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Five-time Grammy Award winner Ustad Zakir Hussain to kick off Udupa Music Festival

Curator-performer Giridhar ‘Ghatam’ Udupa shares musical and pictorial highlights from his famed biannual music festival.

Five-time Grammy Award winner Ustad Zakir Hussain to kick off Udupa Music Festival

Friday February 16, 2024 , 4 min Read

Launched in 2014, PhotoSparks is a weekly feature from YourStory, with photographs that celebrate the spirit of creativity and innovation. In the earlier 750 posts, we featured an art festival, cartoon gallery, world music festivaltelecom expomillets fair, climate change expo, wildlife conference, startup festival, Diwali rangoli, and jazz festival.

Tabla maestro Ustad Zakir Hussain made international headlines when he won three Grammy Awards this month for Best Global Music Performance, Best Contemporary Instrumental Album, and Best Global Music Album.


Ustad Zakir Hussain and Niladri Kumar, Udupa Music Festival 2016

His earlier two Grammys were in 1992 (Best Global Music Album: Planet Drum) and 2009 (Best Global Music Album: Global Drum Project).

Hussain, along with sitarist Niladri Kumar, will be performing today in Bengaluru as the opening act of the three-day Udupa Music Festival 2024. The biannual festival, now in its fifth edition, was founded by world-renowned Bengaluru-based percussionist, Giridhar ‘Ghatam’ Udupa.


The Udupa Foundation was launched in 2015 to promote music, culture, and dance performances, and held concerts almost every month. The biannual Udupa Music Festival was first held in 2016.

Giridhar ‘Ghatam’ Udupa

Giridhar ‘Ghatam’ Udupa

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“This is a very specially curated festival. Many of the artists are playing together for the first time. The aim of the festival is to bring new collaborations and new energy to audiences,” Udupa tells YourStory.

He has performed in more than 50 countries and has collaborated with a wide range of eminent artists. His dexterity, energy, speed, charm, openness, and humility have won accolades worldwide.

The three-day Udupa Music Festival spans a wide range of genres: Hindustani classical music, Carnatic classical music, jazz, and fusion.


Shivamani, Ravichandra Kulur, Sheldon D’Silva and Louiz Banks, Udupa Music Festival 2022

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“On one of the days, we give more importance to rhythm and percussion. So this time we have Vidushi Sukanya Ramgopal,” Udupa explains.

Ramgopal will be performing Ghata Tharanga, where ghatams are used to create melodies. She is regarded as the first woman ghatam player in Carnatic music.

Udupa himself has collaborated with South Indian classical musicians such as L Subramaniam, SM Balamuralikrishna, TM Krishna, Sanjay Subrahmanyan, Palghat Raghu, KJ Yesudas, Mysore Nagaraj, Mysore Manjunath, Mandolin Srinivas, Jayanthi Kumaresh, Aruna Sairam, Sudha Raghunathan, and Bombay Jayashri.


Mysore Nagaraj and Abhishek Raghuram, Udupa Music Festival 2018

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In Hindustani classical music, he has performed with Ustad Zakir Hussain, Pandit Shivkumar Sharma, Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, Pandit Jasraj, Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, Pandit Birju Maharaj, and Ustad Shahid Parvez.

Udupa is buoyant about the reach and growth of Indian classical music. “I think Indian classical music is right on the top, whether in the country or overseas,” he observes.

“Thanks now to social media, it is easy for musicians to reach out to audiences. Many organisations have come forward to support our festival,” he enthuses. However, he feels Indian governments need to do more to support classical music.


Pandit Shivkumar Sharma and Rahul Sharma, Udupa Music Festival 2018

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Udupa began learning percussion from his father Vidwan Ullur Nagendra Udupa and later under Vidhushi Sukkanya Ramgopal and Vidwan V Suresh. In contemporary and fusion ensembles, Udupa has performed with Shankar Mahadevan, Trilok Gurtu, Sivamani, Ranjit Barot, Louis Banks, Niladri Kumar, Amit Heri, Lucky Ali, and Bikram Ghosh.

An international music ambassador, Udupa has also collaborated with John Mclaughlin, Larry Coryell, Hubert Laws, Ernie Watts, Airto Moreira, John Kaizan Neptune, and Lewis Pragasam.

Udupa has been featured with global symphonic and chamber orchestras such as Fairfax Symphony Orchestra (US), Kwazulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra (South Africa), State Philharmonic Orchestra of Sibiu (Romania), Sinfonia Baltica (Poland), Leipzig Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra (Germany), and Royal Symphony Orchestra of Oman.


John McLaughlin, Udupa Music Festival 2018

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He is particularly proud of the popularity and impact of his music festival. “By God’s grace, the Udupa Music Festival has become an iconic festival not just in Bangalore but in India as a whole,” he enthuses.

Right from the first edition of the festival in 2016, the lineup dazzled audiences with concerts by Ustad Zakir Hussain, Niladri Kumar, Anindo Chatterjee, Trilok Gurtu, Shivamani, Mysore Nagaraj, Mysore Manjunath, and Ronu Majumdar.

The second edition (2018) included Shivkumar Sharma, John McLaughlin, Shankar Mahadevan, Mysore Nagaraj, Vijay Ghate, Rahul Sharma, Selva Ganesh, Mandolin U Rajesh, Gino Banks, and Sheldon D’silva.


Kaushiki Chakraborty, Taufiq Qureshi, Etienne Mbappé and Ranjit Barot, Udupa Music Festival 2020

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The third edition (2020) featured Hariprasad Chaurasia, Vikku Vinayakram, Ranjit Barot, Taufiq Qureshi, Rakesh Chaurasia, and Etienne Mbappé.

The fourth edition of the festival (2022) included Amjad Ali Khan, Louiz Banks, Shivamani, Bombay Jayashri, Jayanthi Kumaresh, Yogesh Samsi, Ravichandra Kulur, and Sheldon D’Silva.

“Wherever I go, whether it is Mumbai, Chennai, or Delhi, people are talking about the festival. Even though it is biannual, people think that it is happening every year! Time flies very fast,” Udupa signs off.

Now what have you done today to pause in your busy schedule and harness your creative side for a better world?


Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, Udupa Music Festival 2022


Vikku Vinayakram and Sukanya Ramgopal, Udupa Music Festival 2020


Ranjit Barot, Udupa Music Festival 2020


Ronu Majumdar, Udupa Music Festival 2016


Mysore Nagaraj and Mysore Manjunath, Udupa Music Festival 2016


John McLaughlin and Shankar Mahadevan,Udupa Music Festival 2018


Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia, Rakesh Chaurasia, and Subankar Banerjee, Udupa Music Festival 2020


Vidwan Ganesh Rajagopalan, Kumaresh Rajagopalan, Anatha R Krishnan and Patri Satish Kumar, Udupa Music Festival 2020


Suresh Talwalkar, Satyajit Talwalkar, Sanvi Talwalkar, Tanmay Deochake and Naganath Adgaonkar, Udupa Music Festival 2020


Vidushi Bombay Jayashri, Jayanthi Kumaresh, HN Bhaskar, VV Ramanamurthy, and Jayachandra Rao, Udupa Music Festival 2022


Udupa Music Festival 2022


Ghatam Giridhar Udupa


Ustad Zakir Hussian inaugurates Udupa Music Festival 2016

(All photographs courtesy Udupa Foundation.)

Edited by Suman Singh