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'Abba was in the greatest telephone conversation with divinity'

Ustad Zakir Hussain will pay tribute to not just his father, but every great musician who lived music and passed on their legacy to the younger generation, at the concert 'Homage to Abbaji' to be held this Friday

Dressed in a simple red kurta, Ustad Zakir Hussain seemed anything but intimidating. When he started the conversation by thanking us for taking time out to meet him, we marvelled at the humility of the legendary musician.


Ustad Zakir Hussain doing an impromptu performance at the
Orchid Hotel in Vile Parle


With a warm and welcoming smile, he started talking about the Homage to Abbaji concert, which will feature a host of musicians paying tribute to Ustad Allarakha, the legendary Tabla player and father of Ustad Zakir Hussain on the occasion of his 12th death anniversary.

Musicians from all over the world come to perform at this annual event free of cost and it is always free for all. "It's not a professional event. Barsi is not, in any way, glorifying the house of Ustad Allarakha.
 
It's not about him, it's about what he represents. He stands for a very deep culture that we have and a way of life that is unique, a world where music and rhythm is a religion in itself," says the Ustad animatedly.

"It's a space where Ustad Allarakha, a devout Muslim can claim that he is Saraswati's pujari and where Pandit Jasraj can sing Mero Alla Mehebraan. It represents unity in disparity and a passion for an art form that is a mode of meditation allowing you to talk to divinity," he adds.

According to Zakir Hussain, Ustad Allarakha was always in that meditative mood. "He was in the greatest telephonic conversation with divinity. That is why there are no photographs on stage of him.

His presence is the presence of the art form itself; like the presence of Krishna with the flute, Lord Shiva with his damru or Sarsawati with the veena," he says.

Ask him if he was a strict teacher and he laughs, "Not strict, but he made sure we got the basics right. We had to do our tables. Apart from that, it was more about go find for yourself what you are all about."

Every year, several musicians from different parts of the world come to be part of the Barsi concert. This year, apart from Dilshad Khan, Sabir Khan, Ustad Shahid Pervez and drummers from Kerala, drummer Simon Phillips will be coming down from America to be part of the concert.

"Trilok Gurtu called him and said you have to experience this and he was so excited to come. This is what this concert is about. It represents our love and commitment to art and tradition.
 
We celebrate the fact that someone like Ustad Allarakha opened the doors for us to experience this through his eyes and understand the passion and the childlike excitement he felt at being able to handle the tabla. It's a little instrument but he saw the world in it," adds Zakir Hussain.

The Ustad recounts an anecdote. "Last year Asha Bhosle walked in during the concert and said that she wanted to sing. We managed to make time for it and she went on stage and sung," says the Ustad.

"Even this year, there are going to be surprise tributes in the evening. Musicians such as John Mclaughlin, U Srinivas, Sivamani, Selvaganesh, Kathakali drummers are all in town and when they are here they are on stage," he says.

The evening jam session featuring great percussionists is one of the most looked forward to performances at the concert. "It is celebrating not only the presence of Ustad Alla Rakha, but also of musicians such as Ustad Sultan Khan, Jagjit Singh and Ali Akbar Khan who made us realise what India is all about. They should all be celebrated.

We get on stage and laugh about it musically and give such musicians a big send-off. We wave at them from wherever they might be looking down on us and are happy that we lived in the same time that these people were around. It's not about sadness, but about appreciating and being full of joy for all the gifts showered upon us," he signs off.

On February 3, 6.30 am to 10.30 pm
At Shanmukhanand Hall, near Kings Circle station, Sion (E).
For Tickets call 43222727 - Rhythm House, 24044141 - Shanmukhananda Hall

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