Zakir Hussain (musician)

Zakir Hussain Qureshi
Birth name Zakir Hussain Qureshi
Also known as Zakir Hussain
Born (1951-03-09) 9 March 1951
Origin Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
Genres Hindustani classical music, jazz fusion, world music
Occupation(s) Tabla player
Instruments Tabla
Years active 1963–present
Labels HMV
Associated acts Remember Shakti

Zakir Hussain (born 9 March 1951) is an Indian tabla player in Hindustani classical music, musical producer, film actor and composer.

He was awarded the Padma Shri in 1988, and the Padma Bhushan in 2002, by the Government of India.[1] He was also awarded the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1990, given by the Sangeet Natak Academy, India's National Academy of Music, Dance & Drama. In 1999, he was awarded the United States National Endowment for the Arts' National Heritage Fellowship, the highest award given to traditional artists and musicians. He has won two Grammy awards

Early life and education

Hussain was born to tabla player Alla Rakha.[2] He attended St. Michael's High School he was a great musician

from St. Xavier's, Mumbai.[3]

Hussain was a child prodigy. His father taught him Pakhawaj from the age of 3 years.[4] Zakir's father Alla Rakha belonged to the tradition of tabla-playing known as the Punjab baaj, one of the six main traditions (baaj) of north Indian tabla drumming, the others being Delhi, Benares, Ajrara, Farrukhabad, and Lucknow.

He was touring by the age of eleven. He went to the United States in 1969 to do his PhD at the University of Washington, receiving a doctorate in music. After that he began his international career, including more than 150 concert dates a year.[3][5]


From a young age, Zakir has been accompanying all the leading lights of Hindustani classical music, both vocal and instrumental - from Pandit Ravi Shankar, Ustad Vilayat Khan, Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, Pandit Hari Prasad Chaurasia, Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma, Pandit VG Jog, Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, Pandit Jasraj, and many more.

In addition to being an outstanding accompanist, Zakir brought great attention to and raised the profile of tabla players, both through his solo excursions as an accompanist and through his solo tabla performances. His on-stage charm and virtuosity single-handedly raised the visibility of tabla players, who in times past were not considered very important to the performance. Zakir made stars out of tabla players, and a whole generation of young tabla players grew up imitating his head gestures and even his hair style while performing. It is fair to say that, with the advent of Zakir Hussain, there was finally an audience in a Hindustani concert that came not just to listen to the main melody artist but to the supporting tabla artist.

Zakir's fame spread internationally following many tour performances in the US and Europe. He also collaborated with many musicians from all over India and the world. He collaborated with violinist L. Shankar, guitarist John McLaughlin, mridangam player Ramnad Raghavan, and legendary ghatam player Vikku Vinayakram in forming the fusion group Shakti, which performed worldwide to great acclaim. Twenty years later, a second version of the Shakti group, called Remember Shakti, was created featuring U. Srinivas, Zakir Hussain, TV Selvaganesh, and Shankar Mahadevan.

Mickey Hart of the Grateful Dead, who had known Zakir since the 1960s,[6] invited him to create the special album Planet Drum, featuring legendary drummers from different parts of the world. Featured along with Zakir, from India, was Vikku Vinayakram, with whom Zakir had collaborated in 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.[7][8] 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 won the Grammy Award for Best Contemporary World Music Album at the 51st Grammy Awards Ceremony held on 8 February 2009.)[9]

Zakir composed, performed and acted as Indian music advisor for the Malayalam film Vanaprastham, a 1999 Cannes Film Festival entry which was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at the AFI Los Angeles International Film Festival (AFI Fest) in 1999, and won awards at 2000 Istanbul International Film Festival (Turkey), 2000 Mumbai International Film Festival (India), and 2000 National Film Awards (India). He has composed soundtracks for several movies, most notably In Custody and The Mystic Masseur by Ismail Merchant, and has played tabla on the soundtracks of Francis Coppola's Apocalypse Now, Bernardo Bertolucci's Little Buddha, and other films.

He starred in several films specifically showcasing his musical performance both solo and with different bands, including the 1998 documentary "Zakir and His Friends",[10] and the documentary "The Speaking Hand: Zakir Hussain and the Art of the Indian Drum" (2003 Sumantra Ghosal).[11] Hussain co-starred as Inder Lal in the Merchant Ivory Film Heat and Dust in 1983, for which he was an associate music director.)[12]

Hussain is a founding member of Bill Laswell's 'World Music Supergroup' Tabla Beat Science.[13]

In 2016, Zakir Hussain was amongst many musicians invited by President Obama to the International Jazz Day 2016 All-Star Global Concert at the White House.[14]

Personal life

Zakir Hussain married Antonia Minnecola, a Kathak dancer and teacher, who is also his manager.[15] They have two daughters, Anisa Qureshi and Isabella Qureshi. Anisa graduated from UCLA and is trying her hand in video production and film making. Isabella is studying dance in Manhattan.[16]

He was named an Old Dominion Fellow by the Humanities Council at Princeton University, where he resided for the 2005–2006 semester as full professor in the music department.[17] He was also a visiting professor at Stanford University.[18] He now resides in San Francisco.




Awards and accolades

  • Awarded the titles of Padma Shri in 1988, and Padma Bhushan in 2002,[19][20] becoming the youngest percussionist to be awarded these titles, given to civilians of merit by the Indian government.
  • Awarded the Indo-American Award in 1990 in recognition for his outstanding cultural contribution to relations between the United States and India.
  • Presented with the Sangeet Natak Academy Award in 1990 by the President of India, making him one of the youngest musicians to receive this recognition given by the Sangeet Natak Academy, India's National Academy of Music, Dance & Drama.[21]
  • 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, the Downbeat Critics’ Poll for Best World Beat Album and the NARM Indie Best Seller Award for a World Music Recording.
  • Recipient of the 1999 National Heritage Fellowship of National Endowment for the Arts, the United States’ most prestigious honour for a master in the traditional arts, presented by First Lady Hillary Clinton at the United States Senate on 28 September 1999.[22]
  • In 2005, he was named an Old Dominion Fellow by the Humanities Council at Princeton University, where he resided for the 2005–2006 semester as full professor in the music department, teaching a survey course in Indian classical music and dance.
  • Recipient of the prestigious Kalidas Samman in 2006, an award for artists of exceptional achievement, from the government of Madhya Pradesh.
  • Golden Strings of the Sarode (Moment! Records 2006) with Aashish Khan and Zakir Hussain was nominated for a Grammy in the Best Traditional World Music Album category in 2006.
  • In 2007, readers’ polls from both Modern Drummer and Drum! magazines named Zakir Hussain Best World Music and Best World Beat Drummer respectively.
  • On 8 February 2009 for 51st Grammy Awards, Zakir Hussain won the Grammy in the Contemporary World Music Album category for his collaborative album "Global Drum Project" along with Mickey Hart, Sikiru Adepoju & Giovanni Hidalgo.[23]
  • On 23 February 2012 for Guru Gangadhar Pradhan Lifetime Achievement Award at Konark Dance & Music Festival, Organised by Konark Natya Mandap



  1. "Padma Awards" (PDF). Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. 2015. Retrieved July 21, 2015.
  2. Johnson, Lawrence A. (6 May 2009). "Indian tabla master Zakir Hussain says he never stops learning". The Star. Malaysia. McClatchy-Tribune Information Services. Archived from the original on 6 May 2008.
  3. 1 2 Dhanyasree .M. "Zakir Hussain: The World Beats To His Rhythm". One India. Archived from the original on 17 December 2008.
  4. "Zakir Hussain". Mondomix. 21 February 2003. Retrieved 15 May 2015.
  5. "Zakir Hussain — Moment! Records". Archived from the original on 18 February 2015. Retrieved 5 February 2010.
  7. "The Global Drum Project". Planet Drum. Archived from the original on 25 February 2010.
  8. "Deconstructing 'world music' at the Grammys". Afrobeat Radio. 15 February 2010.
  9. "'Global Drum Project' featuring Zakir Hussain wins Grammy". Express India. 9 February 2009.
  10. Gates, Anita. "Zakir and His Friends". The New York Times.
  11. "The Speaking Hand: Zakir Hussain and the Art of the Indian Drum". The New York Times.
  12. "Heat and Dust". Merchant Ivory Productions.
  13. "Tabla Beat Science". National Geographic Music. Archived from the original on 6 February 2009.
  14. "International Jazz Day". International Jazz Day. Retrieved 2016-06-30.
  15. "Bharatnatyam in Jeans". Little India.
  16. "Ustad Zakir Hussain". Cultural India. Retrieved 31 December 2012.
  17. "Best Of Zakir Hussain – Tabla Samrat". Calcutta Music Blog. Archived from the original on 9 August 2011.
  18. "Zakir Hussain Shivkumar Sharma". Carnegie Hall. Archived from the original on 15 May 2008.
  19. "Year wise list of recipients 1954-2014" (PDF). Ministry of Home Affairs (India). Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 November 2016. Retrieved 22 March 2016.
  20. "Padma Vibhushan for Rangarajan, Soli Sorabjee". The Hindu. 26 January 2002. Retrieved 26 January 2002.
  21. "SNA: Awardees List". Sangeet Natak Academy. Archived from the original on 30 May 2015.
  22. "NEA National Heritage Fellowships: Zakir Hussain". National Endowment for the Arts.
  23. "Past Winners Search".
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