He started his romance with tabla concerts at the early age of seven when he first performed on stage. It is not often that Indian musicians get noticed on the International front. It is rather rare still to find an Indian musician who has not only guaranteed international recognition to his instrument but also stolen countless hearts across the globe for his charming art of tabla playing. Not that the legendary Ustad Zakir Hussain's credentials and music need the testimony of any awards or writers of which there are many.
Ustadji, as he is famously known as, is still the charming Indian Classical Maestro of yesteryears. Zakir Hussain the man behind the artiste is kind, warm, and modest without any air of feigned humility that world conquerors employ despite his years of fame and glory.
His approach to celebrity and his affable nature have their roots in his past. For someone who has seemingly achieved iconic status at will, not many know that his life struggle started at an early age. The Ustad recalls “I don’t think I started playing tabla directly, in spite of the fact that my guru was my dad: Ustad Alla Rakha Khan. I used to play with pots and pans in my house, and create rhythm. We had only one tabla and my dad used to play it when he was home or carry it for concerts. At that point we couldn’t afford another pair of tabla.”
Quite clearly, Zakir Hussain’s life has been all about dedication to his art. He has seen the evolution of Indian music in general as well as his cherished Tabla in particular. His role in making Tabla a more global phenomenon has been crucial and well known. He is quick to add, "Tabla is no longer the fringe instrument it once was. It's all over the place since 1999 including hit pop songs, television commercials and even Hip Hop. I'm elated that's happened."
When you quiz him about the enduring interest he has generated among listeners worldwide through his various collaborations he is quick to say, “Why is there still an interest in the Beatles or Rolling Stones? There's something magical about certain people coming together and linking on whole levels of communication, whether that's through music, mind, heart or emotions. I hope I can keep myself going!"
Winning the Grammy Awards twice and numerous other awards, Zakir still shrugs away the fact that he is one of the leaders of Indian classical music. “I am only one of the few carriers. And honestly, my contemporaries’ appreciation gives me more satisfaction than any award. It is the pleasure I derive in performing with the legends like Hari Prasad Chaurasiya, Ali Akbar Khan, Shiv Prasad and others that
keep me going,” says Hussain.
Not many know that Hussain has a tough working schedule even after all his years of prosperity and fame. When musicians like Zakir Hussain perform, the discipline that is required and the approach that is taken are stupendous to behold. He says with a smile, “Yes, I work or practice in the night and sleep during the day. When I am in the US, my two daughters really get irritated because of my schedule. Though, when I am travelling, everything goes up side down, including my schedule. But it is a part and parcel of an artist’s life.”
One noticeable thing about the Ustad is his adornment of hair that has enthralled many a starry- eyed fan. On further goading about his lustrous locks he laughs out aloud saying, “I avoid spending money on my hair. But jokes apart, the youth shouldn’t copy me. I don’t want to be a trend setter. The youth should rather have an identity of their own.”
Before parting ways he sums up his world of experiences and learning passing on precious advice to the young and restless whether they are aspiring musicians, fans or to be entrepreneurs. He says, “One should derive fun in whatever he/she is doing. Be it on stage or in your own home, you should be equally dedicated irrespective of the fact whether the world is watching you or not. There should be visible enjoyment on your face in what you are doing, only then you can succeed.”
Yourstory wishes Ustad Zakir Hussain Many Happy Returns of the day come March 9th. We hope to see and hear many more years of music through the hands of the Maestro and wish him well in life.