Popularly known as the Tabla Maestro, Ustad Zakir Hussain is arguably the most famous Tabla player of our country in the post-independence era. Over the years, he has performed with many talented musicians not just in India but also across the world.
Zakir Hussain is the son of Ustad Allah Rakha, a renowned tabla player. Quite naturally, he was inclined towards Tabla since a very young age. Zakir was a child prodigy and started touring to perform at concerts by the time he was just twelve. This gave him recognition and fame at a very young age. Along with his stage shows, he also focused on his education and went to St. Michael's High School in Mahim and eventually graduated from St. Xavier's in Mumbai. He also did his PhD and received a doctorate in music from the University of Washington. In his early twenties, he started touring the United States frequently and performed in not less than 150 concerts per year!
While he was still young, he collaborated with western musicians and worked with American bands. His partnership with the famous band, 'The Beatles' deserves a special mention. He also recorded with an American psychedelic band 'Shanti' in the year 1971. In 1975, he worked with John McLaughlin in a band 'Shakti'. This band had John McLaughlin, Zakir Hussain, L. Shankar, T.H. 'Vikku' Vinayakam and R. Raghavan. 'Shakti' was disbanded by the late 70s. However, the band was reunited a few years later by the name 'Remember Shakti' with the addition of new members. The revived band went on to release many albums like 'Saturday Night in Bombay', and 'The Believer’. They also performed in the 38th Montreux Jazz Festival. Zakir Hussain released his first solo album 'Making Music' in the year 1987, which was proclaimed to be one of the most inspired East-West fusion albums ever.
He was awarded the Padma Shree by the Government of India in the year 1988, Indo-American Award in the year 1990, Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1991, National Heritage Fellowship in 1999, Padma Bhushan in 2002. He was also awarded the Grammy for the album 'Planet Drum' which was produced and created by Zakir Hussain and Mickey Hart. In 2006, the government of Madhya Pradesh honored him with Kalidas Samman, which is given for artistes with exceptional achievement in their respective field. In 2012 at Konark Dance & Music Festival, he was honoured with the Guru Gangadhar Pradhan (lifetime achievement) award.