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On Aug. 12, 2001, Tabla Beat Science, a multinational collective of forward-thinking musicians founded by the tabla player Zakir Hussein and the bass player and producer Bill Laswell, played a free show in the Stern Grove section of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. For many of the 12,000 people who attended, the experience had the same mind-blowing effect as the park’s other legendary concerts by, say, The Grateful Dead or Santana. To be sure, a live recording cannot replace the camaraderie of thousands of awed listeners, the fragrance and shade of Stern Grove’s eucalyptus trees or the crisp, mild air of San Francisco. “Live in San Francisco” does, however, capture the incredible music created on that day.

In addition to Hussein and Laswell, Tabla Beat Science features Indian sarangi (bowed stringed instrument) master Ustad Sultan Khan, Ethiopian-born singer Gigi Shibabaw, Brooklyn-based drummer Karsh Kale, Bay Area turntablist DJ Disc and Delhi-based DJ/production duo Midival Punditz. In lesser hands, such a mixture of genres, generations and textures would be a pretentious mess. As it is, “Live in San Francisco” is full and warm, clean and simple, integrated at the molecular level and instinctive rather than intellectual. While in Japan this April, Laswell said of the event: “It was one of those things where everything worked. It was one of those shows where you know it’s right the whole time.”

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