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India is going through a music renaissance: Zakir Hussain

As Zakir Hussain readies to present the world premiere of Peshkar, his first tabla concerto with the Symphony Orchestra of India, he speaks of how Indian Classical music is finding global acceptance

Q. What was the idea behind composing the tabla and orchestral piece, Peshkar, the first ever commission by the National Centre of the Performing Arts (NCPA) for Symphony Orchestra of India (SOI)?
A. Peshkar is considered to be the opening movement of a tabla solo recital, the word (Peshkar) also refers to an individual whose job it was to present to the king, the business of the day. Since this was a tabla concerto, it would have to present the repertoire as performed in a solo recital, beginning with Peshkar and laying the rest of the repertoire down in the order as prescribed. The handicap in this is that the tabla recital relies on the sarangi to play the lehra, which is the skeletal melody representing the rhythm cycle, played as a metronomic melodic timekeeper. The challenge, therefore, was to use the lehra as the base of the melodic content of the piece and build an interaction between the tabla and the orchestra with not only the rhythmic elements, but also the melodic and harmonic features of the orchestra. I hope that we have arrived at a desired balance of these great traditions.

Zakir Hussain
Pic Courtesy/Jim Mcguire

Q. Did you face any challenges while merging the Indian and Western sensibilities for this piece?
A. This is my first ever tabla concerto. Therefore, there will be hiccups, and chipping and chiselling of the piece as we perform it a few more times. I don’t claim to have found the correct mix. I don’t want to impose my thinking on the sensibilities of the traditionalists of both styles of music, but some constructive comments from the experts can only help.

Zakir Hussain (centre) performing with the SOI for The Melody Of Rhythm: Triple Concerto with banjoist Bela Fleck (left) and double bassist Edgar Meyer (right) in 2013
Zakir Hussain (centre) performing with the SOI for The Melody Of Rhythm: Triple Concerto with banjoist Bela Fleck (left) and double bassist Edgar Meyer (right) in 2013

Q. How has the experience been of working with Zane Dalal, who will be conducting the orchestra?
A. My first interaction with the SOI was when Edgar Meyer, Bela Fleck and I performed our triple concerto, Melody Of Rhythm, with the SOI (in 2013). We felt that maestro Zane Dalal and the orchestra did full justice to the piece, the orchestra played really well under the baton of Maestro Dalal. Our impression was that SOI was no less then the Detroit Symphony or Nashville Symphony or Denver Symphony, all of whom had played our piece.

Q. Do you believe that there is a better sense of respect and understanding towards Indian Classical music now, when compared to 10 or 20 years before?
A. I think India is going through a music renaissance. There are great composers and musicians here who are constantly setting the bar higher. I feel that this transitional period in India will point the way forward to the rest of the world as far as the future of music in the 21st century.

Khushroo N Suntook
Khushroo N Suntook (NCPA Chairman and Founder of the SOI)

Q. What can fans expect from you in the coming months?
A. This fall, I have a tour in the USA with Hariharan bhai, and an Indian tribute to Jazz tour with Louiz Banks, Shankar Mahadevan, Dave Holland, Eric Harland, Vinnie Colaiuta, Amit Chatterjee and Chris Potter before I return back to India for the music season this winter.

On: September 25 and September 26, 7 pm
At: Jamshed Bhabha Theatre, NCPA, Nariman Point.
Log on to: bookmyshow.com

Also see at 19th season of SOI

>> Attend Bridging East and West, an open discussion with Zakir Hussain and music conductor Zane Dalal on the making of Peshkar.
On: September 24, 6.30 pm
At: Experimental Theatre

>> Watch the renowned Swiss conductor, Charles Dutoit lead the orchestra in a programme featuring Dvorák’s beloved
‘New World’ Symphony.
On: October 1 and 2, 7 pm AT Jamshed Bhabha Theatre

>> An orchestral presentation of Beethoven’s fourth symphony and Glinka’s overture to Ruslan and Ludmilla. Also, listen to two works inspired by India Goldmark’s Sakuntala and the intermezzo from Elgars, the Crown of India.
On: October 5, 7 pm
At: Jamshed Bhabha Theatre (all venues at NCPA)

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