.”
Mahadevan remembers the origins of the album, when he and McLaughlin would experiment with harmonic Raga improvisations before shows while they were touring with Shakti. “The whole texture, color, feeling and the canvas of the music excited us as harmonic content does not exist in Indian classical music,” he says. “In the beginning it was just a fun experiment, but it soon became larger than life and we knew we had to record it. When Zakir Hussain, the great tabla Maestro himself, agreed to play in the improvisational sections, we knew this would take our recording to a new level. We could not have asked for more.”
Check out “Sakhi” below, along with the previously shared Is That So? track, “The Beloved.” Pre-order the album here.