When Zakir Hus­sain played the tabla for Zakir Hus­sain

Hindustan Times (Lucknow) - Live - - TIME OUT - Henna Rakheja [email protected]

It would not be an ex­ag­ger­a­tion to credit the recog­ni­tion of tabla as an as­pi­ra­tional in­stru­ment for In­di­ans to tabla player and mu­sic pro­ducer and com­poser Zakir Hus­sain. He has con­tin­ued to be at the top of the league and for him the “mileage is still strong” be­cause of the ex­po­sure he re­ceived, and chose to not to do more than two con­certs in one ma­jor city.

When the mae­stro re­cently took to the stage in Delhi — after al­most eight years — for a con­cert or­gan­ised by Shri­ram Bharatiya Kala Ken­dra, he was filled with nos­tal­gia of how he was in­tro­duced by his fa­ther, tabla vir­tu­oso Alla Rakha, at one mu­sic fes­ti­val in the city.

“I wasn’t sup­posed to be [per­form­ing]… I had come with my fa­ther, who was play­ing with [sitarist] Ravi Shankarji. They were wait­ing for the dig­ni­taries to ar­rive and thought that un­til then, ‘let’s put the young boy up there, and then we’ll start the con­cert’. So, I was what they call a filler act. But as it was an­nounced, ‘Now, you are go­ing to hear a tabla solo by Zakir Hus­sain’, in walked Dr Zakir Hus­sain (the then Pres­i­dent of In­dia). You couldn’t have planned the tim­ing bet­ter! Any­way, I got to meet him and play for him, too,” says Hus­sain, in his usual inim­itable hu­mour.

“I was 15 then, and now I’m 68,” he says, look­ing back at his jour­ney with grat­i­tude for his con­tem­po­raries.

“You can play mu­sic un­til the cows come home, but if you don’t have the vis­i­bil­ity you don’t get the kind of fo­cus from the au­di­ence. There are 15 or 20 in­cred­i­ble tabla play­ers around now; I’m not the best one but I’m one of the good ones. It’s just that what I do res­onates with peo­ple. More than that, there’s fa­cial recog­ni­tion that has helped a lot. And I just like to think of this as nor­mal….”

De­spite such a fan fol­low­ing, the artist says he didn’t come back on-screen be­cause of two rea­sons. “My first and last love is mu­sic. I know that I do it bet­ter than I do any­thing else. So, what’s the point in me do­ing some­thing which is go­ing to be me­diocre, when I can ac­tu­ally sit with my in­stru­ment and de­liver the good as it should be de­liv­ered? That’s why I didn’t ac­tively hire an agent to help me get film roles be­cause I felt that the value of my word would be wa­tered down if I did five ads of dif­fer­ent types. And, I did only that one be­cause I had time for only that. I was trav­el­ling all over the world, and play­ing some­thing like 180 shows a year,” Hus­sain says.

Asked if he chose to per­form se­lec­tively to tease his fans, the mae­stro, his caus­tic hu­mour, says, “No, I’m ac­tu­ally length­en­ing my mu­si­cal life. Rather than do­ing 10 con­certs in one year and be­ing done in three years, I’m do­ing two in a year and go­ing on for 15-20 years. Also, I don’t know much mu­sic, so I don’t want to run out of things to play.”

PHOTO: PRABHAS ROY/HT

Us­tad Zakir Hus­sain was in­tro­duced by his fa­ther, tabla vir­tu­oso Alla Rakha, at a mu­sic fes­ti­val in Delhi, where he per­formed for for­mer In­dian Pres­i­dent Dr Zakir Hus­sain

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