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De­scribed as the best tabla player in the world, Zakir Hus­sain gets ready to jam in Dubai.

The best of the best on the In­dian clas­sic and fu­sion mu­sic scenes get to­gether for the first time live in Dubai on Jan­uary 25 – with no re­hearsals. Tessy Koshy meets Zakir Hus­sain to hear more about his role in the live jam

His fa­mil­iar mop of curly hair cre­ates myr­iad shapes as, en­tranced by the mu­sic, he swings his head from side to side while his fin­gers weave their magic on the In­dian per­cus­sion in­stru­ment, the tabla. Al­though he looks se­ri­ous and deep in con­cen­tra­tion as his hands mas­ter­fully cre­ate the com­plex mu­sic, the twin­kle in his eyes hints that he is ready to spring a sur­prise on the au­di­ence at any mo­ment.

De­scribed by the UK’s Tele­graph news­pa­per as “the world’s great­est tabla player alive”, Zakir Hus­sain is known for cre­at­ing un­for­get­table ex­pe­ri­ences for the au­di­ence ev­ery time he takes the stage.

The 62-year-old Grammy award­win­ner from Mum­bai has col­lab­o­rated with, among oth­ers, the Bea­tles, per­cus­sion­ist Mickey Hart, the late si­tar mae­stro Ravi Shankar, gui­tarist John McLaugh­lin, banjo player Bela Fleck and a string of other renowned mu­si­cians the world over. Now mu­sic lovers in Dubai can see his per­cus­sion fire­works live when he teams up with other top mu­si­cians. Ac­com­pa­ny­ing him on stage for the first time will be Louis Banks, the god­fa­ther of In­dian jazz, si­tar player Ni­ladri Ku­mar, award­win­ning singer and Bol­ly­wood com­poser Shankar Ma­hade­van and Zakir’s younger brother, per­cus­sion­ist and com­poser Tau­fiq Qureshi. Aptly ti­tled Nir­vana (which means a state of per­fect hap­pi­ness in Hindi), the mu­si­cal ex­trav­a­ganza will take place next Satur­day, Jan­uary 25, at the Mad­i­nat Arena.

“The mu­si­cians who will be per­form­ing with me are the best in their fields and what’s go­ing to hap­pen on stage can only be as­tound­ing... and un­pre­dictable,’’ says Zakir, in an ex­clu­sive in­ter­view with Fri­day. In­cred­i­bly, the mu­si­cians have de­cided not to have any re­hearsals prior to the show so the per­for­mance will be a once-in-a-life­time live ex­pe­ri­ence. “There will be no record­ings of this show,’’ says Zakir. So the only way that the mu­sic the five artists cre­ate will be pre­served will be in the au­di­ence’s mem­ory.

The Nir­vana se­ries of con­certs is not new to the tabla mae­stro who per­formed last year along­side Amer­i­can mu­si­cian Edgar Meyer, who plays the

up­right bass, Bela Fleck on the banjo, man­dolin wizard Up­palapu Srini­vas and flautist Rakesh Chaura­sia.

This year, how­ever, the con­cert, in its sev­enth edi­tion, fea­tures an al­lIn­dian en­sem­ble. “All the mu­si­cians are ex­pe­ri­enced in many gen­res of mu­sic and that would make the in­ter­ac­tion very global,” re­veals Zakir, son of the cel­e­brated In­dian tabla mas­ter Us­tad Alla Rakha. “There will be a bit of In­dian, some jazz, Car­natic mu­sic, Bol­ly­wood tunes and folk.”

A child prodigy, Zakir has been tour­ing the world to per­form since the age of 12. “Ev­ery time I go on stage I look for­ward to es­tab­lish­ing a con­nec­tion with the au­di­ence,” he smiles. “I find it easy and joy­ful to bond with the au­di­ence in Dubai as they are well in­formed and very dis­cern­ing.”

Im­pro­vi­sa­tion could well be key at the event and fel­low per­former Shankar is ex­pect­ing a lot of fresh­ness and spon­tane­ity at the show. “There will be a lot of eye con­tact among the per­form­ers... we will pick up cues from each other and cre­ate mu­sic in our own way. We will def­i­nitely be hav­ing a lot of fun and, I am sure, so will the au­di­ence,” says the 46-year-old, a house­hold name in In­dia thanks to his song

Breath­less, which he is be­lieved to have sung in one breath, and for his in­nu­mer­able Bol­ly­wood hit tunes.

Zakir is ex­cited to be back; “Ev­ery time I play in Dubai, I learn more about the mu­sic here. I take back lessons that help me to get bet­ter as a per­former and I feel blessed to be on stage with the elite of the mu­sic world.”

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Louis Banks is one of the mu­si­cians who will be on stage with Zakir (top)

Ni­ladri Ku­mar is an ac­com­plished si­tar player

Left: Tau­fiq Qureshi is known for his magic with per­cus­sion

Shankar Ma­hade­van is not new to Dubai fans

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