A Zakir Hussain concert is always an occasion to celebrate. It’s a sheer joy to watch the tabla maestro perform, hair flying as if in a trance, his hands weaving a rhythm of their own as he plays one spell-binding note after another. Last year, after sharing the stage with the Grammy-award winning Edgar Meyer and Bela Fleck, flautist Rakesh Chaurasia and mandolin player U Srinivas, Zakir returns with a new set of musical geniuses for Nirvana 2014. Masala! caught up with the legend for a very special chat
Welcome back to Dubai. How would you sum up your experience at last year’s Nirvana concert?
Thank you! I have been performing in Dubai for the past two decades and almost each year, the audience seems to grow in size and appreciation for music. Last year was awesome playing with Edgar and Bela. They had both won the Grammy around the time of the concert, so it made it even more special. Blending western and eastern music experiences is always a learning experience.
Is there any significance behind naming this concert series Nirvana?
Well, that is what the fusion of our music does. When we jam together on stage, we are taken to another world of musical consciousness. And that is what I hope the audience feels as well. Nirvana seemed the perfect name for this series.
This year you are teaming up with Louis Banks, Niladri Kumar, Shankar Mahadevan and Taufiq Qureshi. What excites you most about this collaboration?
This is the first time that this group in totality will be coming together. We have performed the same combinations before; for instance, Louis, Shankar and I have performed together as have Niladri, Louis and Taufiq. But it is the first time I will playing with all of them and that in itself, is most exciting. What is great about such concerts is that we don't all record together. We don't have an album so what we create on the night is for the audience. You cannot find it anywhere on a CD or in the new digital world of the internet.
We believe that most of the music that will be played will be unrecorded and spontaneous.
Absolutely! We never rehearse. We talk to each other in the greenroom and discuss a few pieces but what really happens on stage is spontaneous. The experience is like a playground where everyone is playing to enjoy themselves. The music that comes out can never be repeated.
The audience reaction also plays a big role in our blend of music. Their energy flows into our respective instruments and we unintentionally end up creating music based on that.
How do you, as an artiste, arrive at that perfect chemistry with your co-musicians?
The physicality of the audience brings out the chemistry in us (laughs). On a serious note, we have played with each other on several occasions and understand each other so well by now that it just happens. I would say it’s our souls that meet each other and thus the chemistry.
When working with equally creative and opinionated minds, there is bound to be difference of opinion. How do you negotiate the middle ground?
Each artiste is a maestro in their own right. We understand each other so well musically that there never seems to be any difference. Music is ONE. Differences are created by men. In the world of music, we keep inspiring each other and try new things.
The Indian classical concert scene is often still dominated by veterans, especially outside India. What will it take for upcoming, bright artistes to get the same exposure?
I don’t think so. Today, the media is so powerful that the young bright musicians get more exposure than musicians like me ever had.
Are you on Twitter or any other form of social media? Do you think classical musicians are not taking advantage of new media adequately?
Yes, I am on Twitter. Every young person, may it be a musician, engineer, doctor, or for that matter even a student is so tech-savy that the only medium they use today is social media.
We are curious. Do you change your tabla from tour to tour? How do you maintain them?
I always carry two to three sets of tablas with me on every tour. The tabla like any other musical instrument, has keys and depending on a piece I am going to play, I use a tabla tuned to that particular piece. I take care of them like I would take care of my body. You have to pamper them, clean them and tune them. They are handmade and therefore very delicate and sensitive to heat, dew and weather change. I take care of them myself and in case there is a drastic problem, I have a very trusted tabla maker to set it right.
INFO: Tickets: Platinum VVIP: AED1750 (sold out), Platinum: AED1500 (reserved seating), Diamond: AED1000, Gold: AED600, Silver: AED200, Madinat Arena, 25th January, 2014, Gates open at 6 pm, Spinneys outlets (Audio/Video stores) orwww.timeouttickets.com