Jan 3, 2013

September 20, 1968: Berkeley Community Theater

In 1968 Mickey Hart of the Grateful Dead was studying at the Ali Akbar College of Music with Tabla Master Shankar Ghosh. Mickey would work on compositions with Shankar which included Rhythmic Cycles of 4, 6, 16, 5 and 7, and take these teaching to Bill Kreutzmann. Mickey and Bill were instructing Shankar on traps in exchange for Tabla lessons, and would combine their knowledge in compositions of East and West.
In September of 1968 the Grateful Dead played a concert at the Berkeley Community Theater. Before the concert the drummers had planned a surprise for the audience. During part of "Alligator", the G.D. amps rolled apart and two risers rolled on stage between Mickey and Bill. On them were Shankar Ghosh and Vince Delgado, a fine dumbec player and a student of Shankar's. The four men sat and fixed compositions together, taking a rhythmic journey through many "Tals" or time cycles. Ali Akbar Khan composed the closing compositions for them and when they were finished, the applause was deafening.

(excerpt from the United Artists Diga Rhythm Band bio, May 1976)



  1. I had always wondered what was up in the 9/20/68 show....why the band suddenly abandons Eleven, and a couple guest drummers (who just happen to be there) take the stage.
    Now, we know!

    This piece misidentifies the Eleven as Alligator, but otherwise sounds accurate - the audience applause at the end is, indeed, much more excited than you would expect after a 26-minute drum solo. (Well, those were the sixties...)
    The drums ends with the "taketa taketa tak" chant that was used in Alligator, but there's no telling if they went on to play Alligator. That seems to be the end of the show.

    This was the start of a Diga Rhythm Band promotional bio UA issued for the release of the Diga album.

    For those curious, here's the rest of it:
    "Shankar left Ali Akbar College in 1969 and returned to India; at this time Mickey also left to pursue electronic music.
    In 1970 Mickey was introduced to Zakir Hussain, son of Mickey's mentor, Alla Rakha. Mickey had met Alla Rakha in 1967 and had given himself over to the teachings of Indian rhythms during their first meeting. He subsequently became Shankar's student in California. Zakir had come from India to replace Shankar as Ali Akbar's personal drummer and as Tabla instructor for the school. Quite a job for a man of 21, but Zakir had been studying since 8 years of age; he obviously came well prepared.
    In 1971 Zakir began to select some of his advance students for a school orchestra of only rhythm instruments. This was called Tal Vadyum Rhythm Band and they performed once a quarter at the Ali Akbar Kahn College of Music. This was the beginning of the Diga Band.
    In April, 1975 the Jefferson Starship asked them to play a concert with them and the Sons of Champlin. The band decided to play and also to change their name for public performance. The name chosen was Diga Rhythm Band. The concerts at Winterland in San Francisco on May 16 and 17, 1975 were successful, Alla Rakha was there both nights and was very pleased; Bill Graham was elated, and the musicians from the other groups were very receptive to the music.
    As the group's first record reveals, the Diga play so well together, the intensity they reach is so high, that they take the music they play to a place very few musicians can reach. What results, however, is not an exercise in meaningless esoterica, but a music that contains all that is good. There's a little bit of latin, a little bit of r&b, a whole lot of great guitar work (put in by Mickey's Grateful Dead compadre Jerry Garcia).
    It is clear now that what has emerged, out of all the study, out of all the time, out of all the superb musicianship, is a musical group that functions like a machine driven by some divine force."

  2. Funny, I just came across something about this randomly. Mickey must have read the press release. Here's what he said in March 1981:

    CL: What about Diga? I believe it's possible to trace their origins back to a Dead gig at the Greek Theater in Berkeley in 68?
    MH: That's right. It was Vince Delgado on Dumbeck, Shahkar Ghosht , me and Kreutzmann. It was in the middle of Alligator, we rolled the amps apart, brought the risers forward and played, for a very long time.

    Platt, John. 1981. Mickey Hart: Rhythm Devil. Comstock Lode no. 9 (Autumn 1981), 3 pp.