Zakir Hussain

Zakir Hussain

Zakir Hussain is today appreciated both in the field of percussion and in the world of music at large as an international phenomenon. A classical tabla virtuoso of the highest order, his consistently brilliant and exciting performances have not only established him as a national treasure in his own country, India, but gained him fame all over the world for his many accomplishments. The favourite accompanist for many of India’s greatest classical musicians and dancers, from Ali Akbar Khan and Ravi Shankar to Birju Maharaj and Shivkumar Sharma, he has not let amazing talent rest there. Zakir’s contribution to world music has been unique, with many unique and historic collaborations including Shakti, which he founded with John McLaughlin and L. Shankar. His playing is marked by uncanny intuition and masterful improvisational dexterity, founded in formidable knowledge and study. A child prodigy, Zakir was already touring by the age of twelve. He came to the United States in 1970, embarking on an international career which includes no less than 150 concert dates a year. He has composed and recorded many albums and soundtracks, and has received widespread recognition as a composer as evidenced by the numerous grants and awards that he has received, including participation in the Meet the Composer programs funded by the Pew Memorial Trust. In 1987, his first solo release, Making Music, was acclaimed as “one of the most inspired East-West fusion albums ever recorded.” In 1988, he became the youngest percussionist to ever be awarded the title “Padma Shri” by the Indian government, a title given to civilians of merit. In 1990, he was awarded the Indo-American Award, in recognition for his outstanding contribution to relations between the United States and India. In April 1991, he was presented with the Sangeet Natak Academy Award by the president of India, making him one of the youngest musicians to receive this recognition from India’s governing cultural institute. In 1992, Planet Drum, an album co-created and produced by Zakir and Mickey Hart, was awarded a Grammy for Best World Music Album, the Downbeat Critics Poll for Best World Beat Album and the NARM Indie Best Seller Award for World Music Recording. In 1992, he also launched Moment! Records which features original works and collaborations in the field of contemporary world music, as well as digitally recorded live concert performances by great masters of the classical music of India. The label presents Zakir’s own world percussion ensemble, The Rhythm Experience. His compositional skills can also be heard on soundtracks for the films In Custody, Ismail Merchant’s directorial debut, and Little Buddha by Bernardo Bertolucci, for which Zakir composed, performed and was the Indian music advisor.

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