The pre-eminent classical tabla virtuoso of our time, Zakir Hussain is appreciated as one of the world’s most esteemed and influential musicians, one whose mastery of his percussion instrument has taken it to a new level that transcends cultures and national borders. Along with his legendary father and teacher, Ustad Allarakha, Zakir has elevated the status of the tabla both in India and around the world.
A child prodigy touring in India from the tender age of 12, Zakir quickly became a favorite accompanist for India’s greatest musicians and dancers. He began his international touring career by the age of 18 and has been at the helm of such genre-defying collaborations as Shakti, Remember Shakti, Masters of Percussion, the Diga Rhythm Band, Planet Drum, Tabla Beat Science, and Sangam. Zakir’s first solo album, Making Music, was released in 1987, and was acclaimed as “one of the most inspired East-West fusion albums ever recorded.” In 1991, Planet Drum, an album co-created and produced with Mickey Hart, became the first recording to win a Grammy in the Best World Music category and the Downbeat Critics’ Poll for Best World Beat Album. Zakir’s music and extraordinary contributions to the music world were honored in 2009, with four widely heralded and sold-out concerts for Carnegie Hall’s Artist Perspective series.
Zakir is the 2022 Kyoto Prize Laureate in Arts and Philosophy and the recipient of countless awards, including two Grammys, Padma Bhushan, Padma Shri, Officer in France’s Order of Arts and Letters, the 2022 Aga Khan Music Award, and the 1999 National Heritage Fellowship, the United States’ highest honor for a master of traditional arts. Voted Best Percussionist by both the Downbeat Critics’ Poll and the Modern Drummer Reader’s Poll over several years, including 2020, Zakir was honored with SFJazz’s Lifetime Achievement Award at their 2017 Gala for his “unparalleled contribution to the world of music.”
As a composer, he has scored music for numerous feature films, and has composed three concertos, the most recent enjoying the distinction as the first-ever for tabla and orchestra. In 2009, Triple Concerto for Banjo, Bass and Tabla and new works composed by Zakir, Edgar Meyer, and Bela Fleck, were released as the Grammy-nominated The Melody of Rhythm. Zakir’s second concerto, Ameen, Amen, Shanti – Concerto for Four Soloists, a special commission for the National Symphony Orchestra, premiered at the Kennedy Center in March 2011, and his third concerto, Concerto for Tabla and Orchestra, was premiered in September 2015, by the Symphony Orchestra of India, subsequently enjoying international premieres.
Zakir’s work as an educator is no less splendid, having led workshops and master classes all over the world over the course of his career. He has been a professor at Princeton University, Stanford University, the University of Washington, and at UC Berkeley in the prestigious post of Regents Lecturer. Zakir’s yearly tabla workshop in Marin County draws hundreds of serious students and performers. In 2019, he was selected as a Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellow and awarded honorary doctorates from Berklee College of Music (Boston), Indira Kala Sangeet University (Khairagarh,) and, in 2022, Mumbai University.
Zakir is the founder and president of Moment Records, an independent record label presenting rare live concert recordings of Indian classical music and world music.