Global sounds mixed in Garaj 


WHO: Garaj Mahal

WHERE: The Boot

WHEN: Saturday, Nov.17

Like their name, Garaj Mahal revels in the eclectic.

"What’s unique about Garaj Mahal? Some bands have an earth or raw sound of sophisticated, sleek grooves. We’re really drawn to both veins. No matter what music is a social thing, and great music whether, it’s classical or jazz, connects to events like weddings, funerals or other occasions of life," says Fareed Haque in between night recording sessions at Studio D in San Francisco.

Their mix of backgrounds (Haque’s Pakistani father and Chilean mother meant travels from Chile to Spain, France and America), together with a love for the sophisticated, form the basis for Garaj Mahal’s sound, but there is also some garage and Asian influences in the mix.

The band’s lineup includes Kai Eckhardt on bass. He’s played with the John McLaughhlin Trio and toured with the godfather of soul Clarence Clemmons, among others. Guitarist Haque, who is trained in classical and jazz, has worked with Sting, Dizzie Gillespie, and Cassandra Wilson. Haque also teaches at Northern Illinois University and specializes in transcribing South American music. On drums is Alan Hertz, of KVHW and the San Francisco Bay Area music scene. Chicago’s acid jazz keyboardist, Eric Levy, rounds out the group. Levy also works with Haque and the Fareed Haque Group, and performed at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1996 alongside Phil Collins, Patty Austin, and Quincy Jones for 50 Years of Music.

"We’re knowledgeable enough that if someone jumps into a tune and takes the virtuosity from it, well that’s the practised art of music, to forget about it and be in the moment," says Haque. "It’s unusual to play in a band that’s a democracy. Often there’s one leader, but this art by committee seems to work," he chuckles.

As further evidence of Garaj Mahal’s diversity, half the band is based in San Francisco and half in Chicago. And they can play just about anything, anywhere. When the April Fool’s Richard’s show seemed to call for a little Bob Marley, Garaj Mahal stepped into a rendition of I Don’t Want to Wait in Vain that earned mention in several reviews.

With their second album in production, the band hopes to incorporate a fifth percussionist, Rasaki, who plays the talking drum, a small drum held under the arm that is squeezed with varying pressure to produce different notes.


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