Ustad Zakir Hussain
Fingers Of Magic
With numerous national and international awards and accolades to his credit, he is a treasure, not just for India but for the world of music. His consistent and brilliant performances mark him as one of India’s greatest classical musicians. This genius is Ustad Zakir Hussain, the legendary tabla maestro who has revolutionised the world of percussion music.
Ustad Zakir Hussain was born in Mumbai (Maharashtra) to legendary tabla player Ustad Alla Rakha and his wife Bavi Begum. Along with his father and teacher, he has elevated the status of the tabla and has taken it to newer heights. A favourite accompanist for India’s leading classical musicians and dancers, Zakir is also widely recognised as a chief architect of the world music movement with his many historic collaborations, including Shakti, Remember Shakti, Diga, Planet Drum and his ever-changing musical feast- Masters of Percussion. In summer 2012, Zakir was named as ‘Best Percussionist’ in the Downbeat Critics’ Poll.
Zakir Hussain has worked with many western and Indian artists but out of the most notably known productions of his, the highly celebrated are the Beatles. After he set his footsteps on foreign lands in 1970, there was no looking back for him. He did his schooling at St Michael’s High School, Mahim and later completed his graduation from St Xavier’s, Mumbai. Being born a prodigy, Hussain started touring the world for his tabla performances ever since he turned 12. His international career began from the US, wherein he had over 150 concert dates a year to handle.
Zakir Hussain has been married to Italian-American Antonia Minnecola, the distinguished Kathak dancer and student of Sitara Devi. The couple has two daughters – Anisa Qureshi and Isabella Qureshi. Anisa is a graduate from UCLA and works as a filmmaker and video producer. His younger daughter, Isabella, is doing her major in dance and lives in Manhattan. He is the recipient of many honours including a Grammy in the Best Contemporary World Music category for Global Drum Project with Mickey Hart, Giovanni Hidalgo and Sikiru Adepoju, Padma Bhushan from the Government of India in 2002 and the 1999 National Heritage Fellowship, the United States’ most prestigious honour for a master in traditional arts. In April-2009, his music was showcased for four sold-out nights at Carnegie Hall’s Artist Perspective Series. Also in 2009, Zakir was named an Officer in the ‘Order of Arts and Letters’ by France’s ministry of culture and communication.
Apart from delivering live performances and recording music albums, Hussain has also gained fame in the field of films. He starred and composed music for the 1983 film Heat and Dust. This was followed by composing, performing and acting in the Malayalam film Vanaprastham in 1999. The same year, the movie was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at the AFI Los Angeles International Film Festival (AFI Fest). The film went on to win awards in 2000 at Istanbul International Film Festival (Turkey), Bombay International Film Festival (India), and National Film Awards (India). He has composed sound tracks for In Custody, The Mystic Masseur, and Mr and Mrs Iyer, apart from playing tabla on the sound tracks of Apocalypse Now, Little Buddha and many others.
In April 1991, Hussain became one of the youngest musicians to be felicitated with the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award by the President of India. Besides, Hussain is also fortunate to have been associated with several bands of former Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart, including the ‘Diga Rhythm Band’, ‘Planet Drum’, ‘Bembe Orishas’, and ‘Global Drum Project’. Being the youngest percussion to be honored with civilian awards from the Indian Government, this exceptionally talented and highly celebrated musician is a music encyclopedia. Since childhood, Hussain has continuously imparted his formidable knowledge and study to the music world and has not let it rest till date.