The earliest memory that tabla maestro Zakir Hussain has of his father, Ustad Allah Rakha, is as a four-year-old, who tagged along with him on multiple tours across the world. “I remember, I would break into a smile every time he took to the stage and started playing,” he recalls. “Later, when I grew up, I saw him on stage— old with shaky hands. But as soon as he started playing I was filled with these happy bubbles that I had no control over. The years didn’t matter. That’s when I prayed that at his age, if I continue to love what I’m doing with the same passion, I would be a blessed man,” he adds.
After a hectic month of playing wedding planner for his daughter Anisha, Hussain is all set to perform at the eleventh barsi of his father at the annual concert in the city, which was put together in a little over a week “It was the coming together of the music fraternity. They took care of everything and made it so easy for me to put it together,” he feels.
This year, the concert will also pay tribute to Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, who recently passed away. “Suresh Wadkar asked if I wanted to do it, and from there on, he just took full charge of the concert,” adds the Ustad.
Hussain started training under the musical aegis of Pandit Bhimsen Joshi when he was barely six. “The music fraternity suffered a great loss with his passing. Last year, we lost the sarod exponent Ali Akbar Khan. It’s sad that we are losing our great musicians so rapidly. But the barsi concert is not about mourning, rather it’s about celebrating the legacy they’ve left behind.”
Sure enough, the mood of the concert can be anticipated by its line-up, which includes a Rajasthani wedding band, which even played at his daughter’s wedding. “It’s far from the Bollywood mimicry. These artistes are folk musicians who play western classical instruments like the trombone and clarinet,” he explains.
The stellar line-up for the concert also includes jazz artiste Ranjit Barot, who recently performed at Davos, Niladri Kumar and Sukhwinder Singh. While kanjira exponent V Selvaganesh will bring the beats of the dhamak to the city, a visually challenged Tanzanian singer with a Sanskrit name is Hussain’s favourite pick. “Ananya is a throat singer. He sings in two or three different notes simultaneously. It’s amazing the kind of melodies he can create,” he adds. The day-long concert will also feature a Brazilian percussionist, who is adept at reproducing sound of nature with his instruments. “If you close your eyes and hear him, you’ll be transported to the rainforest I promise,” concludes Hussain.