When your father is late Ustad Allarakha and your elder brother is Zakir Hussain — both renowned tabla players — becoming a globally-recognised musician, who plays the same instrument, is an achievement in itself. But veteran tabla player Fazal Qureshi is proud that he has been able to take his father’s legacy forward.
To pay tribute to Ustad Allarakha, he organised a concert, titled The Journey Continues, in the city on July 15, Friday. On the sidelines of the event, we caught up with Fazal to discuss his journey, training under his father, Zakir’s influence on his music, and more.
Your father was your guru. How was the learning experience?
My father was an impartial teacher. He believed in talent. I was taught with his other students. If I could understand and imbibe what he taught in class, it was my good fortune, else I would lag behind. I am fortunate I could keep up.
As a musician, who played the same instrument as your father, did his stature put additional pressure on you?
You are bound to feel pressurised when you have a famous father. I took the comparisons positively. They were an incentive to work harder.
Do you have memories of doing riyaaz with your father, and your brothers Zakir and Taufiq (Qureshi)?
Most of the times, I’d practice alone. My father’s method of teaching was strict. I was supposed to replicate whatever he taught immediately. This is how you learn in the guru-shishya parampara (teacher-student tradition).
As kids, who was the naughtiest among the three of you?
(Laughs) Since I was punished the most, I guess I was the naughtiest.
Do you have anything in common with Zakir and Taufiq?
The only commonality is that we are musicians. Otherwise, we have distinct personalities.
You innovated by fusing the tabla with jazz and with other western genres. What made you do that?
I wanted to experiment. In the early ’80, we were influenced by Zakir bhai’s band, Shakti. The tradition of experimenting with music is in the family. Our father also collaborated with western classical and jazz musicians in his time. Zakir bhai did the same. So, collaborating with international musicians happened naturally to me.
You have been associated with Mynta (a Swedish fusion jazz band) for over 16 years…
Mynta happened to me when I was growing as a musician. Collaborations with international artistes opened my mind to other styles of music. That helped me become a complete musician.
So, is any international collaboration in the pipeline?
I have finished working on an album with London-based percussionist Pete Lockett. It has 11 fusion tracks with Indian and western influences. The approach is contemporary, but we have not compromised on the traditional aspects of our music. For instance, I have a solo track with the tabla, and I have used different notes to make it sound modern. The album should be out soon.