Ustad Zakir Hussain: The Peerless Tabla Virtuoso

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When the musical instrument ‘Tabla’ is mentioned, the first name that comes to mind is Ustad Zakir Hussain. That is quite an achievement in itself for a musician. Zakir Hussain was born on March 9, 1951 and followed his father Ustad Alah Rakha’s footsteps and started playing Tabla at a very young age. He traces his music lineage to Punjab gharana. He was a child prodigy and has accompanied several artists including like his father did, Pandit Ravishankar!

As  a solo musician, he has played Tabla throughout the world. As his interest in music varied, he completed courses in music in Indonesian, African and Chinese languages from The University of Seattle, Washington. He has become a international phenomenon, a tabla virtuoso with no peers and has become a national treasure of India. In recognition of his untiring contribution to the world of music, Government of India awarded   him Padmashree in 1988, youngest percussionist ever to receive such award.

He teaches tabla at several universities in the US and has scored music for several movies including ‘Apocalypse Now’. He has recorded 145 CD’s  as a soloist and with world renowned artists as diverse as George Harrison, Joe Henderson, Van Morrison, Jack Bruce, Tito Puente, Pharoah Saunders, Billy Cobham, the Hong Kong Symphony and the New Orleans Symphony.

Ustad Zakir Hussain was in Montreal, Canada recently for a ‘By Invitation Only’ performance along with Sarangi Maestro Ustad Sultan khan.
Here is what one of the columnist, Andrey Henkin had to say about his performance…. “Tabla is a remarkable instrument. It can be tapped, petted, stroked, caressed, hit, pounded, rubbed or poked, each technique resulting in a wonderful new sound. Taken together, the tabla can be as expressive as any chordal or more traditionally melodic instrument. Hussain played while explaining “the language of the tabla.” He demonstrated how the instrument talks (a funny example of an exchange between a mother and her coming-home-too-late son, complete with slaps across the face) or can be descriptive. He recreated Indian rush hour?with trucks, scooters, cars, dogs and elephant?and the obviously resultant traffic jam. He made his drums sound like a galloping horse (quoting the “Lone Ranger” theme song in the process), a moving train and a jumping deer”!!!!

In person he is so down to earth, kind, friendly, simple human being. When he was congratulated  on his performance and told  what a great musician he is ….his response was ” I am just a blade of grass, in the lawn of music world……”

Here I present to you some photographs of Ustad Zakir Hussain…..

Author: Dr K.B. Mallya- Canada

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