When we meet musical exponent Ustad Zakir Hussain, he is busy with the preparation of his concert 'Homage to Abbaji– 14th Barsi of Ustad Allarakha'. Modesty personified, he says "I am the marquee name, so everyone wants to talk to me. But I know that I am not the best. People don't know other artistes because they are not household names. I hope that the Indian media realize that the bench strength of Indian music is higher than the bench strength of Indian cricket." Excerpts from the interview...
In memory of Abbaji
I was only 12 and traveling with him by train to Indore for his musical tour. I was thirsty and Abbaji alighted to fetch some water. The train started and I remember peering anxiously outside the window. I could see him running to catch the train, yet taking care to not spill the water from the glass. Once inside, he got busy covering the seat with his shawl for me. We had just one reserved berth and he made sure that I slept comfortably while he remained seated throughout the night. At that point, he was just my father and not the acclaimed musician that the world knows of.
As a teacher, there was a genuine pleasure of sharing, that I noticed on his face. His music mania was so contagious that I could experience becoming a part of his thought. He didn't need to be strict because he gave me all the time he had till I perfected it. My senses would be alert when he was teaching because his energy was so contagious. I remember my mom calling out to us for lunch, but we would be so engulfed in the intensity of our education that it would be evening till we actually sat down to eat.
Celebrating the vision
The concert is not a tribute to my father, he does not need drums to proclaim that he was great. It's a celebration of his passion, love and excitement for this art form. Each year, I try to bring different components in the barsi (death anniversary). This year, we are presenting the folk drummers from Ahmednagar and the Khol drummers from Kolkatta. Similarly I am bringing Little John Players who represents the Gospel Drummers of the Black Church from the US.
No reality shows
It is not possible to have a reality show based on classical music as the long drawn musical scores cannot be performed in a show full of commercial breaks. Also, reality shows are more of fantasy shows because of the costumes, make-up and emotional outbursts. What would interest me is judging the instrumentation played for a performance.
As for me, I wouldn't like to be a judge as I will only be a 'suggestion box'. The real judging is by 'public voting', isn't it?
I consider myself lucky that at this age women find me attractive. Women are sensitive and possess the quality of understanding a person's temperament. What they see in me is a passion for my art form on stage which makes me seem vulnerable. That probably reflects in my personality and projects me as desirable. But I definitely don't have the abs to prove it (laughs).