tablature

zakir hussain. photo by susana millman.

zakir hussain. photo by susana millman.

When he performed last April at the Singletary Center for the Arts, Zakir Hussain was very much a disciple and accompanist. Although he has been an internationally prominent name in Indian classical music for decades, Hussain sat to the right of the acclaimed santoor player Shivkumar Sharma that night performing on the hand drum known as the tabla with delicate lyrical finesse and dizzying rhythmic speed.

By the fall, he was back on Kentucky turf performing as an eager third in a somewhat more continental trio with bluegrass-bred classicists Bela Fleck and Edgar Meyer at Louisville’s Brown Theatre.

Now, at last, Hussain is running the show – sort of. The ensemble that brings him back to the Singletary is the Masters of Percussion, a consortium of Indian drummers and violinists that blend indigenous classical rhythms and melodies.

But Hussain is hesitant to view himself as the boss of the band. He is quick to point out that the near 15 year history of the Masters of Percussion grew out of concert collaborations with his father, the celebrated tabla player Ustad Alla Rakha (honorably referred to by Hussain as his “guru father”).

“I suppose I’m responsible for the whole show this time,” Hussain said. “I make sure the drummers and the melody makers are available to do what they do best and then fuse those elements into a unified package. From that, I want to present a picture of the India that we know fondly.

“That being said, this is not just a Zakir Hussain performance. These players are indeed masters, people who are incredible in their own right.”

Hussain began his touring career at age 12 and has performed regularly in the United States since 1970. At age 59, his career has boasted collaborations with esteemed jazz artists (John McLaughlin, Charles Lloyd), a diverse lineup of pop performers (George Harrison, Van Morrison) and a globally diverse roster of fellow percussionists (from the Grateful Dead’s Mickey Hart to the Kodo drummers of Japan).

But in the Masters of Percussion, the tabla leads a multi-generational charge, blending melody with rhythm, drums with violin and centuries-old tradition with spontaneous performance interaction.

“This is the music of the land,” Hussain said. “And that music is a whole because it has rhythm and melody, not just rhythm. The melody helps you explore the rhythm in a different manner than when you’re just playing a solo. You can also highlight certain rhythmic traditions by inserting a folk melody or other kinds of traditional melodies that might relate to prayers. Then there are the solo repertoires that have developed over 1,000 years.

“All of these things bring out different elements in the drumming. It presents this very earthy element, a bird’s eye view of the people of the land, through the music and rhythm.”

Just as his father set Hussain on his musical path, younger brother Taufiq Qureshi, a versed and esteemed multi-percussionist, serves as a mainstay member in the Masters of Percussion.

“We are connected as fellow students, colleagues and brothers in ways that are difficult to fathom,” Hussain said. “We often find ourselves thinking the same thing, playing the same thing and connecting in a way I couldn’t with any other drummer. And that is a great source of comfort. Even though I am supposed to be somewhat a leader in this group, there is someone there I can lean on who understands where I am going.”

There has, however, been a setback on the current Master of Percussion tour. One of its principal members, Sabir Khan, who plays the bowed, short-necked fiddle known as the sarangi, was denied entry to the United States by immigration officials.

“It’s a bit is a mishap,” Hussain said. “He was held back due to these computer flags that immigration puts up when someone’s names happen to match somebody else’s. We’ve been in contact with the U.S. consulate in Bombay, so I hope it will work out that he can join us when we get to your neck of the woods.

“It’s almost like I’m driving a motorcycle with one wheel without him. But the audience always seems to add their two bits to the music. The music becomes a journey we all get together for and embark on.”

That journey, in many ways, is never-ending. For all of his high- profile collaborations (including the trio with Fleck and Meyer, which will resume work when the Masters of Percussion tour winds down in April), Hussain sees himself, and most of the artists he collaborates with, as eternal students.

“There is nothing for any of us to point to that suggests, ‘OK, you’ve arrived.’ Because if that happens, you might as well hang up your boots and retire in the mountains.

“Everyday you step out and there is something new to be learned. In my life, it’s never about reaching the goal. It’s always about the journey.”

Zakir Hussain and the Masters of Percussion perform at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Singletary Center for the Arts. Tickets are $25, $30 and $35. Call (859) 257-4929.

The Google Nexus One smartphone is seen January 6, 2010 in Washington… go to website google nexus prime

Getty Images January 6, 2010 | PAUL J. RICHARDS

Getty Images 01-06-2010 The Google Nexus One smartphone is seen January 6, 2010 in Washington…

Full Size JPG (2964 KB) The Google Nexus One smartphone is seen January 6, 2010 in Washington, DC. Google unveiled its new Nexus One smartphone January 5, 2010 in a direct challenge to heavyweight Apple’s iPhone handsets. The Internet giant billed the touch-screen device, the culmination of collaboration with Taiwanese electronics titan HTC, a “superphone” that marked the next step in the evolution of its Android software. AFP Photo/Paul J. RICHARDS (Photo credit should read PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images) web site google nexus prime

PAUL J. RICHARDS



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