Zakir Hussain & Niladri Kumar: A Match Made on Earth

In 1987, Zakir Hussain released one of my favorites among his “nontraditional” albums, Making Music. It was a prophetic title for the world’s leading Indian classical tabla player, whose dedication to doing just that is never clearer than when experiencing him in a live setting. Ithacans had the fortune of doing exactly that last Friday night, when a crowd of over 1000 filled Bailey Hall for his two-and-a-half-hour performance with Niladri Kumar. In characteristic humility, Zakir introduced himself as little more than Niladri’s accompanist, on a mission as he is to promote the rising sitar virtuoso to new, global audiences. The duo began with a Rageshree, a Hindustani raga following a 16-beat rhythm cycle, before moving on to lighter material for the second, along with a few modern surprises.

Cameron Pollack / Sun Photography Editor

What’s Wrong with the Theory of (D+)Evolution: Esperanza Spalding at the State Theatre

Esperanza Spalding sees something different in her music than I do. Out of Emily’s D+Evolution — her most recent album whose namesake tour brought her to the State Theatre this past Sunday — I personally got not only the best album I’ve heard this year, but one of the most halting pop-jazz records I’ve ever heard, period: that rare/vital kind of stuff that manages to wrap music at its most complex and daunting in a package that’s not just digestible, but alluring and outright dazzling, too. If we can take her Sunday performance as any indication, though, Spalding’s own take on the sounds she makes must be pretty far removed from mine. After (or maybe because of) releasing a hifalutin album like Emily’s that’s been getting laurels heaped on it like wood on a fire, it’s little wonder that Spalding seems to be suffering from that age old plight of the popular musician: taking herself way too fucking seriously. Under the guise of a prophet or a sage or a savior or something else like that, Spalding turned what could’ve been a showcase of her downright excellent music into an overwrought mish-mosh of histrionics, bad ideas, philosophizing and pretension.


Believe Me When I Say: Real Estate at The Haunt

In the two years since I first saw Real Estate play The Haunt, I have done a lot in the way of growing up. In 2014, I was a naïve sophomore with a head full of possibilities and uncertainties. Now I am a senior with one eye toward graduation and the “real-world” beyond; probably still naïve, but much more settled in my views and plans. Real Estate, in contrast to my development, has remained fairly static. The band hasn’t released so much as a Single since 2014’s Atlas: the record which they were supporting on that previous spin through town.


The Inherent Charm of Regina Spektor

This past Friday, Dan Smalls Presents treated us to a lovely and endearing performance at the State Theatre of Ithaca by inviting Regina Spektor to pay the city a visit. Waiting for the start of the concert, the theater was loud and everyone seemed in a slight daze, presumably from the recent turn of the weather, or maybe as a residual effect from the week’s earlier presidential debate. The cold outside had everyone shedding layers of coats, or drinking off the chill, or both. A half hour after the projected start time, as people could be heard asking their neighbors, “The opener hasn’t even started yet?” Spektor waltzed out onto the stage with drummer Mathias Kunzli, cellist Yoel Mir and keyboardist Brad Whiteley. “Oh my gosh she’s so cute!” I heard someone half-whisper off to my left.


Darling, Andrew Bird is By Your Side

This past Tuesday at the State Theatre, Sinkane opened up the night’s show sounding an awful lot like I would have preferred to have them instead of Pumarosa opening for Glass Animals the week before.  With a sound more tangible and less clean than Glass Animals, Sinkane seems like it would have made a solid pick.  The sentiment may not have been shared by all that many, though. In the moments before they took to the stage, a kindly usher standing behind me advised, “If you don’t have earplugs—they’re loud.”

The band, with front man Ahmed Gallab, exudes a kind of warm, accessible music when you listen to their recorded work, and does a fairly good job of transmitting that same atmosphere when playing live.  Their sound is a blend between jazz, funk, Sudanese pop, and German experimental rock, which collide together to create an experience that hits you at once familiar and unique.


In the Comfort Zone: A Conversation with Tabla Virtuoso Zakir Hussain

As I call up Zakir Hussain on the phone for this interview, I call up also memories of my childhood. I was raised in a small town in Marin County, California, where it so happens the mother of a childhood friend studied traditional Kathak dance with Zakir’s wife, Antonia Minnecola. I distinctly remember those performances, and can’t help but laugh at myself now for being too young then to recognize the greatness to which I grew up in such close proximity. Thirty years and seemingly infinite more of musical exposure later, here I sit transcribing my conversation with the world’s leading virtuoso of the tabla drums. When I tell him about our distant connection, he says to me, “What a small world this has suddenly become,” and the strange twists of life that completed this circle feel all the more inevitable to me as I offer my first question. Sun: Thinking back on your many projects reminds me of how many so-called “crossovers” you have done.


Two Takes: Glass Animals at the State Theatre

Experimental psychedelic rock group Glass Animals played at the State Theatre on October 1. Two Daily Sun writers took in the concert and gave their thoughts on the night. “They Can Hold You — Glass Animals at the State” by Jessie Weber

The Glass Animals’ performance Saturday at the State Theatre was nothing short of glorious. I had the great pleasure of seeing a band that was even better live than I had hoped it would be, and they managed the crowd so effortlessly that I’m finding it difficult to write a piece that can match up to their performance. The night started barely a minute beyond the listed 8 p.m. with a small-piece opening band who whipped through a half-hour-and-some set and smacked the audience raw.


TEST SPIN: Baba Brinkman — The Rap Guide to Climate Chaos

I have a lot of admiration for music as a way of sharing information and ideas. It has the power to bring people joy and excitement, to catalyze casual or critical thinking and to incite discussion and reflection on problems. Music also teaches in a way that’s memorable and comprehensible. It has incited social and political change time and time again, and has ingrained all sorts information into minds. Because of its capacity for influencing and teaching, musicians like Baba Brinkman have tried to capture its power for education. Baba Brinkman’s 18th educational hip-hop release, The Rap Guide to Climate Chaos, takes on climate change, spitting verses on everything from policy to ecology to religion.


TEST SPIN: Danny Brown — Atrocity Exhibition

Right off the bat, I want to let you know that I’m not going to review this new record, Atrocity Exhibition by the Detroit rapper Danny Brown, objectively. Danny Brown is my favorite rapper of all time, I’m disposed to review this record positively, and it’d be dishonest to pretend otherwise. I also want to let you know that even though Danny Brown is a great, great rapper, he’s also extremely transgressive and sometimes difficult to listen to; his music is so weird that it inspires obsessive love in some while alienating many more. Accordingly, Atrocity Exhibition is as uncompromising and bizarre as it is brilliant. Danny raps in a nasal, high-pitched squeal that mimics the effects of stimulant abuse, and his music is dissonant, arrhythmic and stressful.


Dive on In: Lake Street Dive at the State

Throw a bunch of New England Conservatory grads on a stage, and you can’t help but expect excellence. I knew going into the Lake Street Dive show this past Friday that I would see a tight, bluesy band fill up the State Theatre with sound. I was far from disappointed — Lake Street Dive brought even more presence and expertise than even I expected. The show opened with PWR BTTM, an energetic duo I’ve hoped to see for months. They emerged on stage, fully prepared to fill the mixed crowd of Ithaca natives and college students with their gritty, glittery garage-punk.