Zakir Hussain
Background information
Born (1951-03-09) 9 March 1951 (age 73)
Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
GenresHindustani classical music, jazz fusion, world music
Years active1963–present
HonoursPadma Shri (1988), Padma Bhushan (2002), Padma Vibhushan (2023)

Ustad Zakir Hussain (born 9 March 1951) is an Indian tabla player, composer, percussionist, music producer and film actor. He is the eldest son of tabla player Alla Rakha.[1] He is widely considered as one of the greatest tabla players of all time.[2]

He was awarded the Padma Shri in 1988, the Padma Bhushan in 2002, and the Padma Vibhushan in 2023, by the Government of India.[3][1][4] On 8 February 2009 for 51st Grammy Awards, Hussain won the Grammy in the Contemporary World Music Album category for his collaborative album Global Drum Project with Mickey Hart, Sikiru Adepoju & Giovanni Hidalgo.

He was also awarded the Govt of India's Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1990, Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship, Ratna Sadsya in 2018. In 1999, he was awarded the United States National Endowment for the Arts' National Heritage Fellowship, the highest award given to traditional artists and musicians. Hussain has a total of 5 Grammy awards equalling the tallies of the late sitar maestro Ravi Shankar and the master conductor Zubin Mehta; they are all in top spot, incidentally, on the list of Indians with the most Grammy wins. He received 3 Grammy Awards in February 2024.[5][6]

Early life and education

Zakir Hussain Allaraka Qureshi was born on 9 March 1951 in Mumbai (officially known then as Bombay), India.[7] He attended St. Michael's High School in Mahim, and graduated from St. Xavier's College, Mumbai.[8]


Hussain performing at Konark, Odisha

Hussain played on George Harrison's 1973 album Living in the Material World and John Handy's 1973 album Hard Work. He also performed on Van Morrison's 1979 album Into the Music and Earth, Wind & Fire's 1983 album Powerlight.[9]

Mickey Hart of the Grateful Dead, who had known Hussain since the 1960s,[10] invited him to create the special album Planet Drum, featuring drummers from different parts of the world. Featured along with Hussain, from India, was Vikku Vinayakram, with whom Hussain had collaborated in Shakti. The first Planet Drum album, released in 1991 on the Rykodisc label, went on to earn the 1992 Grammy Award for Best World Music Album, the first Grammy ever awarded in this category.[11][12] The Global Drum Project album and tour brought Mickey Hart, Hussain, Sikiru Adepoju, and Giovanni Hidalgo together again in a reunion sparked by the 15th anniversary of the Planet Drum album. The album Global Drum Project won the Grammy Award for Best Contemporary World Music Album at the 51st Grammy Awards Ceremony held on 8 February 2009.[13]

Hussain composed, performed and acted as Indian music advisor for the Malayalam film Vanaprastham, a 1999 Cannes Film Festival entry which was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at the AFI Los Angeles International Film Festival (AFI Fest) in 1999, and won awards at 2000 Istanbul International Film Festival (Turkey), 2000 Mumbai International Film Festival (India), and 2000 National Film Awards (India). He has composed soundtracks for several movies, most notably In Custody and The Mystic Masseur by Ismail Merchant, and has played tabla on the soundtracks of Francis Coppola's Apocalypse Now, Bernardo Bertolucci's Little Buddha, and other films. He starred in several films specifically showcasing his musical performance both solo and with different bands, including the 1998 documentary Zakir and His Friends,[14] and the documentary The Speaking Hand: Zakir Hussain and the Art of the Indian Drum (2003 Sumantra Ghosal).[15] Hussain co-starred as Inder Lal in the 1983 Merchant Ivory film Heat and Dust, for which he was an associate music director.[16]

Hussain is a founding member of Bill Laswell's world music supergroup Tabla Beat Science.[17]

In 2016, Hussain was amongst many musicians invited by President Obama to the International Jazz Day 2016 All-Star Global Concert at the White House.[18]

Haridas Vhatkar has been making Hussain's tablas for more than 18 years.[1] Haridas said he learned how to make tabla so he could specially make them for Hussain.[1]

Hussain has stated that he does not play at private gatherings, corporate events, or weddings; he believes music should not be heard at events where folks come to socialize, drink or enjoy a meal (music should be the sole purpose of the event).[1]


Nasreen Munni Kabir compiled 15 interview sessions (each lasting about 2 hours) from 2016 to 2017 into the book Zakir Hussain: A Life in Music, which was published in 2018.[1] This book takes the reader through Hussain's life from his youth, his years of intense training, and growth as a musician.[1]

Personal life

Hussain married Antonia Minnecola, a Kathak dancer and teacher, who is also his manager.[19] They have two daughters, Anisa Qureshi and Isabella Qureshi. Anisa graduated from UCLA and is a film maker. Isabella is studying dance in Manhattan.[20]

Hussain has two brothers: Taufiq Qureshi a percussionist, and Fazal Qureshi, also a tabla player. Their brother Munawar died at a young age when he was attacked by a rabid dog.[1] His eldest sister Bilquis died before Hussain was born. Another sister, Razia, died due to complications during a cataract surgery, just a few hours before their father's death in 2000.[1] He has another sister named Khurshid.[1]

He was named an Old Dominion Fellow by the Humanities Council at Princeton University, where he resided for the 2005–2006 semester as full professor in the music department.[21] He was also a visiting professor at Stanford University.[22] In May 2022, he was conferred the honorary Doctor of Law (LLD) degree for his contribution to the field of music by Mumbai University.[23]





Awards and honours


The line "Zakir Hussain Tabela Ivaltana" in the Tamil song "Telephone Manipol" in Indian (1996) film directed by S.Shankar is a tribute to him. This song was written by poet Vairamuthu.[35]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Kabir, Nasreen (2018). Zakir Hussain: A Life in Music. Noida, Uttar Pradesh, India: HarperCollins Publisher India. ISBN 978-93-5277-049-6.
  2. ^ Nigam, Meher (29 June 2022). "India's 7 Greatest Tabla Players of All Time". Retrieved 8 December 2023.
  3. ^ "Padma Awards" (PDF). Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. 2015. Retrieved 21 July 2015.
  4. ^ "Padma Awards 2023 announced". Retrieved 30 January 2023.
  5. ^ "Ustad Zakir Hussain Wins three Grammy Awards in different categories". Bru Times News.
  6. ^ "Without harmony, we are nothing: Zakir Hussain wins 3 Grammy awards". Hindustan Times. 5 February 2024.
  7. ^ a b "Zakir Hussain: North Indian Master Tabla Drummer". National Endowment for the Arts. n.d. Retrieved 30 December 2020.
  8. ^ "Zakir Hussain: His name spells magic on tabla". Hindustan Times. 30 September 2019.
  9. ^ Jurek, Thom. "Zakir Hussain". Allmusic.
  10. ^ "The Tabla Master Who Jammed With The Grateful Dead".
  11. ^ "The Global Drum Project". Planet Drum. Archived from the original on 25 February 2010.
  12. ^ "Deconstructing 'world music' at the Grammys". Afrobeat Radio. 15 February 2010. Archived from the original on 28 June 2010. Retrieved 11 May 2010.
  13. ^ "'Global Drum Project' featuring Zakir Hussain wins Grammy". Express India. 9 February 2009.
  14. ^ Gates, Anita (2008). "Zakir and His Friends". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times. Archived from the original on 7 July 2008.
  15. ^ "The Speaking Hand: Zakir Hussain and the Art of the Indian Drum". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times. 2008. Archived from the original on 15 September 2008.
  16. ^ "Heat and Dust". Merchant Ivory Productions.
  17. ^ "Tabla Beat Science". National Geographic Music. Archived from the original on 6 February 2009.
  18. ^ "International Jazz Day". International Jazz Day. 30 March 2016. Retrieved 30 June 2016.
  19. ^ "Bharatnatyam in Jeans". Little India. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 8 April 2015.
  20. ^ a b "Ustad Zakir Hussain". Cultural India. Retrieved 31 December 2012.
  21. ^ "Best Of Zakir Hussain – Tabla Samrat". Calcutta Music Blog. Archived from the original on 9 August 2011.
  22. ^ "Zakir Hussain Shivkumar Sharma". Carnegie Hall. Archived from the original on 15 May 2008.
  23. ^ a b "zakir hussain: Mu Confers Zakir Hussain With Doctorate | Mumbai News - Times of India". The Times of India. TNN. 13 May 2022. Retrieved 19 May 2022.
  24. ^ "Béla Fleck, Edgar Meyer, and Zakir Hussain Announce New LP 'As We Speak' with Rakesh Chaurasia". Relix. Retrieved 3 March 2023.
  25. ^ "Zakir Hussain | Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 10 July 2023.
  26. ^ "Year wise list of recipients 1954-2014" (PDF). Ministry of Home Affairs (India). Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 November 2016. Retrieved 22 March 2016.
  27. ^ "Padma Vibhushan for Rangarajan, Soli Sorabjee". The Hindu. 26 January 2002. Archived from the original on 19 July 2009. Retrieved 26 January 2002.
  28. ^ "Padma Awards 2023 announced". Retrieved 27 January 2023.
  29. ^ "SNA: Awardees List". Sangeet Natak Academy. Archived from the original on 30 May 2015.
  30. ^ "Past Winners Search".
  31. ^ "2022 Kyoto Prize Laureates: Zakir Hussain". Inamori Foundation. 2022. Retrieved 18 June 2022.
  32. ^ "Shankar Mahadevan & Zakir Hussain Triumph at 2024 Grammy Awards with 'The moment' album". Bru Times News.
  33. ^ "Grammy Awards 2024 winner Shakti: 5 things you need to know about Shankar Mahadevan and Zakir Hussain's fusion band". Hindustan Times. 5 February 2024.
  34. ^ "Without harmony, we are nothing: Zakir Hussain wins 3 Grammy awards". Hindustan Times. 5 February 2024. Retrieved 6 February 2024.
  35. ^ "Telephone Manipol Lyrics from movie/album Indian | G'Lyric | Godly lyrics". Retrieved 14 May 2022.