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Concert Review: Zakir Hussain And The SOI – Peshkar

The unique concerto featured the tabla maestro working his magic amidst an orchestra of almost sixty musicians conducted by Zane Dalal

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Sunil Sampat Sep 28, 2015
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Ustad Zakir Hussain

The Symphony Orchestra of India (SOI), Mumbai had commissioned Zakir Hussain to compose a concerto “with an Indian content”. Photo by National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA).

There seems to be no limit to the versatility of Ustad Zakir Hussain. Musically also, he can do no wrong, it would seem! Apart from being arguably the most accomplished tabla player ever in Hindustani classical music,  Zakir has  also combined with musicians from all over the world to create dazzling  fusion sounds. He has combined with jazz musicians, percussionists of diverse backgrounds, folk musicians, Carnatic classical musicians and others. His group Shakti is legendary among the followers of fusion music and his album Making Music, along with various other recordings with Hariprasad Chaurasia, saxophonist Jan Garbarek and John McLaughlin are still very popular.  He is perhaps the most musically  successful fusion artist out there. He is and also has been the  “resident artist” at SFJAZZ in San Francisco for some years.

The Symphony Orchestra of India (SOI), created by and part of the NCPA, Mumbai had commissioned Zakir Hussain to compose a concerto “with an Indian content”. The Ustad has done a remarkable job in creating this concerto – Peshkar, which premiered worldwide at the Jamshed Bhabha Theatre at the NCPA on September 25th and 26th, 2015. The experience of watching and listening to an orchestra of almost sixty musicians of the SOI perform with Zakir Hussain holding center stage, and Maestro Zane Dalal conducting, is in itself quite exhilarating. The entire piece is 26 minutes long and the musical experience is magnificent. The solo tabla teen taal opening is enveloped in the powerful melodic sounds from the orchestra. Zakir plays tabla throughout the piece. The beauty is that the tabla does not even sound the slightest bit alien in the orchestral work. That of course is a tribute to the artistry and tabla wizardry of Zakir and the fabulous orchestral sound, so beautifully played and conducted by Zane Dalal.

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Zakir Hussain and SOI

Ustad Zakir Hussain played in perfect unison with an orchestra of nearly sixty musicians, conducted by Zane Dalal. Photo courtesy of National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA).

It was an unforgettable aural and visual experience. It was also astounding to see that while the SOI musicians were reading the score as they played as of course also the conductor, Zakir was playing without any written score; he was also not looking at the conductor for timing or direction. Yet he was in impeccable unison with the orchestra. Pure genius!

Peshkar with the SOI and Ustad Zakir Hussain will be touring Switzerland next January for its international debut.

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