CrossCurrents Highlights Common Ground Between Indian Music and Jazz

The members of CrossCurrents will bridge jazz and Indian music for a one-night-only concert.
The members of CrossCurrents will bridge jazz and Indian music for a one-night-only concert. Photo courtesy of RNH Events
The sounds of Indian music will mix with American jazz during a visit by the traveling music group CrossCurrents, who will play for a Stafford Centre audience at 8 p.m. this Thursday. Proceeds from the show, presented by the Indo-American Association of Houston, will benefit Harvey relief funds.

Composed of co-leaders Zakir Hussain (tabla) and Dave Holland (bass), plus Chris Potter (saxophone), Shankar Mahadevan (vocals), Louiz Banks (piano), Sanjay Divecha (guitar) and Gino Banks (drums), the group features western instruments alongside their Eastern counterparts like the tabla and sitars. As distant as the two musical styles are, Hussain says the two are a lot more related than one might expect.

“The influence of Indian classical music on jazz is widely known," he says. "Less known, however, is the influence of jazz on the popular music of India. Jazz first came to India by way of the Hollywood musicals of the 1930s and '40s, and quickly influenced the music of India’s burgeoning film industry."

“When you put these musicians together, they just need a seed, and they let it blossom." — tabla maestro and CrossCurrents co-leader Zakir Hussain

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Hussain personally got to know the music even more when his father worked as a composer in Bombay for the Indian film industry, scoring movies and concerts. From this, he developed his own personal interest in playing the tabla, a handheld drum used in Indian music.

His love of music has grown over time, but Hussain says he's always been interested in the bridge between the two styles of music. Indian music and jazz are distant cousins, he offers, because the core element is improvisation.

“When you put these musicians together, they just need a seed, and they let it blossom," he says. "It’s something both these traditions nurture. It becomes easier for these musicians to come together and play.”

A Grammy winner and internationally respected composer, Hussain used his influence and connections to assemble this group of musicians to pay homage to the great collaborative nature of both musical styles. Yet, with musicians coming from various parts of the globe, it begs the question of how they rehearse. The answer is perhaps quite easier than expected.

Crosscurrents: Zakir Hussain & Dave Holland from International Music Network on Vimeo.

“[The musicians] get to know each other without having met [in person] over the web," says Hussain. "In the old days, I had to find LPs and cassettes of their music. Today you Facebook or Google it, and it’s right there at your fingertips. You get some relief and familiarity having already arrived at the first step.”

In fact, shortly before speaking to the Houston Press, Hussain noted the group had met in person for the first time only 24 hours before their first concert taking place later that evening. As a bonus, CrossCurrents has decided to donate profits from the concert to Harvey relief efforts. The group is playing the concert without any professional fees, and the Indo-American Association will donate the entire net proceeds to Mayor Turner’s Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund.

“We’re doing this concert as a fundraiser for people in Houston, and we hope people will come by and contribute and make it a success in that way,” Hussain says.

CrossCurrents plays Stafford Centre (10505 Cash Road) at 8 p.m. Thursday, October 26. For information, call 281-208-6900 or visit Tickets are $39 to $124.
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Sam Byrd is a freelance contributor to the Houston Press who loves to take in all of Houston’s sights, sounds, food and fun. He also loves helping others to discover Houston’s rich culture.
Contact: Sam Byrd