Born On: March 9, 1951
Born In: Mumbai, Maharashtra
Career: Tabla Player, Musical Producer, Composer
He needs no introduction. He is, undoubtedly, the best tabla player in the world. With numerous national and international awards and accolades to his credit, he is a national treasure, not only in India, but worldwide. His consistent and brilliant performances mark him as India's greatest classical musicians. This genius is Ustad Zakir Hussain, the legendary tabla maestro who has contributed largely to the filed of percussion and music at international levels. Being the youngest percussion to be honored with civilian awards from the Indian Government, this exceptionally talented and highly celebrated musician is a music encyclopedia in himself. Since childhood, Zakir Hussain has continuously imparted his formidable knowledge and study to the music world, and has not let it rest till date.
Zakir Hussain was born in Mumbai, Maharashtra, to the legendary and established tabla player, Alla Rakha, and Bavi Begum. He attained his schooling from St. Michael's High School, Mahim and later completed his graduation from St. Xavier's, Mumbai. Being a born prodigy, Hussain started touring the world for his tabla performances, ever since he turned 12. His international career began in 1970 from the United States, wherein he had over 150 concert dates a year to handle.
Career in Music
Zakir Hussain has worked with many western and Indian artists but out of the most notably known productions of his, the highly celebrated are the Beatles. After he set his footsteps on foreign lands in 1970, there was no looking back for Hussain. In 1971, he collaborated with the American psychedelic band called Shanti to produce an album. He even made an appearance on George Harrison's album titled 'Living in the Material World' in 1973. He joined hands with John McLaughlin to form the band Shakti and work on Indo-Jazz projects, which proved fruitful. This partnership resulted in the production of several albums, namely, 'Shakti' (1975), 'A Handful of Beauty' (1976), and 'Natural Elements' (1977). Hussain has even worked with the eminent musicologist and drummer Mickey Hart on various projects, beginning with Hart's first solo album 'Rolling Thunder'. This partnership worked well, which was evident from the numerous albums they created together, like 'Diga', 'At The Edge', 'Planet Drum', 'Mickey Hart's Mystery Box', 'Supralingua', 'Spirit into Sound', and 'Global Drum Project'.
The honor of Padma Shri, one of India's civilian honors, made Hussain the youngest percussion to be awarded with this prestigious title. In April 1991, Hussain became one of the youngest musicians to be felicitated with the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award by the President of India in recognition from India's governing cultural institute. Besides, Hussain is also fortunate to have been associated with several bands of Hart, including 'Diga Rhythm Band', 'Planet Drum', 'Bembe Orishas', and 'Global Drum Project'. The first album released by Planet Drum went on to win the first Grammy Award in the category 'Best World Music Album' in 1992. After a break of about 20 years, Hussain rejoined again with McLaughlin in the band Remember Shakti; thus, coming up with prolific and highly acclaimed albums - 'Remember Shakti' (1999), 'The Believer' (2000), 'Saturday Night in Bombay' (2001), 'Live at 38th Montreux Jazz Festival' (2004), and 'Live at Miles Davis Hall'(2004). In 2002, Hussain was yet again felicitated with the third highest civilian honor, Padma Bhushan.
Career in Films
Apart from delivering live performances and recording music albums, Hussain has also gained fame in the field of films. He starred and composed music for the 1983 film 'Heat and Dust'. This was followed by composing, performing, and acting in the Malayalam film 'Vanaprastham' as an Indian music advisor, in 1999. The same year, the movie was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at the AFI Los Angeles International Film Festival (AFI Fest). The film went on to win awards in 2000 at Istanbul International Film Festival (Turkey), Bombay International Film Festival (India), and National Film Awards (India). He has composed soundtracks for 'In Custody', 'The Mystic Masseur', and 'Mr. and Mrs. Iyer', apart from playing tabla on the soundtracks of 'Apocalypse Now', 'Little Buddha', and many others.
Zakir Hussain has been married to the distinguished Kathak dancer and student of Sitara Devi, Antonia Minnecola, an Italian American. The couple has two daughters, Anisa Qureshi and Isabella Qureshi. Anisa is a graduate from UCLA and works as a filmmaker and video producer. His younger daughter, Isabella is doing her majors in dance in Manhattan. Hussain has two younger brothers, Fazal Qureshi and Taufiq Qureshi, both noted percussionists, and a younger sister, Khurshid Aulia nee Qureshi.
Awards & Recognition
Padma Shri Award, 1988
Indo-American Award for outstanding cultural contribution to relations between the United States and India, 1990
Sangeet Natak Akademi Award, 1991
Grammy Award for 'Planet Drum' as Best World Music Album, 1992
Downbeat Critics' Poll for 'Planet Drum' as Best World Beat Album, 1992
NARM Indie Best Seller Award for 'Planet Drum' as a World Music Recording, 1992
National Heritage Fellowship, 1999
Padma Bhushan Award, 2002
Kalidas Samman by the Government of Madhya Pradesh, 2006
Best World Music by Modern Drummer magazine, 2007
Best World Beat Drummer by Drum! magazine, 2007
Grammy Award for 'Global Drum Project' as Contemporary World Music Album, 2009
1951: Born in Mumbai, Maharashtra
1970: Began his international career
1983: Began his film career with 'Heat and Dust'
1988: Honored with Padma Shri Award
1992: Won the first Grammy Award for Best World Music Album for 'Planet Drum'
2002: Received Padma Bhushan Award.