The Kennedy Center

Zakir Hussain


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 of India, as well as one of its most esteemed cultural ambassadors.  Along with his legendary father and teacher, Ustad Allarakha, he has elevated the status of his instrument with playing marked by uncanny intuition and masterful improvisational dexterity.

Widely considered a chief architect of the contemporary world music movement, Zakir's contribution in this realm 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, Yo-Yo Ma, Joe Henderson, Van Morrison, Airto Moreira, Pharoah Sanders, Billy Cobham, and the Kodo drummers.  His music and career were honored in April 2009 with four widely-heralded and sold-out concerts on Carnegie Hall's Perspectives series.      

The recipient of countless honors, Zakir has received the titles of Padma Bhushan and Padma Shri, given to civilians of merit by the Indian government.  In 1990, he was awarded the Indo-American Award and, in April 1991, was presented with the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award by the President of India.  In 2007 readers' polls from both Modern Drummer and Drum! magazines named him Best World Music and Best Worldbeat Drummer respectively.  In 2009, Zakir received a Grammy(r) for his Global Drum Project and later that year was named a Member in the Order of Arts and Letters by France's Ministry of Culture and Communication.

A prolific composer and recording artist, Zakir recently composed, with Béla Fleck and Edgar Meyer, the Concerto for Banjo, Bass and Tabla, which was commissioned by the Nashville Symphony in 2006.  Zakir has also composed the opening music for the 1996 Summer Olympics, for Alonzo King's LINES Ballet, for a collaboration with Yo-Yo Ma's Silk Road Project and Mark Morris Dance Company, for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and for many films including Merchant-Ivory's Heat and Dust, in which he also starred, Apocalypse Now, Little Buddha, Vanaprastham and Mr. and Mrs. Iyer, to name a few.  In 2007, the government of India chose Zakir to compose an anthem celebrating India's 60th year of independence.

Zakir is the recipient of the 1999 National Heritage Fellowship, the United States' most prestigious honor for a master in the traditional arts.  A consummate teacher and lecturer, he was named an Old Dominion Fellow by the Humanities Council at Princeton University for the 2005-2006 school year as full professor in the music department, creating a course in Indian classical music.  Zakir's own recording label, Moment! Records, features original collaborations in the field of contemporary world music and live concert performances by great masters of the classical music of India. 

His website is

Last updated: February 25, 2011

Zakir Hussain