Tag Archives: Drums

Zakir Hussain on Tabla (Image courtesy of IMG Artists)

Masters of Percussion: An Exclusive Chat With Ustad Zakir Hussain

Washington Performing Arts alternative to in-person programming series is premiering this Friday, April 30 at 8 p.m. ET, streaming through Thursday, May 6, with the indisputable tabla maestro, Zakir Hussain

Longtime Washington Performing Arts audience favorite Zakir Hussain is the “indisputable tabla maestro”: an artist who has not only taken his instrument to its limits within its original discipline, Indian classical music, but who has vastly expanded the presence of both his instrument and musical heritage within other genres—including jazz, rock, and Irish and American folk music.

Leading the newest edition of his long-running, biannual “Masters of Percussion” ensemble, Hussain is joined by fellow drum virtuosos representing multiple cultures, traditions, and instruments: Iranian-born percussionist Pezhham Akhavass, performing on tombak and daf; Multi-Grammy-winning American jazz drummer Marcus Gilmore; and Anantha Krishnan, a percussionist raised in America and residing in India, on mridangam. In a pre-recorded, offsite guest appearance, the percussionists are also joined by Indian musician Sabir Khan, a master of the sarangi, a traditional stringed instrument. You can watch this incredible performance from the comfort of your home for $25.

In an exclusive chat with India Currents magazine, the legend, Zakir Hussain tells us more:

How different is your experience as a percussion artist in a virtual Livestream show without the live audience? 

ZH: I do miss plugging into the audience’s reaction as an inspiration source. It would be true for all musicians. However, not having the audience in person challenges me to focus more on detail and on the musical statement I want to make. The responsibility is squarely on my shoulders and the message is mine alone. This requires a different mindset which, of course, is the most challenging hurdle to get over.

Your performance was originally titled  “The Story of the Tabla” and has now evolved to “Masters of Percussion”. Can you tell us more about the origin story of your production?

ZH: Originally, “The story of Tabla” was a much bigger production involving many more artists. What we are presenting here is only one aspect of Tabla’s story. Tabla is one of the youngest classical Indian instruments, but it has already made significant strides as a world instrument. This particular show focuses on how the Tabla repertoire influenced other drumming traditions and how certain drumming countries appear to have similar techniques on their drums. For example, the mridangam is adopting Tabla compositions and transposing the hand technique effortlessly. The Jazz drum and the Iranian Tombak or Daf do something similar as well. It is an interesting coincidence when the Indian bowed instrument sarangi enters the fray and how all the drums on stage easily lock in with the folk melodies of Rajsthan. Honestly, there are no borders.  

Tabla is an instrument going through an evolution. What do you think is the most significant trend in the upcoming decade for Tabla? 

ZH: As time marches on, Tabla still being a young entrant has the flexibility to expand its panorama. The technique applied on Tabla allows for it to be a part of any musical conversation: Jazz, Rap, Hip hop, Folk, Electronica, Classical, or any other form of music expression yet to be discovered. There are miles to go…


Piyali Biswas De is an accomplished Bharatnatyam and Non-classical dance exponent, guru, and well-known choreographer in the Greater Seattle region. When she is not dancing, Piyali works as an IT professional in Seattle and spends time with two beautiful daughters who seem eager to follow in her footsteps. 


 

Sunny Jain’s Quarantet Inspired By Punjabi History

Performing artists have been hard hit during the pandemic. With nowhere to go and no space to perform at, Sunny Jain, Red Baraat‘s founder, drummer, and composer has turned to the social distanced visual medium for expression. He began the Quarantet series engaging with different emotions and movements occurring in our current timeline.

His second video in the series, Heroes, was released on Breonna Taylor’s birthday and addressed the Black Lives Movement. Fusing his music with a moment, singer John Pfumojena bellows in the language, Shona, “There are rebels and mighty people out there.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AgqD7DEE6Fs&ab_channel=SUNNYJAIN%2FREDBARAAT

When the Supreme Court ruled in favor of LBGTQ anti-discrimination legislation, Sunny Jain, Brinda Guha, Rajna Swaminathan, Chris Eddleton, and Harris Ansari came together to create the video, Rhythm and Pride – an expression of joy in a dismal time.

August 14th-15th marked the anniversary of the partition and independence of India and Pakistan. The state of Punjab was split up by the British upon exiting the subcontinent. This caused the largest mass migration in world history, something Jain’s parents went through themselves.

Sunny comments, “Punjabi people and really the entire subcontinent have so much shared culture that’s often pushed aside for political and/or religious reasons. It’s a shame, but I’m thankful the many people I know of the South Asian diaspora feel more as one, than not.”

Rhodes to Punjab was released in celebration of the ancestors, people, and culture of Punjab on the 73rd anniversary of India and Pakistan’s independence. Raaginder‘s violin croons as images of Punjab in 1947 splash across the screen and we are transported to another time.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U0IH3MrdXKY&ab_channel=SUNNYJAIN%2FREDBARAAT

In his most recent video, Family, Jain’s young twin daughters sing Hai Apna Dil To Awara from the 1958 Bollywood film, Solva Saal. He remembers his father jamming out to it when he was a child.

“My twins heard it for the first time last year as I was working on my Wild Wild East album. They fell in love with Ganavya’s voice, who recorded a version of it. Family, chosen and/or blood, is everything, and maybe some of us are lucky enough to have people that are with us through the many phases of life. We hope you all are finding love and support with your family during these times,” Jain notes.

Music has the ability to unify, evoke, support and Sunny Jain capitalized on that. The Quarantet series is innovative and finds ways to connect with diverse voices, giving sounds to emotions felt during the pandemic. Find the entire series here!


Srishti Prabha is the Assistant Editor at India Currents and has worked in low income/affordable housing as an advocate for children, women, and people of color. She is passionate about diversifying spaces, preserving culture, and removing barriers to equity.

Ashwin Chandra Debut Mridangam Concert

I am Ashwin Chandra, a rising sophomore at Dougherty Valley High School in San Ramon, California. Welcome to my debut mridangam concert on August 10th. I will be accompanying Sangita Kalanidhi Dr. M. Chandrasekaran and Mrs. G Bharathi on South Indian classical violin duet music. Dr. M. Chandrasekaran is a famous octogenarian violinist from India and has received many awards including the Sangita Kalanidhi from the Madras Music Academy and the Sangeet Natak Akademi award from the President of India. The violin duet will be accompanied by Vidwan S.V. Ramani on Ghatam. 

I have been learning mridangam for the past 5 years from Laya Kala Ratna Sri. Ramesh Srinivasan, a leading disciple of mridangam maestro Sangita Kalanidhi Sri. Vellore G. Ramabhadran, During one of the classes, my guru shared information about mridangam maestro Yella Venkateswara Rao, a researcher in Music Therapy. As a researcher, he has set up ‘Mridangam Therapy’ programs tailored to suit the development of mentally handicapped children at Thakur Hariprasad Institute for the Mentally Handicapped, a non governmental organization for mentally handicapped children. That experience kindled my interest to use music as a means to help the differently-abled become more abled. 

That’s when I found out about Pragnya (https://www.pragnya.org), a non-profit organization that creates real world experiences for the neurodiverse (differently-abled) community to acclimatize to the neurotypical (abled) community. Along with other students from my mridangam school, Sarvalaghu Percussion Art Center, I have started to volunteer at Pragna on a weekly basis, and  we introduce “Num” therapy for the children there. 

It is my honor and privilege to dedicate my debut concert to create awareness and to raise funds for Pragnya, an organization that promotes acceptance by the mainstream community of individuals who are on the autism spectrum. I am also proud of the efforts taken by our mridangam school in making a difference in this arena.

Concert details:

Date/time: August 10th 2019, 2:30 p.m. onwards, followed by dinner

Venue: Lakireddy auditorium, Shiva Vishnu Temple, 1232 Arrowhead Ave., Livermore, CA 94551