Zakir Hussain – The Tabla Maestro

by Annie Saxena on Feb 10, 2023

Also known as the Tabla Maestro, Ustad Zakir Hussain is the son of the renowned tabla player Ustad Allah Rakha. He was born on 9th March, 1951 and showed a keen interest in tabla at a very young age. This child prodigy started touring by the time he was twelve and began performing at concerts , thereby gaining much recognition and fame. Zakir went to the United States in 1970, embarking on an international career which included no fewer than 150 concerts a year.

After he set his footsteps on foreign lands, there was no looking back for Hussain. In 1971, he collaborated with the American psychedelic band called Shanti to produce an album. They worked on Indo-Jazz projects, which proved fruitful. This partnership resulted in the production of several albums, namely, ‘Shakti’ , ‘A Handful of Beauty’ , and ‘Natural Elements’ .

He even made a special appearance on George Harrison’s album titled ‘Living in the Material World’ in 1973. Zakhir Hussain also released his first solo album “Making Music” in 1987, which was proclaimed to be one of the most inspired and brilliant East-West fusion albums ever. He was awarded the “Padma Shree” by the Government in the year 1988, thus making him the youngest percussionist to ever receive this award.

Apart from delivering live performances and recording music albums, Hussain has also gained fame in the film industry. He starred and composed music for the 1983 film ‘Heat and Dust’. He also composed, performed, and acted 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.

It went on to win awards in 2000 at the Istanbul International Film Festival , Bombay International Film Festival and National Film Awards. He has composed soundtracks for movies such as ‘In Custody’, ‘The Mystic Masseur’, and ‘Mr. and Mrs. Iyer’, apart from playing tabla on the soundtracks of ‘Apocalypse Now’, ‘Little Buddha’, to name a few.

This Tabla Maestro has been facilitated with highest civilian orders of India like Padma Shri in 1988 and Padma Bhushan in 2002. He was also awarded the Indo-American Award in 1990 for his outstanding cultural contribution to relations between the United States and India.

In 1992, Planet Drum, an album co-created and produced by Hussain and Mickey Hart, was awarded the first-ever Grammy for Best World Music Album. Hussain was also received the 1999 National Heritage Fellowship, United States’ most prestigious honor for a master in traditional arts. His album, ‘Golden Strings of the Sarode’ was nominated for a Grammy in the Best Traditional World Music Album category in 2006. In 2009, at the 51st Grammy Awards, Zakir Hussain won an award in the Contemporary World Music Album category for his collaborative album “Global Drum Project” along with Mickey Hart.

His contribution in the field of percussion as well as in the music world has been highly appreciated all over the world. Zakhir Hussain has truly made his ineradicable mark in the field of music, also acquiring international acclaim. A true tabla maestro, his music shall continue to enthrall and engage us for many more years to come.