Why Zakir is an Ustad?

Ustad Zakir Hussain

Ustad Zakir Hussain  


Sitar exponent Niladri Kumar on the thrill of sharing the stage with Ustad Zakir Hussain

One is a percussion wizard and the other has a way with strings. The veteran, for the past five decades, has been on a trailblazing rhythm journey, while his 47-year-old collaborator is part of many exciting cross-genre projects and classical ensembles. Both belong to a musical lineage, the tabla ace being the son of the inimitable Ustad Alla Rakha and the sitar virtuoso, of the acclaimed Pt. Kartick Kumar.

So when Ustad Zakir Hussain and Niladri Kumar walk on to the stage (their musical partnership started a few years ago), it is not just the coming together of two musicians or instruments, but two inventive minds. Their concerts go beyond melody and beats; they are lessons in creativity.

“Everytime I perform with Ustadji it is unnerving,” says Niladri. “Because you do not know what to expect. He can make every situation and sound his own. It is up to the co-artistes to understand and emulate his thought along with bringing their imagination into play,” he elaborates.

Sitar exponent Niladri Kumar

Sitar exponent Niladri Kumar   | Photo Credit: A_M_Faruqui

As a kid, Niladri learnt to count the taals at Ustad’s concerts. “Now I get to sit next to him on stage with the sitar in hand, but the learning continues. He is an extremely generous musician, who does not believe in conventional hierarchy. The Ustad is accomodative of younger artistes and their hopes and dreams. Even as you brace yourself to rise to the challenge of performing with him, he manages to bring the best out of you.”

Known for his creation, Zitar, an electric sitar with five strings, Niladri is not comfortable with the term ‘experimental’. “None of us, who are labelled as innovators, are doing anything new. It is all there in the system. You just have to look deeper at tradition and will be amazed to know the kind of work that legendary artistes have done. We are just carrying forward their vision,” he points out.

Coming back to the experience of interacting and performing with the Ustad, Niladri feels it is not easy to match up to his stature or skill. “He has performed with five generations of musicians. His trajectory is so unique. He has seamlessly been working to make Indian classical part of global collaborations. Thanks to him, we have realised classical does not mean restrictive or inaccessible. His work inspires both the orthodox and the progressive. Ustad has not just widened the rhythm repertoire, he has broadened our perspective,” says Niladri, as he looks forward to perform once again with the master percussionist.

Ustad Zakir Hussain and Niladri Kumar will perform in Chennai at a concert titled Aadi-Anant on January 12 (6.30 p.m.) at The Music Academy.

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Printable version | Jan 27, 2020 1:54:13 AM |

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