When John McLaughlin disbanded the wildly successful Mahavishnu Orchestra in 1975, opting instead to play acoustic guitar with a group of Indian musicians virtually unheard of in the West, many fans (and record industry personnel) were left scratching their heads. Nonetheless, Shakti—which included tabla master Zakir Hussain, ghatam player “Vikku” Vinayakram, and violinist L. Shankar in addition to McLaughlin—went on to become the most significant world-fusion ensemble ever, creating an astonishing East-West blend that also united the Northern and Southern Indian classical musical traditions. The group disbanded after only a short time, but was reformed with new members in 1997 under the name Remember Shakti.
In this documentary, founding members and primary interviewees McLaughlin and Hussain trace the evolution of the group from the beginning to the present, offering scores of fascinating insights and anecdotal stories along the way—and supporting the interviews are numerous video clips featuring truly mind-blowing performances by both Shakti and Remember Shakti. You also get two live shows from the Montreaux Jazz Festival (1976 and 2004), a 55-minute concert filmed in 2000, and a 45-minute film called Sound Check, featuring a behind-the-scenes look at the group. This is possibly the best music documentary that I have ever seen. (Universal.)