Recognized as “a classical tabla virtuoso of the highest order,” Zakir Hussain has been striding through the cosmos of percussion since he came into this world and before. His father, Ustad Alla Rakha, became India’s premiere tabla player at a very young age, and pursued and passed along his artistic skills until his death in the year 2000.
As a child, it was clear that Zakir would follow in his father’s footsteps, and was touring by age 12. In 1970, Zakir came to America, where his work as a composer and collaborator has lifted worldwide consciousness of tabla music. He has been involved in numerous ensembles and historic collaborations including Shakti with John McLaughlin, the Diga Rhythm Band and Planet Drum with Mickey Hart of the Grateful Dead, as well as stints with George Harrison, Van Morrison, Jack Bruce, and Tito Puente, among others.
A talented composer, Zakir has scored numerous films, co-composed the opening music for the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, and has been commissioned by San Francisco’s premiere ballet company, Lines, and the San Francisco Jazz Festival.
Such creativity and talent simply does not go unnoticed, and as such Zakir has won many national and international awards. He is the youngest percussionist ever to be awarded the prestigious title of “Padma Shri” by the Indian government, which was bestowed upon him in 1988. For his cultural contributions to relations between the United States and India, he won in 1990 the Indo-American Award. In 1991 the President of India presented Zakir with the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award. In America, the highest honor for mastery in the traditional arts is the National Heritage Fellowship, which Zakir received in 1999. For his work with Mickey Hart as co-creator and producer of the 1992 release Planet Drum, Zakir and company won a Grammy for Best World Music Album, Downbeat magazine’s Critics Poll for Best World Beat Album, and the NARM Indie Best Seller Award for World Music Recording.
Also in 1992, Zakir founded Moment! Records, which seeks to promote contemporary world music and live performances of Indian classical music. Also on the label is Zakir’s group, The Rhythm Experience.
For Zakir, I made a bookmatched flame Purpleheart drum with a maple core, a Purpleheart bottom cap, and abalone inlay. It’s strung with a thick goat skin, and was custom carved with his name by Maria Petro, as commissioned by Mickey Hart. His HandMade Rhythm heavy-duty soft case is embroidered to match.