It’s a joy to play for the audience in Delhi: Tabla maestro Zakir Hussain | music | Hindustan Times
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It’s a joy to play for the audience in Delhi: Tabla maestro Zakir Hussain

Ustad Zakir Hussain shares why he loves performing in the Capital, how his father Alla Rakha taught him the connection between tabla and pakhawaj at a young age, his touring days and his experience playing alongside cricketer Sachin Tendulkar recently.

music Updated: Mar 03, 2017 18:38 IST
Naina Arora
Zakir Hussain
Tabla virtuoso Ustad Zakir Hussain is set to perform in Gurgaon on February 12.

His music weaves magic. Wherever tabla virtuoso Padma Bhushan Zakir Hussain has performed, he’s left his audience spellbound. The global icon is now going to perform in Gurgaon for a Jugalbandi concert on February 12 at Shiv Nadar School. The maestro says it is always a joy for him to be performing in the Capital city.

“Delhi has been a city of art and culture for sometime. The government and the great business houses have taken upon themselves to help preserve and nurture our ancient arts. The audience has been very supportive of the performing arts. They are well-informed and quite receptive. It’s a joy to play for them,” he says.

Born to legendary tabla player Alla Rakha,Hussain was taught by his father to play the pakhawaj, at the age of three. His father also taught him the connection between tabla and pakhawaj. “He would always teach the students pakhawaj compositions and how to transpose that information on to tabla. It was always interesting, funny and wondrous to watch him turn the tabla sideways and play it like pakhawaj. He would execute the bol perfectly and also make the tabla sound like pakhawaj.”

On the changes music has undergone in his 50 years of experience, Hussain says, “Earlier, the emphasis was always on melodies and a subtle focus on how the rhythm players would interact with the song. Since the release of DIGA, my first orchestral rhythm album in partnership with Mickey Hart, we embarked on recording a series of rhythm albums culminating in 1991 with the release of our Grammy winning and best-selling album Planet Drum, the success of this album sparked an interest in rhythm based music like hip hop, drum and bass based music, rap etc.Now all popular music first set a beat (rhythm track) and then builds a song around it,” he says.

Hussain who started touring for concerts by the age of 12, shares that the tours gave him a world view and helped him enhance his craft. “I learned so much more about the world by interacting with people from all regions of our art rich country and of course learning my trade, hands on. I am very thankful that I could do this.I was blessed that so many great musicians took me under their wings and mentored me. It was definitely a great learning time for me,” he says.

“I learned so much more about the world by interacting with people from all regions of our art rich country, and of course learning my trade, hands on.”

The Maestro who studied ethnomusicology at University of Washington (UW) says its important to get an academic education. “Before I could complete the course, I was offered the tabla teacher post by Ustad Ali Akbar Khansaheb at his music college and I promptly dropped out of UW and ran to San Francisco to take up this coveted job. It is most important to get an academic education. The world is getting smaller and there is much more communication among people across the globe, to know ways to be able to communicate with people on the other side of the world from you, creates a healthy respect for each other’s culture.”

It was a jugalbandi like no other, when Hussain and Sachin Tendulkar took to stage at an event recently. The cricket legend played an instrument slit drums, and maintained perfect time with Hussain who performed on his preferred set of tablas.

Speaking on the experience, Hussain, says, “It was an experience I will never forget.It was a wondrous revelation and a humbling experience to work with Sachin bhai, he is such a loving human being and so generous to his friends and very respectful to his elders. I know that he was very busy, but whenever I met him he never made me feel like he was in a rush, and full focus was given to my time with him. He shared his experiences openly with us and later from the stage with the audience.”