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Shakti at 50: Five musical geniuses leave Atlanta in awe

Photos by Niraj Sharma

Atlanta, GA, August 28, 2023: On August 25th, 2023, the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center in Atlanta bore witness to a musical phenomenon that transcended time and culture – the Shakti 50th anniversary tour. With an assembly of five musical geniuses, the evening was a spellbinding journey through the realms of fusion, innovation, and virtuosity, leaving the audience in awe and earning each of the artists standing ovations repeatedly.

The brainchild of British guitarist John McLaughlin and Indian tabla maestro Zakir Hussain, Shakti’s 50-year journey as one of the pioneers of “world music” flawlessly unfolded during the evening. They were joined by percussionist V. Selvaganesh (son of Shakti’s original ghatam player T.H. Vinayakram), renowned composer and vocalist Shankar Mahadevan, and violinist Ganesh Rajagopalan.

Brought to Atlanta by Rahim Paracha of Paracha Entertainment, the houseful show testified to the enduring power of the Shakti team’s artistic vision.

“Truly a dream come true and an honor to be able to present these legends in a historical concert in Atlanta,” Paracha told NRI Pulse after the concert. “This is the first time in the history of Atlanta that a classical fusion concert at a 2700-seat venue (the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center) was sold out.”

The repertoire, drawn from their new album “This Moment,” resonated with an organic blend of Eastern and Western musical traditions, underscoring the transformative essence that Shakti has brought to both their members and their listeners.

What set Shakti apart was their unparalleled ability to merge Carnatic, Hindustani, and Western musical traditions, creating conversations that the maestros seamlessly wove into a harmonious whole.

Marking their first U.S. tour in nearly two decades, Shakti’s pan-cultural ethos was enriched by a solo opening performance by Béla Fleck, who wielded the banjo with masterful finesse.

The concert was a testament to the fifty years of shared history that began in 1973. As the melodies unfolded, the stage bore witness to the profound connection between these maestros, a bond that only time and music could forge.

Highlights of the evening included Shankar Mahadevan’s rendition of “Sakhi” in the thumri style, a vocal performance that traversed emotions and traditions. “Sreeni’s Dream” served as a poignant tribute to the late mandolin virtuoso U. Srinivas, an integral member of the ensemble until his untimely passing in 2014. The air was thick with nostalgia and reverence as their music evoked memories of shared moments.

In a world where boundaries seem to constrict creativity, Shakti’s performance was a testament to the boundless power of music to unite, transform, and transcend. Their 50th-anniversary concert at Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center was nothing short of magical, an ode to the journey they embarked upon five decades ago, and an affirmation that true artistry knows no barriers.

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