Trilok Gurtu

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love, sexuality, spirituality
Music (percussion)
Computer, Percussion, Small percussion (güiro, spoon), Tabla
Asia, Southern and Central
created on:
July 7, 2003
last changed on:
Please note: This page has not been updated since September 22, 2003. We decided to keep it online because we think the information is still valuable.
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Trilok Gurtu
© Wahidur Rahman Khandkar Czhoton


Strong Indian music cocktail

A successful marriage between traditional and modern music from the east and the west

The musician Trilok Gurtu is master of the UK/Asian music underground with his fusion pop music. Indian music, rock, jazz and African styles are mixed in his dynamic rhythms. In Bombay his mother was a big song star and his father a great sitar player. Gurtu himself had a promising future in front of him as a tabla player. But one day he heard Jimi Hendrix in the radio, which changed his universe so dramatically, that he left his traditional music roots and entered new unknown music territories.
Cross cultural music mix of high quality.
The Indian percussionist and tabla-player, Trilok Gurtu, sets the scene with his global fusion music.

Trilok Gurtu is a master of Indian music, tabla, percussion, and Western drumming. He plays a unique hybrid East-West drum set up and is also a visionary composer whose musical adventurousness has led him to creative fusions of Indian music with jazz, rock, classical, and ethnic music from all over the world. Well known in the jazz community through his collaborations with Don Cherry, John McLaughlin, Joe Zawinul, and Pat Metheny, Gurtu first became known to US audiences as a member of the world/jazz fusion band Oregon.

During his live performances he often kneels to play his customised east/west hybrid kit of drums, gongs, cymbals, shakers, bella and chimes. His playful approach to music seems to rub off on the audience, who seldom miss a beat during sing alongs.

His performances contain hypnotic repetition and constant permutation that both African rhythmic and Indian song forms employ.

Gurtu´s music is often accompanied by famous players and singers, like the Malian vocalist Salif Keita, the Benin born chanteuse Angelique Kidjo, and also his mother, Thumri singer Shobha Gurtu (now in her 70s).

As a teenager he was soon drawn to foreign sounds and claims to have wanted to play the tables like Jimi Hendrix played the guitar. After travelling in Europe for two years he returned to Bombay to work as a professional musician on Bollywood soundtracks, rubbing shoulders with the great playback singer Asha Bhasle among others.

"I see my role as showing how the great musical tradition in India has spread throughout the world. Indian music can be fused with anything because 85 per cent of it is improvised", Trilok Gurtu says in an interview to Phil Meadley in HMV Choice, December 2002.

The press wrote:

"Gurtu´s easy cohabitation with the music of his roots as well as American jazz gives his accompaniments an exhilaratingly bumpy energy, the meticulous precision of Indian percussion patterns at high speeds constantly nudged and disrupted by explosive cymbal sounds and whiplash offbeats", John Fordham wrote in Guardian, 31.10.2000.
Author: Karin Bergquist


Born 50 years ago in Bombay, Trilok Gurtu grew up surrounded by music. His Grandfather played the sitar and his mother Shobha. Gurtu is still popular as a singer of a light classical Hindustani (North Indian) style called thumn. They fostered his natural desire to join in family jam sessions and he began to play percussion instruments from the age of six.

During 80s and 90s Gurtu lived and worked in Europe and the US, playing and recording with a wide range of performers, e.g. Pat Metheney.



Published Audio,
Indian fusion

The Beat of Love

Published Audio,
With African contributions, such as Salif Keita.

African Fantasy

Exhibition / Installation,
A fusion of African and Indian sounds.


5 time winner of Best percussionist in DownBeat´s critic poll for 2001, 2000, 1996, 1995 & 1994.

Awarded Best Percussionist in Drum magasine Readers Poll 1999.

Winner of the Carlton Television Multicultural Music Award 2001.


This artist took part in the following project(s) organized/funded by the partner institutions.

Images of Asia

(08 August 03 - 26 September 03)


Trilok Gurtu´s official web site