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Tantric meditation heads for the Moon

Kimberly Nicoletti
Special to the DailyThe Fareed Haque Group brings its Indian-trance vibe to Half Moon Saloon.
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Guitar virtuoso Fareed Haque’s earliest musical influences came from being raised by a Pakistani father and a Chilean mother. Though he was born in Chicago, he had spent six months in Pakistan by his first birthday, and by age 3 he had spent time in Chile.

“I grew up in an ethnic household,” Haque said. “I’ve never tried to force the ethnicity of my music. I’ve never sat down and studied Indian music, but rather I grew up with this music, so I just hear it in my head. It’s in my blood. I don’t have to study it formally. I had the trial by fire.”

Ironically, Haque always preferred classical (American) guitar over classical Indian music, characterized by its slow, meditative sound. As an accomplished classical guitarist, he has performed as a soloist and accompanist with Nigel Kennedy, Robert Conant, Edgar Meyer, the Vermeer Quartet and various symphony orchestras throughout the world. He transcribes baroque and South American music, and numerous modern works have been dedicated to him. In 1989, he became an associate professor of jazz and classical guitar studies at Northern Illinois University.

A year prior, Sting signed Haque to his label to record acoustic music. Later, Haque’s passion for Pakistani folk music started weaving its way into the recordings.

The Fareed Haque Group began to take shape in 1994 when he met bassist Jon Paul. The sound morphed into a jazzier, more electric sound than Haque ever imagined playing.

“Over the years, my interest in world music and American jazz has gotten me into electric guitar,” Haque said. “For a time, I got a little confused and started flirting with fusion, but then we found our way to the mix of Indian acoustic and funk and hip-hop. I like to describe it as “Sector 9 goes to India.’ We have this indo-funk kind of groove. It’s a deep-trance like groove.”

Mixed in with the groove is DJ Cappo, who offers varied layers to the sound. Haque based the work with DJ Cappo on “bhangra,” a fast-paced Indian dance music, which uses a DJ to remix Indian and Pakistani movie music.

Kalyan Pathak plays the tabla and adds vocals over the mix. Born in India, he discovered the “dholak” (a two-sided drum) his father used as an accompaniment while singing devotional songs at community gatherings. He studies orchestral percussion, jazz drum set playing and African, Afro-Cuban and Latin percussion styles with various teachers in Chicago.

Drummer Dan Leali has toured and recorded with such artists as The Blue Man Group, Billy Joel, Foreigner, Peter Gabriel and Liquid Soul, as well as performed commercial jingles for Budweiser, Miller Lite and the U.S. Army.

Keyboardist Dan Nimmer, formerly of Soul Slipper, joined the Fareed Haque Group last year and studies at Northern Illinois University.

In 2001, Haque co-founded the jam super-group Garaj Mahal, joining bassist Kai Eckhardt, drummer Alan Hertz and keyboardist Eric Levy. Haque busts out of the funky, hypnotic Indian grooves into a more rocking, improvisational exploration with Garaj Mahal. But he’s still putting plenty of energy into The Fareed Haque Group with a new album, scheduled for release in a couple of months.

“(The album is) a little more trancey and definitely more jazz,” he said.

The outfit induces a trance at Half Moon Saloon today.


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