Zakir Hussain and the Masters of Percussion — When They Sit Down to Play, They Stand Out

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March 24, 2012

The genre-bending, art-defining percussionists Zakir Hussain, Fazal Qureshi, Rakesh Chaurasia, THV Umashankar, Dilshad Khan, Navin Sharma, Abbos Kosimov, and Meitel Pung Cholom are a blessing to humanity. Every performer is a genius in the instrument he picked — nothing less! Entertainers — their mission is to cheer people. They are such experts who can push their skills to the limit. Their two-hour long performance at the Kennedy Center was riveting.

March 24, 2012

The genre-bending, art-defining percussionists Zakir Hussain, Fazal Qureshi, Rakesh Chaurasia, THV Umashankar, Dilshad Khan, Navin Sharma, Abbos Kosimov, and Meitel Pung Cholom are a blessing to humanity. Every performer is a genius in the instrument he picked — nothing less! Entertainers — their mission is to cheer people. They are such experts who can push their skills to the limit. Their two-hour long performance at the Kennedy Center was riveting.

By Staff Reporter & Columnist, Sam Prasad JillellaSpecial to MYDOSTI.COM

WASHINGTON DC — The Washington Performing Arts Society (WPAS) founded in 1965 and funded in part by the D.C. Commission on the Arts & Humanities, is an agency supported in part by National Endowment for the Arts.

Washington Performing Arts Society (WPAS) information counter at the “Zakir Hussain and the Masters of Percussion" concert in the Kennedy Center

WPAS has created profound opportunities for connecting the community to artists, in both education and performance. Through live events in venues that criss-cross the landscape of the D.C. metropolitan area, the careers of emerging artists are guided, and established artists who have bonded with the local audience are invited to return. In this way, the space between artists and audiences is eliminated, so that all may share life-long opportunities to deepen their cultural knowledge, enrich their lives, and expand their understanding and compassion of the world through the universal language of the arts.

Hundreds of great, world-class artists like Ravi Shankar, Anoushka Shankar, and Zakir Hussain have been featured time and again in DC. Zakir just did a show, and Anoushka is due next month. What WPAS is doing is highly commendable.

“Zakir Hussain and the Masters of Percussion” drew a house-full crowd on Saturday, March 17, in the Concert Hall at the Kennedy Center.

Initiated into tabla-playing at three by his father, the iconic tabla-player Alla Rakha Hussain, Zakir says “I never looked back.”

Born in Mumbai, the tabla-king’s performances have established him as India’s national treasure and as one of the world’s most esteemed and influential musicians. His playing is marked by masterful improvisational dexterity, founded in formidable knowledge and study.

Saturated in the 2,000-year-old tradition of Indian classical music, Zakir has performed with masters like Ravi Shankar, Vilayat Khan, Ali Akbar Khan and other great Indian musicians and dancers during the last 40 years.

Zakir has also brought tabla into the emerging genre of world music, working with such distinctly non-Indian artists as John McLaughlin, George Harrison, Yo-Yo Ma, Joe Henderson, Van Morrison, Airto Moreira, Pharoah Sanders, Billy Cobham, Mark Morris, Tito Puente, Rennie Harris and the Kodo drummers, to name a few. His music and contribution to world music were honored in April 2009 with four widely-heralded and sold-out concerts at Carnegie Hall’s Artist Perspective series.

ZAKIR HUSSAIN reacts to applause from the audience after a solo performance

Zakir starred in the Merchant Ivory film Heat and Dust in 1983, for which he also composed the score. He composed, performed and acted as Indian music advisor for the Malayalam (language of the Indian state of Kerala) film Vanaprastham. He has also composed soundtracks for other movies, including In Custody and The Mystic Masseur by Ismail Merchant. Zakir played tabla on the soundtracks of Francis Coppola's Apocalypse Now, Bernardo Bertolucci's Little Buddha and other films and composed the soundtrack of Mr. and Mrs. Iyer.

He also starred in several documentaries showcasing his musical performance both solo and with different bands, including the 1998 documentary "Zakir and His Friends" and the documentary "The Speaking Hand: Zakir Hussain and the Art of the Indian Drum" (2003). He also performs in the DVDs The Rhythm Devils Concert Experience (2008) and The Way of Beauty (2006) with the band Remember Shakti.

The first Planet Drum album, released in 1991 on the Rykodisc label, went on to earn the 1992 Grammy Award for Best World Music Album, the first Grammy ever awarded in this category.

The Global Drum Project album and tour brought Mickey Hart, Zakir Hussain, Sikiru Adepoju, and Giovanni Hidalgo together again in a reunion sparked by the 15th anniversary of the ground-breaking album Planet Drum. The album Global Drum Project has won the Grammy Award for Best Contemporary World Music Album at the 51st Grammy Awards Ceremony held on 8 February 2009.

Hussain will re-team with Santana (and jazz icon Herbie Hancock) for a concert at the Hollywood Bowl this summer.

Masters of Percussion, an outgrowth of Zakir’s tours with his father, has enjoyed successful tours in the West since 1996.

Zakir is known as a thorough gentleman, and an inspirational and delightful musician. He whole-heartedly encourages every musician, young and old.

Zakir’s team of Master Percussionists consists of Fazal Qureshi (tabla and kanjira); Rakesh Chaurasia, bansuri (bamboo flute); THV Umashankar, ghatam (clay pot); Dilshad Khan, sarangi; Navin Sharma, dholak; Abbos Kosimov, doyra; and Meitel Pung Cholom, dancing drummer of Manipur.

ZAKIR HUSSAIN & MASTERS OF PERCUSSION: (Left to Right) Navin Sharma, dholak; Meitel Pung Cholom, dancing drummer of Manipur; THV Umashankar, ghatam (clay pot); Zakir Hussain, tabla; Rakesh Chaurasia, bansuri (bamboo flute); Fazal Qureshi (tabla and kanjira); Abbos Kosimov, doyra

The packed-house watched the masters ornament the melody of the bamboo flute with their rhythmic improvisations. The highlight of the ensemble was a unique blend of Indian classical and folk music.

The show was riveting. The crowd of hundreds cheered loudly.


Community Special by MYDOSTI.COM

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