The pre-eminent classical tabla virtuoso of our time, Zakir Hussain is appreciated both in the field of percussion and in the music world at large as an international phenomenon. A national treasure in his native India, he is one of the world’s most esteemed and influential musicians, renowned for his genre-defying collaborations. He was the foremost disciple of his father, the legendary Ustad Allarakha, and a child prodigy who began his professional career at the age of twelve, touring internationally with great success by the age of eighteen.
Widely considered a chief architect of the contemporary world music movement, Zakir’s contribution has been unique, with many historic and groundbreaking collaborations, including Shakti and Remember Shakti with John McLaughlin, Masters of Percussion, the Diga Rhythm Band and Planet Drum projects with Mickey Hart, Tabla Beat Science with Bill Laswell, Sangam with Charles Lloyd and Eric Harland, in trio with Béla Fleck and Edgar Meyer and, most recently, with Herbie Hancock. He appeared on saxophonist John Handy’s landmark 1975 album Karuna Supreme, which is widely considered one of the earliest successful fusions of Indian classical music and jazz. In 2016, Zakir was invited by President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama to perform in the 5th Anniversary International Jazz Day All-Star Global Concert at the White House.
As a composer, he has scored music for numerous feature films, including Ismael Merchant and James Ivory’s Heat and Dust, in which he also acted. He has composed three concertos including the first-ever concerto for tabla and orchestra, which premiered in India in September 2015, in Europe and the UK in 2016, and will be performed in the USA in April 2017 by the National Symphony Orchestra at Kennedy Center. His collaborations in dance have included work with Mark Morris Dance Group and Alonzo King LINES Ballet. He is the recipient of countless honors, including multiple GRAMMY awards, the Padma Bhushan, National Heritage Fellowship and Officier in France’s Order of Arts and Letters. In 2015, he was voted “Best Percussionist” by both the DownBeat Critics’ Poll and Modern Drummer’s Reader’s Poll.
Zakir settled in the Bay Area to teach at San Rafael’s Ali Akbar College of Music in 1972, and has maintained his role as an educator, conducting many workshops and lectures each year. He has been in residence at Princeton University and Stanford University, and in 2015, was appointed Regents Lecturer at UC Berkeley. Zakir first appeared with SFJAZZ in 1990 in collaboration with tenor saxophone legend Joe Henderson, and was an SFJAZZ Resident Artistic Director from 2013 until 2016.
Learn more about the SFJAZZ Gala 2017.