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Concert Preview: Masters of Percussion

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April 2008
Concert Preview: Masters of Percussion

Concert Preview: Masters of Percussion

Anteing up the Drumbeats

Ustad Zakir Hussain talks to Khabar about his forthcoming concert in Atlanta

By VIREN MAYANI

The phone conversation began with me getting chided for addressing him as “Ustad Khansaab.” “Please call me Zakirbhai. I am no more celestial than you are,” he urged.

Maybe so, but Zakir’s tabla playing is nothing if not divine. He has made a mark like no other, both in Indian classical as well as in world music. His unforgettable fusion concert at the Center Stage Theater in Atlanta, where he teamed up with Jazz legends, saxophonist Christopher Lloyd and drummer Eric Harland still rings in the ears of those present—like celestial beats that tug at the soul. It is no wonder Zakir is the foremost brand ambassador for Indian percussion.

The goal of this cherished phone conversation was to see what he might divulge for the benefit of Khabar readers about his upcoming tour, “Masters of Percussion” – a varied ensemble of percussionists from both the Hindustani and the Carnatic traditions.

Zakir credited his father, Ustad Allahrakha for conceiving this concert series that started in the late eighties and has continued to evolve since. According to Zakir, his father felt that many of India’s prodigiously talented folk music percussionists would never find a global audience that he felt they should. He also wanted to gather these diverse percussionists on one stage to highlight the variety and talent of Indian classical musicians.

The tabla legend further explained the modus of the evolutionary process of the series. During his extensive performance tours in India, he deliberately seeks different musicians to work with, always looking for that someone that he can connect with. “Indian drumming or even Indian melodic traditions are largely based on impromptu improvisations and hence it is extremely important that the collection consists of like minded musicians.” Once identified, he works with the musician alone or sometimes in combination with another drummer. When that appears to be working well, that individual is inducted into the Masters of Percussion series.

This time Zakir has taken it up a notch by going outside of India by including drummer Abbos Kosimov from Uzbekistan. “He is a fabulous, fabulous drummer. It is an amazing thing to watch him take 3 to 4 drums and play them all at the same time, throw one of them in the air whilst he picks another one up and plays. It is an audio-visual treat,” he says enthusiastically.

After learning that Uzbekistan traditions also have a link to India, Zakir formulated an interesting mix of melody and rhythm of classical and folk traditions, that include, besides Kosimov, a Rajasthani drummer, the dancing Manipuri drummers, a Maharashtran folk drummer and classical tabla by Zakir and his brothers.

“The core group of the Masters of Percussion remains the same: me, my brothers Fazal Qureshi and Taufiq Qureshi, and up until recently it has been Sultan Khan (on sitar). His health does not permit him to travel with us through the whole global tour, so he is performing in only a couple of cities including Atlanta. His nephew Dilshad Khan will accompany us throughout. The core group maintains the connection for the whole band and anchors it.”

The 20-city North American leg of this global tour starts on Friday April 11th and will finds its way to Atlanta on Saturday May 3rd at The Rialto.


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