Tabla maestro Zakir Hussain confesses he hasn’t slept a lot lately. Since the brouhaha over his daughter’s wedding, Hussain has been busy prepping up for concerts across the country that have earmarked every calendar date last month.
“I was jamming with Shankar and Hariharan into the wee hours of the night at Shankar’s recording studio in Karjat,” says Hussain. “We got home at 4 am,” he says without a hint of weariness on his face.
The ustad is teaming up with celebrated vocalists Shankar Mahadevan and Hariharan as well as mezzo-soprano Kelly O’Connor for a National Symphony Orchestra (NSO) concert at John F Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington DC in March. Titled Maximum India, Hussain describes it as a “concerto for four soloists,” comprising three vocals and a tabla recital.
Busy juggling Urdu qawali with English hymns and Sanskrit pads, Hussain has been busy picking excerpts from Roussel’s opera Padmavati for his latest project. “The NSO commissioned me to write a piece for the Kennedy Center’s celebration of India, so I thought of bringing together different traditions of Indian culture through music,” he explains.
The composition combines elements of Hindu ragas and talas, Sufi kalam and Christian church music with Hussain accompanying the three vocalists on the tabla.
“I’m really looking forward to this piece. The idea is to unite Indian forms and incorporate it into the piece. The traditions are so diverse, yet they get together seamlessly. They are all devotional songs, but God comes across as everything from the Almighty to the beloved in all these piece,” he says.
Closer home, Hussain will be performing at a free-for-all early morning concert for his devoted fans. Titled Spiritual Morning, Hussain will collaborate with sarod exponent Amjad Ali Khan at the Gateway Of India on February 18, before setting ashore.
And for those looking for Hussain’s crossover repertoire, the ustad will be seen jamming tonight at a fusion music concert with percussionist Ranjit Barot, who recently performed at the World Economic Forum in Davos and violist Balabhaskar. “It’ll be a night of percussions,” assures Hussain.
Zakir Hussain will perform at Samanvaya fusion music concert at Tata Theatre, NCPA on February 11, 7pm. Ticket price start at R 100.