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World Music Review

At Global Festival, Not Enough of a Good Thing

April 17, 2001|DON HECKMAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

"Potpourri" may be the best word to describe the Global Music Festival at UCLA's Royce Hall on Sunday. Although the presence of violinist L. Subramaniam as the featured artist suggested a concert dedicated to the fusion of jazz and Indian music, the program was actually far more oriented toward a colorful overview of Indian popular music.

The opening half began with a brief Subramaniam appearance, leading his Global Music Ensemble in an excerpt from his "Global Fusion" album and a number with his wife, Indian film singer Kavita Krishnamurti. Unfortunately, that was the last time he was seen on stage until the second half of the bill began two hours later.

Subramaniam's initial number was followed by a set of Ghazal songs from Pakistani singer Ghulam Ali and a jaunty, animated performance from another well-known Indian film vocalist, Sudesh Bhosle. The segment continued with a more extended appearance by Krishnamurti. Her bell-like sound, articulated with a sensitive command of the intricate melodic ornamentation of the Indian vocal style, was one of the program's highlights.

Her performance was enhanced by a troupe of dancers led by Meenakshi Seshadri. Returning several times during the program, with different brightly colored outfits for each appearance, they gave the program much needed visual enhancement with their athletically choreographed movements.

*

Subramaniam finally took the spotlight after intermission, leading an ensemble that included five percussionists, a pair of keyboard players, a guitarist, a bassist and a horn player. There were also guest appearances by guitarists Jorge Strunz and Steven Seagal (yes, the actor). Despite the cluttered surroundings, Subramaniam's violin playing, with its gorgeous sound, technical clarity and improvisational inventiveness, managed to effectively find its way into the open. More Subramaniam would have made for a vastly more intriguing evening.

But both Subramaniam and the Global Music Ensemble were plagued, as were many of the other performers, by a sound mix that rarely found the proper instrumental balance. Nor was the otherwise attractive program particularly enhanced by the fact that it started 40 minutes late, endured awkward stage changes and never fully made the most of its stellar lineup of talent.

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