Zakir Hussain

2022 Kyoto Prize Laureates

Arts and Philosophy

Music

Zakir Hussain

/  Tabla Player

1951 -

Achievement Digest

A Highly Innovative and Creative Artist who Opened up the New Musical Possibilities of the Tabla, a Traditional Indian Percussion Instrument

A leading tabla player of Hindustani music, Zakir Hussain transcended the framework of traditional Indian music and opened up a new world of music by collaborating with musicians of various genres from around the world. With his superb technique, engaging performances, and rich creativity, he made a tremendous impact on musicians worldwide.

Achievement

Zakir Hussain, a leading tabla player of Hindustani (North Indian classical) music since the late 20th century, opened up a new musical world beyond the framework of traditional Indian music by collaborating with musicians of various genres worldwide. His innovative creativity, such as devising a method of playing a melody on the tabla—traditionally a rhythmic instrument of accompaniment—significantly expanded the musical possibilities of the instrument and established the tabla as one of the most popular Asian instruments in the world.

Born in India in 1951, the son of Alla Rakha—who was known for his tabla accompaniment to the renowned sitar player Ravi Shankar, he made his debut in his childhood and received acclaim as a prodigy. He accompanied Shankar on his US tour in 1970 and has since accompanied a succession of prominent Hindustani musicians. He has established himself as one of India’s leading tabla players, bringing out the best in this instrument through his superb technique based on his rich creativity.

Zakir Hussain played a leading role in collaborations with several musicians across genres. His work with guitarist John McLaughlin and the fusion group Shakti, which they formed with Karnatak (South Indian classical) musicians, opened up new dimensions of Indian music and inspired new tabla players around the world. He also participated in percussionist Mickey Hart’s global percussion music creation project, which resulted in the albums Planet Drum (1991) and Global Drum Project (2007), both of which won Grammy Awards. Zakir Hussain has also enjoyed great success in collaborations with Western music, including the world tour of Tabla Beat Science, a musical project involving several tabla players, and a performance with the BBC Symphony Orchestra.

Zakir Hussain has tremendously influenced genre-bending musicians in India and around the world with his superb skill on the tabla, captivating performances, and the rich creativity that backs them. The impact of his activities over the past half a century is immeasurable.

Profile

Biography
1951
Born in Mumbai, India
1970
Performed his first U.S. concert at the Fillmore East in New York City with Ravi Shankar
1974
Formed Shakti, the landmark collaboration with John McLaughlin
1987
Released his first solo album, Making Music
1991
Joined the creation of Planet Drum, the first recording to win a Grammy Award for the Best World Music Album
1999
Formed Tabla Beat Science with Bill Laswell
2007
Chosen to compose an anthem to celebrate India’s 60th year of independence by the government of India
2008–2009
Chosen to present his work at Carnegie Hall’s Perspectives Series
2011
Concerto for Four Soloists commissioned by National Symphony Orchestra
2014
Commissioned to compose first-ever tabla concerto by Symphony Orchestra of India (premiered in 2015)
Selected Awards and Honors
1988
Padma Shri
1991
Sangeet Natak Akademi Award
1999
NEA National Heritage Fellow
2002
Padma Bhushan
2009
Best Contemporary World Music Album, the 51st Annual Grammy Awards
2017
SFJAZZ Lifetime Achievement Award
2019
Fellowship of Sangeet Natak Akademi
Selected Discography
1976
Shakti with John McLaughlin (Shakti), Columbia
1987
Making Music, ECM Records
1991
Planet Drum (Mickey Hart), Rykodisc
1999
Remember Shakti (Remember Shakti), Verve Records
2006
Sangam (Charles Lloyd), ECM Records
2007
Global Drum Project (Mickey Hart, Zakir Hussain, Sikiru Adepoju, and Giovanni Hidalgo), Shout! Factory
2009
The Melody of Rhythm (Béla Fleck, Zakir Hussain, and Edgar Meyer), E1 Entertainment
2019
Good Hope (Dave Holland, Zakir Hussain, Chris Potter), Edition Records

Profile is at the time of the award.