Skip to page content

Zakir Hussain

About this Artist

The pre-eminent classical tabla virtuoso of our time, Zakir Hussain is appreciated as an international phenomenon both in the field of percussion and in the music world at large. 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.

Widely considered a chief architect of the contemporary world-music movement, Zakir has made a unique contribution involving many historic and groundbreaking collaborations, including Shakti, Remember Shakti, Masters of Percussion, the Diga Rhythm Band, Planet Drum, Tabla Beat Science, Sangam with Charles Lloyd and Eric Harland, in trio with Bela Fleck and Edgar Meyer and, most recently, with Herbie Hancock. The foremost disciple of his father, the legendary Ustad Allarakha, Zakir was a child prodigy who began his professional career at the age of twelve, touring internationally with great success by the age of eighteen.

As a composer, he has scored music for numerous feature films, major events, and productions. He has composed two concertos, and his third, the first-ever concerto for tabla and orchestra, was premiered in India in September 2015, in Europe and the UK in 2016, and in the U.S. in April 2017, performed by the National Symphony Orchestra at Kennedy Center. A Grammy Award winner, he is the recipient of countless awards and honors, including the Padma Bhushan, an NEA National Heritage Fellowship, and the title of Officier in France’s Order of Arts and Letters. In 2015, he was voted “Best Percussionist” by both the DownBeat Critics Poll and Modern Drummer’s Reader’s Poll, and received the SFJAZZ Lifetime Achievement Award in January 2017.

As an educator, he conducts many workshops and lectures each year, has been in residence at Princeton University and Stanford University, and, in 2015, was appointed Regents Lecturer at UC Berkeley. He is the founder and president of Moment Records, an independent record label presenting rare live concert recordings of Indian classical music and world music. Zakir was resident artistic director at SFJAZZ from 2013 until 2016.