Program: Zakir Hussain and Niladri Kumar

Zakir Hussain and Niladri Kumar
Sunday, November 20, 2022
Sanders Theatre 

Zakir Hussain, the acknowledged master of the Indian tabla, and Niladri Kumar, the young star sitarist, are at the very top of their form, and together they represent the very essence of music: rhythm and melody. Their every performance is an opportunity for transcendent flights of musical imagination grounded in one of the world’s great musical traditions, Northern Indian (“Hindustani”) classical music. What Pandit Ravi Shankar and Zakir Hussain’s fatherUstad Allarakha, introduced to America in the 1950s and notably again at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival and at Woodstock in 1969—a thousand-year-old tradition of matchless interaction between drummer and melody player—has been passed into the best imaginable hands. What Zakir Hussain and Niladri Kumar create is why people listen to music.  

Zakir Hussain is the preeminent classical tabla virtuoso of our time and 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, including Shakti, the Diga Rhythm Band, Planet Drum, Tabla Beat Science, Celtic Connection,Charles Lloyd and Eric Harland on the Sangam CD, in trio with Béla Fleck and Edgar Meyer, and, most recently, with Herbie Hancock. The foremost disciple of his father, the legendary Ustad Allarakha, Zakir Hussain was a child prodigy who began his professional career at the age of 12, accompanying India’s greatest classical musicians and dancers, and touring internationally with great success by the age of 18 

As a composer, he has scored music for numerous feature films and major events and has composed three concertos. The most recent enjoys the distinction of being the first-ever concerto for tabla and orchestra and was premiered in India in September 2015, in Europe and the United Kingdom in 2016, and in the United States in 2017, by the National Symphony Orchestra at Kennedy Center. A multiple Grammy winner, he is the recipient of countless awards and honors, including 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 International Critics Poll and the Modern Drummer Readers Poll. He has taught at Princeton, Stanford, and the University of California at Berkeley and is the founder and president of Moment! Records, an independent label presenting rare live concert recordings of Indian classical music and other world music. Hussain was resident artistic director at SFJazz from 2013 until 2016 and received their Lifetime Achievement Award in 2017 in recognition of his “unparalleled contribution to the world of music."

In a lineage of five generations of sitar players, Niladri Kumar is himself a world-renowned musical icon. After years of training and guidance from his father and guru, Pandit Kartick Kumar, and after gaining a deep understanding of Indian classical music, Niladri Kumarwent on to revolutionize the traditional style of sitar playing and further invent his own Instrument, the red electric sitar, which he dubbed the Zitar. He is hailed as a serious proponent of Indian music and has a prodigious ability to draw inyoung listeners and broad audiences. Critics have remarked on his seemingly effortless mastery of the instrument, the agility and uniqueness of his playingand the ability of his compositions to stir the soul. He has inspired many to learn the sitar and through his illustrious career has emerged as a one-of-a-kind focus of national pride in India. He has been recognized with several prestigious awards and honorary titles and has released more than ten albums. Kumar has also contributed prodigiously to the Indian film industry. His live performances are renowned for transporting audiences. 

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