Show Review
Raag & Taal Academy
WorldBeat Center - Balboa Park


January 25th 2004

By Casey Rieder, SDAM Staff Writer
©Copyright 2017 SDAM.com/Casey Rieder

When I got to the door of the WorldBeat Center, I was already 10 minutes late for the Raag & Taal Academy's performance...or so I thought. Taking my seat, I realized that this was a nearly packed house, full of diverse ages and ethnicities. As the audience got situated, the 3 performers came on stage, but not to start that show. No, we got to witness all the fun of a sound check. While the concert's obscenely late start seemed a bit unprofessional at first, it actually gave the entire show a really relaxed feel, which engaged us in the actual music.

Once the show finally started, it had clearly been worth the wait. The exceptional technical abilities of the group were astounding. Immediately, Shri TN Sivakumar, (a blind flute player!), jumped into a great solo. After a few minutes of incredible playing, he gave the stage up to the saxophonist. A 21 year old virtuoso, Shri Prasant Radhakrishnan proved that age is not a strong determinant of musical ability. His incredible saxophone playing blended both his background in Carnatic (North Indian) Classical Music and Jazz so well that it seemed like the two genres were one and the same.

Roughly 30 minutes into the concert, the first song ended. After this first piece, it was clear that we were in for a long afternoon. The next song showcased the talents of the tabla player, a well-known veteran percussionist familiar to the San Diego music scene, Ustad Tari Khan. His aggressive playing was a great reward for everyone in the audience, but unfortunately it overpowered the other two performers. The rushed sound check had clearly not been sufficient to balancing the sound of the three instruments, which was a definite shame.

Throughout the show, the three group members showed off their impressive improvisational skills to everyone's delight. Although the concert went on a little longer than I was ready for, it satisfied my thirst for some great music. It nonetheless bothered me that I was one of the half dozen or so concertgoers between the ages of 18 and 25. This was an exceptional concert that nearly nobody in my age group even knew about. With all the great music in San Diego, it is a shame that this show slipped through the cracks of the general knowledge of music lovers.

Find out more about the Raag & Taal Academy