Zakir Hussain (musician)

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Zakir Hussain
Ustad Zakir Hussain 1.jpg
Background information
Birth nameZakir Hussain
Born (1951-03-09) 9 March 1951 (age 71)
Bombay, Maharashtra, India
GenresHindustani classical music, jazz fusion, world music
Years active1963–present

Ustad Zakir Hussain (born 9 March 1951) is an Indian tabla player, composer, percussionist, music producer and film actor. He is the eldest son of tabla player Ustad Alla Rakha.[1]

He was awarded the Padma Shri in 1988, and the Padma Bhushan in 2002, by the Government of India presented by President Abdul Kalam.[2][1] He was also awarded the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1990, given by the Sangeet Natak Academy, India's National Academy of Music, Dance and Drama. In 1999, he was awarded the United States National Endowment for the Arts' National Heritage Fellowship, the highest award given to traditional artists and musicians.

Early life and education[edit]

Hussain attended St. Michael's High School in Mahim, and was graduated from the St. Xavier's College, Mumbai.[3]


Ustad Zakir Hussain performing at Konark, Odisha

Hussain played on George Harrison's 1973 album Living in the Material World and John Handy's 1973 album Hard Work. He also performed on Van Morrison's 1979 album Into the Music and Earth, Wind & Fire's 1983 album Powerlight.[4]

Mickey Hart of the Grateful Dead, who had known Zakir since the 1960s,[5] invited him to create the special album Planet Drum, featuring legendary drummers from different parts of the world. Featured along with Zakir, from India, was Vikku Vinayakram, with whom Zakir had collaborated in Shakti. The first Planet Drum album, released in 1991 on the Rykodisc label, went on to earn the 1992 Grammy Award for Best World Music Album, the first Grammy ever awarded in this category.[6][7] The Global Drum Project album and tour brought Mickey Hart, Zakir Hussain, Sikiru Adepoju, and Giovanni Hidalgo together again in a reunion sparked by the 15th anniversary of the ground-breaking album Planet Drum. The album Global Drum Project won the Grammy Award for Best Contemporary World Music Album at the 51st Grammy Awards Ceremony held on 8 February 2009.)[8]

Zakir composed, performed and acted as Indian music advisor for the Malayalam film Vanaprastham, a 1999 Cannes Film Festival entry which was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at the AFI Los Angeles International Film Festival (AFI Fest) in 1999, and won awards at 2000 Istanbul International Film Festival (Turkey), 2000 Mumbai International Film Festival (India), and 2000 National Film Awards (India). He has composed soundtracks for several movies, most notably In Custody and The Mystic Masseur by Ismail Merchant, and has played tabla on the soundtracks of Francis Coppola's Apocalypse Now, Bernardo Bertolucci's Little Buddha, and other films. He starred in several films specifically showcasing his musical performance both solo and with different bands, including the 1998 documentary "Zakir and His Friends",[9] and the documentary "The Speaking Hand: Zakir Hussain and the Art of the Indian Drum" (2003 Sumantra Ghosal).[10] Hussain co-starred as Inder Lal in the Merchant Ivory Film Heat and Dust in 1983, for which he was an associate music director.[11]

Hussain is a founding member of Bill Laswell's 'World Music Supergroup' Tabla Beat Science.[12]

In 2016, Zakir Hussain was amongst many musicians invited by President Obama to the International Jazz Day 2016 All-Star Global Concert at the White House.[13]

Haridas Vhatkar has been making Zakir's tabla's for the past 18+ years.[1] Haridas said he learned how to make tabla so he could specially make them for Zakir.[1]

Zakir has stated that he does not play at private gatherings, corporate events, or weddings; he believes music should not be heard at events where folks come to socialize, drink or enjoy a meal (music should be the sole purpose of the event).[1]


Nasreen Munni Kabir compiled 15 interview sessions (each lasting about 2 hours) from 2016 to 2017 into the book Zakir Hussain: A Life in Music, which was published in 2018.[1] This book takes the reader through Zakir's life from his youth, his years of intense training, and growth as a musician.[1]

Personal life[edit]

Zakir Hussain married Antonia Minnecola, a Kathak dancer and teacher, who is also his manager.[14] They have two daughters, Anisa Qureshi and Isabella Qureshi. Anisa graduated from UCLA and is trying her hand in video production and film making. Isabella is studying dance in Manhattan.[15]

Zakir Hussain has two brothers: Ustad Taufiq Qureshi, a percussionist and Ustad Fazal Qureshi, also a tabla player. Their brother Munawar died at a young age when he was attacked by a rabid dog.[1] His eldest sister Bilquis died before Zakir was born. Another sister, Razia, died due to complications during a cataract surgery, just a few hours before their father's death in 2000.[1] He has another sister named Khurshid.[1]

He was named an Old Dominion Fellow by the Humanities Council at Princeton University, where he resided for the 2005–2006 semester as full professor in the music department.[16] He was also a visiting professor at Stanford University.[17] In May 2022, he was conferred the honorary Doctor of Law (LLD) degree for his contribution to the field of music by Mumbai University.[18]



  • Soundtracks[edit]

    Awards and accolades[edit]

    • Zakir Hussain was awarded the titles of Padma Shri in 1988, and Padma Bhushan in 2002.[19][20]
    • Awarded the Indo-American Award in 1990 in recognition for his outstanding cultural contribution to relations between the United States and India.[citation needed]
    • Presented with the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1990 by the President of India, making him one of the youngest musicians to receive this recognition given by the Sangeet Natak Academy, India's National Academy of Music, Dance & Drama.[21]
    • In 1992 Planet Drum, an album co-created and produced by Hussain and Mickey Hart, was awarded the first-ever Grammy for Best World Music Album, the Downbeat Critics’ Poll for Best World Beat Album and the NARM Indie Best Seller Award for a World Music Recording.[citation needed]
    • Recipient of a 1999 National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, the United States government's honour for a master in the traditional arts, presented by First Lady Hillary Clinton at the United States Senate on 28 September 1999.[22]
    • In 2005, he was named an Old Dominion Fellow by the Humanities Council at Princeton University, where he resided for the 2005–2006 semester as full professor in the music department, teaching a survey course in Indian classical music and dance.[citation needed]
    • Recipient of the Kalidas Samman in 2006, an award for artists of exceptional achievement, from the Government of Madhya Pradesh.[citation needed]
    • Golden Strings of the Sarode (Moment! Records 2006) with Aashish Khan and Zakir Hussain was nominated for a Grammy in the Best Traditional World Music Album category in 2006.[citation needed]
    • In 2007, readers’ polls from both Modern Drummer and Drum! magazines named Zakir Hussain Best World Music and Best World Beat Drummer respectively.[citation needed]
    • On 8 February 2009 for 51st Grammy Awards, Zakir Hussain won the Grammy in the Contemporary World Music Album category for his collaborative album "Global Drum Project" along with Mickey Hart, Sikiru Adepoju & Giovanni Hidalgo.[23]
    • On 23 February 2012 for Guru Gangadhar Pradhan Lifetime Achievement Award at Konark Dance & Music Festival, Organised by Konark Natya Mandap[citation needed]
    • Summer of 2016, he was nominated for President's Medal of the Arts, however, new rule stated non-Americans could not receive the medal.[1]
    • On 18 January 2017, San Francisco Jazz Center gave Hussain a Lifetime Achievement Award[1]
    • In 2019, Sangeet Natak Academy, India's National Academy of Music, Dance & Drama, honoured Ustaad Zakir Hussain with the Academy Fellow award, also known as the Academy Ratna, for the year 2018.[1]
    • In 2022, he was conferred the honorary Doctor of Law (LLD) degree for his exceptional contribution in the field of music by Mumbai University.[18]
    • On 17 June 2022, he was named by the non-profit Inamori Foundation to receive the Kyoto Prize, Japan's highest private award for global achievement, in the category of Arts and Philosophy (field: Music).[24]


    The line "Zakir Hussain Tabela Ivaltana" in the Tamil song "Telephone Manipol" in Indian (1996) film directed by S.Shankar is a tribute to him. This song was written by poet Vairamuthu.[25]

    See also[edit]


    1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Kabir, Nasreen (2018). Zakir Hussain: A Life in Music. Noida, Uttar Pradesh, India: HarperCollins Publisher India. ISBN 978-93-5277-049-6.
    2. ^ "Padma Awards" (PDF). Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. 2015. Retrieved 21 July 2015.
    3. ^ "Zakir Hussain: His name spells magic on tabla". Hindustan Times. 30 September 2019.
    4. ^ Jurek, Thom. "Zakir Hussain". Allmusic.
    5. ^ "The Tabla Master Who Jammed With The Grateful Dead".
    6. ^ "The Global Drum Project". Planet Drum. Archived from the original on 25 February 2010.
    7. ^ "Deconstructing 'world music' at the Grammys". Afrobeat Radio. 15 February 2010. Archived from the original on 28 June 2010. Retrieved 11 May 2010.
    8. ^ "'Global Drum Project' featuring Zakir Hussain wins Grammy". Express India. 9 February 2009.
    9. ^ Gates, Anita (2008). "Zakir and His Friends". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times. Baseline & All Movie Guide. Archived from the original on 7 July 2008.
    10. ^ "The Speaking Hand: Zakir Hussain and the Art of the Indian Drum". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times. Baseline & All Movie Guide. 2008. Archived from the original on 15 September 2008.
    11. ^ "Heat and Dust". Merchant Ivory Productions.
    12. ^ "Tabla Beat Science". National Geographic Music. Archived from the original on 6 February 2009.
    13. ^ "International Jazz Day". International Jazz Day. Retrieved 30 June 2016.
    14. ^ "Bharatnatyam in Jeans". Little India. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 8 April 2015.
    15. ^ "Ustad Zakir Hussain". Cultural India. Retrieved 31 December 2012.
    16. ^ "Best Of Zakir Hussain – Tabla Samrat". Calcutta Music Blog. Archived from the original on 9 August 2011.
    17. ^ "Zakir Hussain Shivkumar Sharma". Carnegie Hall. Archived from the original on 15 May 2008.
    18. ^ a b "zakir hussain: Mu Confers Zakir Hussain With Doctorate | Mumbai News - Times of India". The Times of India. TNN. 13 May 2022. Retrieved 19 May 2022.
    19. ^ "Year wise list of recipients 1954-2014" (PDF). Ministry of Home Affairs (India). Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 November 2016. Retrieved 22 March 2016.
    20. ^ "Padma Vibhushan for Rangarajan, Soli Sorabjee". The Hindu. 26 January 2002. Archived from the original on 19 July 2009. Retrieved 26 January 2002.
    21. ^ "SNA: Awardees List". Sangeet Natak Academy. Archived from the original on 30 May 2015.
    22. ^ "Zakir Hussain: North Indian Master Tabla Drummer". National Endowment for the Arts. n.d. Retrieved 30 December 2020.
    23. ^ "Past Winners Search".
    24. ^ "2022 Kyoto Prize Laureates: Zakir Hussain". Inamori Foundation. 2022. Retrieved 18 June 2022.
    25. ^ "Telephone Manipol Lyrics from movie/album Indian | G'Lyric | Godly lyrics". Retrieved 14 May 2022.

    External links[edit]