"I took comparisons with Zakir bhai, positively"
Percussionist Fazal Qureshi, with a legacy not many can boast of, has organised a concert for his legendary father Ustad Alla Rakha Khan's 94th birth anniversary. On the sidelines of this event, the tabla maestro gets candid with Ruchika Kher about his father's memories and the constant comparison he encounters with his elder brother Ustad Zakir Hussain
One step into Fazal Qureshi’s Bandra pad and it’s evident that the place belongs to a creative mind — scores of books and DVDs line the walls, with his tabla making a great picture in the dining area. As we glanced at the toy boxes in the corner (Qureshi has a boy, 8 and a girl, 5), the tabla maestro dressed in a green shirt and blue jeans emerges from another room, apologising for the delay.
Soon, we slid into the reporter mode, asking Qureshi, who has been a musician for 32 years, to tell us about the event he has planned for his father, Ustad Alla Rakha Khan’s birth anniversary that falls on April 30. “The concert is called Celebrating Rhythm since rhythm was like life for my father. There will be many percussionists performing at the concert on the theme, ‘The Journey Continues’, since the artistes, who will perform that day, will be carrying forward the legacy of their gurus,” assures Qureshi.
So, will we witness a jugalbandi with brother Zakir Hussain, we ask, “Unfortunately, Zakir bhai will be in Istanbul,” reveals the percussionist, who also shares that his brother will be dedicating a concert to his father there with a performance on the same day as the Mumbai event. Qureshi considers his father’s birth anniversary as an auspicious day for himself, and hence will be launching his new album, Leylines, on the same day. The compositions will see him collaborate with saxophonist Anders Hagberg and Oud player Ahmad Al Khatib.
“We will be playing some compositions from the album at the event,” he avers. Coming from a family of greats can be termed as a silver spoon by many, but Qureshi faced his share of hardships, especially the task of upholding the name of his family.
The percussionist explains it as a catch-22 situation: “If I played well, people would say ‘of course, he’ll play well because he is Ustad Alla Rakha Khan’s son’, but if I have a bad day, people would comment, ‘how can he be bad, coming from such a family?’ So, there was too much on my shoulders,” he opens up, adding that he couldn’t grow as a young musician. “In any field, initially, you are raw and gradually, you learn from experiences. But I wasn’t given that opportunity. Since I belonged to this prestigious family, it was stamped already that I had to play well,” reveals Qureshi.
Brothers in sync
Plus comparisons with his brother, made it a tough road ahead. “There were comparisons with my brother always. But people don’t realise that he is 10 years older, and has been playing on the stage before I even opened my eyes. I always took the comparisons, positively, and worked hard,” Qureshi philosophises.
On April 30, 6.45 pm
Ar Nehru Centre, Worli.
A different ballgame
“I was heavily into sport while in school. Strangely, my name first appeared in the newspapers because I scored a goal for my school in a football match! I represented my school in football in the under-17 level. If I were not a tabla player, I would have gone into sports. If I were not born in this family, maybe I would have become something in sport because I love it and I played almost every sport. But circumstances were different, situations changed, and I picked up tabla and began to practise. My focus changed, entirely.” -Fazal Qureshi