What has your over 40-year-old experience been while collaborating with Zakir Hussain?
Around the world, listeners of Indian Classical music say that Zakir has the best understanding of my music, and when we play together it becomes a special experience for listeners. I think the reason for this is that Zakir has played maximum number of concerts with me around the world in his career. Besides understanding my music he understands me personally, and that makes a lot of difference.
How would you describe your relationship with him?
Offstage, we travel together. Otherwise, we hardly discuss music. There is a lot of laughter because I love sharing
anecdotes of all kinds to him, or we enjoy a good meal together. Whenever he is free, he comes home where we spend quality time together.
Can you share a few anecdotes of experiences with him?
Numerous incidents have happened during our national and international travels. Once, we were to play in Kharagpur in West Bengal. We had to catch an early morning flight from Mumbai to Kolkata and take a train to Kharagpur. Zakir missed his flight from Mumbai. When I reached Kolkata, I informed the organisers and they arranged another tabla player. This tabla player travelled with me from Kolkata to Kharagpur. We started the programme, and after 45 minutes, we saw Zakir enter the hall with his tabla. All were surprised. He had changed two or three flights and drove from Kolkata to Kharagpur to arrive in the middle of the concert. The audience began shouting, “We want Zakir, we want Zakir” — it was very embarrassing for the tabla player who was already playing with me but all of them respect Zakir Hussain. After I finished my first raga, the other tabla player invited Zakir to join me for the accompaniment, and left the stage. Although Zakir had missed the flight, he turned up because he did not want me to be in such a situation.
What is your opinion of the current talent pool in Indian Classical music?
The next generation is brilliant; they have plenty of exposure in music and have the ability to communicate. As far as santoor is concerned, my son and disciple, Rahul Sharma has created his own identity. Listeners say that the santoor is in safe hands.
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