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December 2007

Mickey Hart & Zakir Hussain
Global Drum Project
Shout Factory

Mickey Hart has always been more than a simple drummer. As half of the Grateful Dead’s percussion battery for the better part of three decades, it was Hart who dismissed conventional rock methodology and took the Dead to another level by introducing exotic instrumentation and complex rhythms to the ever-experimenting band’s sound arsenal. In his work outside of the Dead, Hart has been a tireless champion of world music (though he’d probably cringe at the term)—he’s also been a lifelong advocate of the spiritual and healing properties of the drum and, in a number of configurations, has ceaselessly explored percussion’s potential to move minds and bodies both.

Hart has worked with the brilliant tabla master Zakir Hussain, son of Ravi Shankar’s late tabla partner Alla Rakha, on various projects over the decades, most notably in the Diga Rhythm Band in the mid-’70s and with the Grammy-winning Planet Drum in the early ’90s. Here they are joined by conguero Giovanni Hidalgo and Sikiru Adepoju, on the Nigerian talk drum, for a series of percussion-rooted collages that Hart describes as “a sound yoga of processed acoustic percussion headed straight for the trance zone that becomes a dance of ancient and modern worlds.”

It’s as good a description as any. The quartet of skin bashers (and a few guests, including the late Babatunde Olatunji) augments their tuned percussion with a number of tools, from looped, sometimes disembodied voices to stringed Indian instruments and electronic manipulation to lay down steady-rolling blankets of sound, a self-contained world of intersecting polyrhythmic moods. There are no stars here—this isn’t about drum solos—but the virtuosity of these players shines through as they work toward the greater good.

Originally published in December 2007
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