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‘It does look like our chances are three times brighter’

Tabla maestro, Ustad Zakir Hussain, whose The Melody of Rhythm has been nominated for a Grammy, is honoured to be along side Ustad Amjad Ali Khan and AR Rahman.

music Updated: Dec 10, 2009 20:12 IST
Roshmila Bhattacharya

This year with Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, AR Rahman and you are in contention for a Grammy. Given the strong challenge, would you rate India's chances as bright, brighter or brightest.

I would like to start by offering my congratulations to Ustad Amjad Ali Khan and maestro AR Rahman.
I feel honoured to be included with them. I pray that Ustadji and AR win in their category. It does look like our chances are three times brighter.

You won a Grammy in February 2009 for the Global Drum Project in the Contemporary World Music category. Do you think you could notch up a second straight win in 2010?

Just to be nominated is an honor. This year, I am in a different
category, Best Classical Crossover Album. Our album, The Melody Of Rhythm, is up against the great cello maestro Yo Yo Ma. But it would be great indeed to notch up a second straight win.

Should you win this year, it would be a hat-trick of sorts given that in 1992 Planet Drum was awarded the first ever Grammy in the Best World Music Album category. How big a high would that be and how would the Grammy compare to a Padma Shri, Padma Bhushan, Sangeet Natak Akademi Award or even the National Heritage Fellowship?
I would be lying if I say that awards don’t excite me. We all have egos and they need massaging every now and then. Emotionally, winning an award at home has no equal. But in this case, seeing India’s flag up in the bastion of western music world will be an incredible high.

You have earlier topped in the Best World Music and the Best World Best Drummer categories but this time you have been nominated in the Best Classical Crossover Album category. Did the nomination come as a surprise or were you expecting it?
The nomination was not a surprise because the CD has my colleagues Bela Fleck and Edgar Meyer and me performing with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. We performed a concerto that the three of us wrote together.
The dominant genre in the recording is western classical music and our involvement sort of makes it a crossover for the traditional
western classical genre.

How big is the audience for Classical Crossover Music? How would you define the genre in layman's terms?
Classical Crossover is music that incorporates elements of western classical music with other genres like folk, jazz, Indian etc. There is much interest in this kind of music throughout the western world. Great musicians of all genres have been commissioned to write music, combining their style with symphony orchestras in all parts of the western world for many decades. From India, Pt. Ravi Shankar was asked to write a sitar concerto in the ’70s.

Slumdog Millionare put AR Rahman on the world stage. What’s your take on Jai Ho! that is one of the songs nominated for two Grammys?
AR has totally changed the way we look at music in Bollywood; I think his kind of genius comes along once in many lifetime. Jai Ho! is a song that was just right for the situation in the film. The rhythms are very enticing and the song is hummable yet melodic. Unique!

Along with Shankar Mahadevan, U Shrinivas, Sivamani and Selvaganesh, you will be a part of Heartbeats, a unique musical concert at Mumbai’s Gateway of India on December 17. What drew you to the endeavor?
The genius of the musicians involved in Heartbeats was too irresistible to pass. This is a group who bring the traditional music of our country into the contemporary world. Each of the artiste involved has successfully made a mark in both the traditional and modern world of Indian music. This allows for a vast panorama of musical ideas to be discussed on stage. The challenge is mouth watering, not only for the musicians in the group but also for the audience.

The Mumbai terror attacks are still fresh on people's minds. Where were you on the 26/11 last year and what are your thoughts when you see the Gateway, the Taj Mahal Hotel and the Oberoi Towers today?
I was in California when the attacks took place. I was stunned, the first thing I did was call my friends who went their regularly. Their were personal losses that I can’t talk about.
I was glued to the TV for hours. My daughter says that I did not speak a word, just sat there in shock.