Far From Dead

Global Drum Project (Shout! Factory)
Mickey Hart & Zakir Hussain

By Martin Kasdan Jr.

When Mickey Hart joined the Grateful Dead as its second drummer back in 1967, he added not only power, but also a world music perspective which included the use of nontraditional time signatures. He has had a solo recording and touring career which dates back to the early 1970s. Now Hart and his old friend Zakir Hussain, the tabla master (and son of Ravi Shankar's tabla player Ustad Alla Rakha) have released Global Drum Project. This is a worthy successor to such outstanding releases as Diga Rhythm Band and Planet Drum.

As they state in their own liner notes to this album, they have utilized not only a variety of percussion instruments, but also a dose of digital wizardry to create their music. They are joined by fellow percussionists Giovanni Hidalgo (congas) and Sikiru Adepoju (talking drum). Some tracks also include sitar by Niladari Kumar and sarangi ("a bowed, short-necked lute of India, Nepal and Pakistan" per Wikipedia). The CD opens with the late African drum master Babatunde Olatunji's voice over a loping groove on "Baba." Ambient voices open up the next track, "Kaluli Groove," which includes some Jerry Garcia-like playing which sounds like steel guitar, although there is no credit for this instrument.

"Funky Zena" is slow, mysterious, and cool, but despite the title, it is not a funk number. "Under One Groove" feels like a synthesis of rap meets Indian drum talk. "Dances with Wood" has a Bo Diddley vibe to it. "Heartspace" utilizes the sarangi to great effect, and also includes vocals over the slow to midtempo groove. "Tars" is played on the Arab frame drum known as the tar. The closing piece, "I Can Tell You More," has an echoed voice narration, reminiscent of some of the Grateful Dead's "space" jams which occasionally included twisted narrations.

Overall, this is world music for the new century. It is healing, intelligent and heartfelt. Fans of Hart and of percussion music will be pleased to know that the label has reissued several Hart recordings, including Diga Rhythm Band and Planet Drum.

For additional information, the label site is www.shoutfactory.com, and Hart's is www.mickeyhart.net.