The Speaking Hand, a 104-minute documentary on Zakir shot in the early 90’s, is now available for download for the first time! It includes interviews with Ustad Allarakha, Zakir’s family, Ravi Shankar and Shivkumar Sharma. With performances of Zakir accompanying Rais Khansahib and a rare jugalbandi with Pandit Jasraj and Hariprasad Chaurasia.
For Zakir, the experience brought back early childhood memories of music played in the streets of Bombay at festival times, a hybrid music formed during the British Raj and very different from the classical tradition he was learning at home.
Eager to continue the musical discovery and camaraderie, Zakir led a tour in Spring, 2015, ending with two nights in early April at San Francisco’s SFJazz Center. This recording contains selections from those concerts.
1. Jig O’ Beer & Chai
5. The Baby Tune
6. Michael’s Matches/Rakesh’s Bansi
7. Watergirl and Then Some
Encore: Making Music Revisited
“…a project that brings together some of India’s greatest musicians with a brilliant cast of players from across the Celtic world.”
– San Jose Mercury News
Zakir Hussain – Best Percussionist:
2015 Downbeat Magazine Critics’ Poll
2015 Modern Drummer Readers’ Poll
Quote on back of shirt:
“Legends drum among us.
Some are the fastest… the newest… the strongest…
the smartest… the most creative…
the hardest working… the most talented…
the most courageous… the most complex… the simplest.
There is one who drums among us who is
all of these, and more.
He sits not high atop a shining throne,
but cross-legged on the humble floor.
His hands are his chops. His sponsor: ancient history.
His stage: the world.
has accomplished more with his hands and heart
than most artists of the world.”
Moment! Records was founded in 1991 by tabla maestro and world music legend Zakir Hussain. We are proud of a catalog which includes audiophile-quality concert recordings of the great contemporary classical masters of India, including Ravi Shankar’s “Concert for Peace,” along with “The Best of Shakti” (Zakir’s milestone band with guitar great John McLaughlin), “Masters of Percussion,” “Zakir Hussain & The Rhythm Experience” and saxophonist/composer George Brooks’ critically acclaimed “Lasting Impression” and “Night Spinner.”
Before the advent of the concert hall in India, music, which had its origins in the temple, was played at court or in even smaller chambers, and it is this intimacy that is reflected in the philosophy toward the evocation of rasa or mood. We at Moment Records feel that, by recording live performances with innovative, state of the art techniques, we are faithfully presenting the experience of this great music. Moment Records is dedicated to recording this quality of performance in both genres, using advanced technology.
Zakir Hussain is today appreciated both in the field of percussion and in the music world at large as an international phenomenon and one of the greatest musicians of our time. A classical tabla virtuoso of the highest order, his consistently brilliant and exciting performances have established him as a national treasure in his own country, India, and as one of India’s reigning cultural ambassadors. Along with his legendary father and teacher, Ustad Allarakha, he has elevated the status of his instrument both in India and around the world. His playing is marked by uncanny intuition and masterful improvisational dexterity, founded in formidable knowledge and study.
Widely considered a chief architect of the contemporary world music movement, Zakir’s contribution to world music has been unique, with many historic collaborations, including Shakti, which he founded with John McLaughlin and L. Shankar, Remember Shakti, the Diga Rhythm Band, Making Music, Planet Drum with Mickey Hart, Tabla Beat Science, Sangam with Charles Lloyd and Eric Harland, and recordings and performances with artists as diverse as George Harrison, YoYo Ma, Joe Henderson, Van Morrison, Airto Moreira, Pharoah Sanders, Billy Cobham, Mark Morris, Rennie Harris, and the Kodo drummers. His music and extraordinary contribution to the music world were honored in April, 2009, with four widely-heralded and sold-out concerts at Carnegie Hall’s Artist Perspective series.
The recipient of countless honors, Zakir has received the titles of Padma Bhushan, in 2002, and Padma Shri, in 1988, becoming the youngest percussionist to be awarded these, given to civilians of merit, by the Indian government. In 1990, he was awarded the Indo-American Award in recognition for his outstanding cultural contribution to USA-India relations. In April 1991, he was presented with the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award by the President of India, making him one of the youngest musicians to receive this recognition from India’s governing cultural institute. In 2007, readers’ polls from both Modern Drummer and Drum! magazines named him Best World Music and Best Worldbeat Drummer respectively. On February 8, 2009, Zakir received a Grammy in the Best Contemporary World Music category for Global Drum Project, his group with Mickey Hart, Giovanni Hidalgo and Sikiru Adepoju. Also, in 2009, Zakir was named an Officer in the Order of Arts and Letters by France’s Ministry of Culture and Communication for his extraordinary artistic and cultural contribution. The Downbeat Critics’ Poll named him Best Percussionist in 2012.
A child prodigy, Zakir was touring by the age of twelve. Zakir came to the United States in 1970, performing his first concert at the Fillmore East in New York City with Pandit Ravi Shankar, embarking on an illustrious international career. A prolific composer and recording artist, Zakir has received widespread recognition for his many ensembles and collaborations. In 1987, his first solo release, Making Music, was acclaimed as “one of the most inspired East-West fusion albums ever recorded.” In 1992, Planet Drum, an album co-created and produced by Zakir and Mickey Hart, became the first recording to win a Grammy in the Best World Music category, the Downbeat Critics’ Poll for Best World Beat Album and the NARM Indie Best Seller Award for World Music Recording.
Zakir received the distinct honor of co-composing the opening music for the Summer Olympics in Atlanta, 1996. He was commissioned to compose music for Alonzo King’s Lines Ballet (for which he received an Isadora Duncan Award), and to compose an original work for the San Francisco Jazz Festival, both in 1998. He has received numerous grants, including participation in the Meet the Composer programs funded by the Pew Memorial Trust. In 2000, Zakir worked again with choreographer Alonzo King, this time composing music for The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. In 2002, his commissioned work for choreographer Mark Morris’ “Kolam” premiered as part of YoYo Ma’s “Silk Road Project” with YoYo Ma and Zakir performing together live for the performance. In September 2006, Triple Concerto for Banjo, Bass and Tabla, a piece co-composed by Zakir, Edgar Meyer and Bela Fleck, was performed by them with the Nashville Symphony at the gala opening of the Schermerhorn Symphony Hall in Nashville. In January, 2009, it was re-created with the Detroit Symphony, again under the baton of Leonard Slatkin. This performance and new original works composed by Zakir, Edgar and Bela, was released as The Melody of Rhythm in 2009. Zakir’s second concerto, Concerto for Four Soloists, a special commission for the National Symphony Orchestra, was performed at Kennedy Center in March, 2011, conducted by Christoph Eschenbach.
Zakir reunited with Alonzo King in 2007, for Lines Ballet’s 25th anniversary celebration, creating acclaimed music for King’s new work, Rasa, and has recently scored for King’s Scheherazade which premiered in Monte Carlo in December 2009. In 2007, the government of India chose Zakir to compose an anthem to celebrate India’s 60th year of independence. The song, “Jai Hind”, has been recorded by an array of India’s finest classical vocalists and pop singers.
Zakir has scored for many films, including Merchant-Ivory’s Heat and Dust (in which he also co-starred), In Custody and Mystic Masseur; Bertolucci’s Little Buddha, Vanaprastham (The Last Dance), Saaz, Everybody Says I’m Fine, and Mr. And Mrs. Iyer.
Zakir is the recipient of the 1999 National Heritage Fellowship, the United States’ most prestigious honor for a master in the traditional arts, presented by First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton at the United States Senate on September 28, 1999. In 2005, he was named an Old Dominion Fellow by the Humanities Council at Princeton University, where he resided for the 2005-2006 autumn semester as full professor in the music department, teaching a survey course in Indian classical music and dance. In the spring of 2007, this course was taught again by Zakir, this time at Stanford University. Zakir’s yearly tabla workshop in Marin County, conducted for the past twenty years, draws hundreds of serious students and performers.
In 1992, Zakir founded Moment! Records which features original collaborations in the field of contemporary world music and live concert performances by great masters of the classical music of India. The label presents Zakir’s own world percussion ensemble, The Rhythm Experience, North and South Indian classical recordings, Best of Shakti and a Masters of Percussion series. Moment Records’ 2006 release, Golden Strings of the Sarode with Aashish Khan and Zakir Hussain, was nominated for a Grammy in the Best Traditional World Music category for that year. www.zakirhussain.com
Once in a great while, there emerges a musician who, through his genius, injects that certain spark necessary to elevate an instrument to another level of expression and appreciation. For tabla, Ustad Allarakha was such an artist, having brought his instrument a stature and respect never before enjoyed. A disciple of Mian Kader Baksh, the great guru of the Punjab gharana, Ustad Allarakha was, in his lifetime, the most celebrated exponent of this style.
Ustad Allarakha was born in 1919 in Phagwal, a small village in Jammu, the eldest son in a family of seven brothers. From his childhood, it was clear that he was special. Though his family were all soldiers and farmers, his interests lay elsewhere. For hours he would watch the travelling natak company perform their dramas, especially interested in the tabla player performing with the company. At other times, he would sit by the river, seeing a face on the water, and a voice inside him would tell him to seek this man out. This inner voice, at the age of eleven, led him to Lahore where he met the man with the face in his dreams. Mian Kader Baksh then became his guru and began his formal training in the art of tabla playing.
Soon the young Allarakha became the toast of every musical gathering in town and was offered a post at All India Radio, Lahore, where he worked for six years, after which he was transferred to Delhi and then to Bombay. Since Allarakha had also received extensive vocal training from the legendary Patiala guru, Ustad Aashiq Ali Khan, he arrived in Bombay prepared in both the rhythmic and melodic aspects of music.
In Bombay, his talent as a composer brought him in touch with the film world where he scored music for over twenty-five films with great success. He had many silver jubilee hits like “Maa Baap”, “Ghar Ki Laaj”, “Sabak”, “Sati Anusuya”, “Khandan”, “Madari”, “Alam Ara”, “Jagga”, “Bewafa” and many others. This, however, did not take him away from his tabla. He continued performing in major festivals all across the country and eventually chose to give up films and exclusively pursue his classical career. As an accompanist, he enjoyed a rare versatility, being equally at home with vocal music, instrumental music, Kathak dance, and as a soloist. His thirty-year association with Pandit Ravi Shankar was well known for its hallmark accomplishment of bringing Hindustani music to the far corners of the world, receiving the highest accolades from audiences and critics abroad. His consistently brilliant performances made the tabla a familiar percussion instrument the world over.
As a performer, Ustad Allarakha was famous for his improvisations, his exceptional qualities of freshness and proportion, and his exquisite tone production effected by a technique which he continued to refine until his death. Moreover, he developed a playing style which is a virtual reference for tabla players of the present generation.
He was the recipient of many awards and titles including Padmashree, the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award, the Indo-American Achievement Award, the Maharashtra Gaurav Puraskar and a first-ever gold disc for a classical recording, to name but a few.
In 1985, he founded the Ustad Allarakha Institute of Music to train young tabla players in the tradition of the Punjab gharana. Also at this time, his duet performance, always popular in India, with son and chief disciple, Zakir Hussain, grew to international prominence with regular world tours. He toured worldwide with Zakir, and also in trio with his younger son Fazal Qureshi, until 1996, when he decided to limit his touring to India. For the last four years of his life, he concentrated on teaching and traveled often in India, usually to accept awards and appear at major classical festivals. His rapturous tabla solo performances still in demand, he continued to perform until the end of his life.
Ustad Allarakha died on February 3, 2000, truly one of the most pivotal and influential artists to have emerged from India in our time.