Q and A with Zakir Hussain

LEWISBURG – Internationally renowned tabla drummer Zakir Hussain will be performing at Bucknell Weis Center for Performing Arts, 701 Moore Ave., at 7:30 p.m. Friday.

Hussain, whose career spans more than 40 years, released his most well-known album, and critically-acclaimed and Grammy Award-winning “Planet Drum,” in 1991.

SIMONE BROWN; How did you first get started in the world of music and the field of percussion?

ZAKIR HUSSAIN: It is first important to understand that my father, Alla Rakha, was a internationally famous tabla player and composer. So you could say that I was born into the perfect conditions for becoming a musician. Learning and sharing music was not a choice somewhere along the path of my life; it was, is now and will always be, simply my life.

SB: Do you have anyone you cite as major musical inspirations?

ZH: Of course, my father Ustad Alla Rakha was my teacher and inspiration from the time I was born. And there were great classical Indian maestros always around me growing up because of my father. People such as Ali Akbar Khan, Ravi Shankar, Amir Khan and Amed Jan Thiraqwa to name a few.

And yet, because my father was touring internationally, I started getting exposed to Western artists as well. People like Miles Davis, Buddy Rich, Van Morrison, The Beatles, The Grateful Dead and so many more from continents and genre. I truly feel that I can learn and be endlessly inspired by the music of the greats from all cultures and I have made it my priority to open my ears and really listen to the voices of the music from our world, past, present and future.

SB: What first brought you to the United States?

ZH: I was 18 when my father brought me to the U.S. for the first time. It was a wonderful moment for me because some of the visions I had been having when I was deep in practice and meditation, were of playing for a sea of people with light-colored hair. It was clear to me at that point that coming to the west was indeed part of my path.

I also knew that in order to truly open my listening and learning of music on a global scale, I had to free my mind by living in a place where there is a mixing pot of cultures and paradigms. San Francisco in the 1970s was that place.

SB: When you perform at Bucknell, what will you be performing?

ZH: I am now touring with The Masters of Percussion, which is a group featuring some of India’s brightest young musicians. Each year I change the lineup for this group so that the audience gets to experience a cross-section of the amazing talent in the world today. And this year, the group is joined by the rock drumming hero Steve Smith (from the band Journey). We have Niladri Kumar who is an amazing sitar player (and) Selva Ganesh who plays the kanjira (a small hand drum from South India which sounds like a thundering mountain).

We have a 38-stringed bowed instrument called sarangi which truly carries the sounds and the soul of India. Also coming to Bucknell is the great Vijay Chavan, who plays the folk rhythm tradition on the Dholki, and the dancing festival rhythms of the Dhol is played by the brilliant young Deepak Bhatt.

The show is a theatrical journey through the evolution of rhythm and melody, beginning with the mysterious pulsation of the universe and into the ancient rhythms of our planet and the earth. The music of India stems from a spiritual root which is thousands of years old and yet has today become the most sophisticated system of music on the planet. This music has rippled out across the cultures, blending with other traditions in a kind of global celebration. We hope to share a little of this journey with your audience .

Tickets to see Zakir Hussain are available at, or by calling the box office at 570-577-1000.