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Trilok Gurtu: Building a New Tradition

28th Oct 2014

Trilok Gurtu, an Indian born percussionist is constructing a new tradition of music built on the idea of World Music. His vision is to create something special by adding a pinch of traditional with a dash of modern all rolled into one. Gurtu is never afraid to try new things including his efforts to expand the world of drumming and music as a whole.

Trilok was born into a musical family in Mumbai. His father was a Sitar player, and his mother was a professional singer. Whenever his father’s Tabla player didn’t show up, a young Trilok was allowed to sit in with the band. Like other teenagers in the late 1960’s, Woodstock proved to be a turning point in his life. Instead of being content with his Tabla skills, Trilok wanted to learn how to play the rollicking rhythms he heard on his Rock ‘n’ Roll records. With no formal instruction, he taught himself how to play on a borrowed drumset. He admits to having to terrible technique not even knowing the proper way to hold the drumsticks.

This lack of formal training would benefit him later when he would begin experimenting his own new techniques. He developed his own drum kit with and improvised kick drum that was tuned to sound like his Tabla drum. Eventually, Gurtu began adding Congas and other percussion. He even added tuned gongs that would allow him to harmonize with the rest of the band.

Gurtu loved and wanted to play Jazz, but his unusual style of play put him at odds with many American performers; so, he began playing with European performers such as John McLauglin and Jonas Hellborg.

Trilok’s spirit for music was relentless. He wanted more. As he was turned down by different artists he would seek out new opportunities to explore his passion for music. This led him to find musical inspiration from all parts of the world. He has become an early innovator in field of ‘World Music,’ but he finds this label, itself, too restrictive for his tastes. He prefers to say ‘all music is one.'

Today, Gurtu’s instrumentation combines the classic western drumset including bass, toms, snare, and cymbals with an assortment of instruments from around the world like his Indian Tablas, Djembe and sometimes Congas. Gurtu is also known for dipping cymbals and other items into water to create a shimmering effect.

With Trilok Gurtu at the helm, a new tradition of music that is not bound by borders or cultural divides will continue to develop with the goal of connecting the world together in music and drumming.