Khaled and Co @ Stern Grove (July 10)

Stern Grove is one of the summer delights in San Francisco. One of the highlights of our stay in the Bay Area thus far is the concert that Zakir Hussain, Bill Laswell, Karsh Kale and DJ Quik put on in Stern Grove that year. Courtesy my mother-in-law, all of us were able to sit up front and we had a grand view. The concert made its way into an album (Live in San Francisco at Stern Grove) as well. I bought a copy as a gift and, before I parted with it, I studied the crowd pictures to no avail, alas. So close to being on an album cover! Anyway, many things have happened since then and we just never had a chance to attend another show. Finally, upon hearing Khaledand DJ Cheb I Sabbahwould be playing at Stern Grove, we jumped at the opportunity. Here are some snaps and observations.

It was a full house with a diverse variety of folks, as you can see for yourself. If you squint hard enough, perhaps you can catch my friend Chi-Chao and his two lovely daughters. Er, they are behind the small trees. It was baking hot around 2pm but had cooled down considerably towards the end.

This time around, Indian iconography seemed to be stronger than ever amongst the cultural backpackers. I just couldn't believe this one though, hence I had to take a picture. Click for a larger image. The hand in the foreground isn't mine, BTW. An entire illustration of a Devi complete with shlokas. What next? Kamasutra tattoos in more private body areas? I shouldn't joke, most probably they exist already!

DJ Cheb-i-sabbah opened the proceedings together with percussionist Wilfredo Reyes. He mostly played tracks from his new album, La Kahena. It sounded grand but I have a bone to pick with his opening acknowledgements. He gave call-outs to Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria. But not India. For a man, who has made a living off its musical idioms (not to mention the large number of desi fans in the Bay Area and outside), it would have been a nice gesture, particularly given the constituency of the audience that afternoon.

The main event, Khaled's concert, was a treat. He was in sharp form and his voice easily scaled the heights. The band was tight and his most ardent fans in the dance-pit knew all the words. The real surprise off the day was the guest appearance of Santana. Very cool, particularly the way he blended his guitar seamlessly with the rest of the band. Khaled saved his two biggest hits, Aicha and Didi, for the last. All in all, a sweaty, uplifting experience.

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- July 19, 2005 7:03 PM // Music , Select