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Zakir Hussain and Masters of Percussion(Profile/Biography)

United States
With Rakesh Chaurasia, Bansuri Ganesh Rajagopalan, Violin Sridar Parthasarathy, Mridangam & Kanjira Navin Sharma, Dholak T.H.V. Umashankar, Ghatam

The preeminent classical tabla virtuoso of our time, Zakir Hussain delivers brilliant performances that have established him as a national treasure in his native India and easily one of the world’s most esteemed and influential musicians, renowned for his genre-defying collaborations. His playing is marked by uncanny intuition and masterful improvisational dexterity, founded in formidable knowledge and study. Masters of Percussion, an outgrowth of Hussain’s memorable tours with his father, the legendary Ustad Allarakha, has enjoyed successful tours in the West since 1996. Joining the 2011 tour will be Rakesh Chaurasia, bansuri (bamboo flute); Ganesh Rajagopalan, violin; Sridar Parthasarathy, mridangam and kanjira; Navin Sharma, dholoak and T.H.V. Umashankar, ghatam.

Zakir Hussain is today appreciated both in the field of percussion and in the music world at large as an international phenomenon. A classical tabla virtuoso of the highest order, his consistently brilliant and exciting performances have not only established him as a national treasure in his own country, India, but gained him worldwide fame. His playing is marked by uncanny intuition and masterful improvisational dexterity, founded in formidable knowledge and study. The favorite accompanist for many of India’s greatest classical musicians and dancers, he has not let his genius rest there. Widely considered a chief architect of the contemporary world music movement, Zakir’s contribution to world music has been unique, with many historic collaborations, including Shakti, which he founded with John McLaughlin and L. Shankar, Remember Shakti, the Diga Rhythm Band, Making Music, Planet Drum with Mickey Hart, Tabla Beat Science, Sangam with Charles Lloyd and Eric Harland and recordings and performances with artists as diverse as George Harrison, YoYo Ma, Joe Henderson, Van Morrison, Airto Moreira, Pharoah Sanders, Billy Cobham, Mark Morris, Rennie Harris, and the Kodo drummers. The foremost disciple of his father, the legendary Ustad Allarakha, Hussain was a child prodigy who began his professional career at the age of twelve and had toured internationally with great success by the age of eighteen. He has been the recipient of many awards, grants and honors, including Padma Bhushan (2002), Padma Shri (1988), the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award (1991), Kalidas Samman (2006), the 1999 National Heritage Fellowship Award, the Bay Area Isadora Duncan Award (1998-99) and Grammy Awards in 1991 and 2009 for Best World Music Album for Planet Drum and Global Drum Project, both collaborations with Mickey Hart. His music and extraordinary contribution to the music world were honored in April 2009, with four widely-heralded and sold-out concerts on Carnegie Hall’s Perspectives series. Also in 2009, Zakir was named a Member in the Order of Arts and Letters by France’s Ministry of Culture and Communication. Most recently, the National Symphony Orchestra with Christoph Eschenbach commissioned and premiered Zakir’s Concerto for Four Soloists at the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts, which was met with great acclaim.

Rakesh Chaurasia, nephew and child prodigy of flute maestro Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia is the most accomplished disciple of his uncle and shows all the promise to carry the Chaurasia legacy to new heights. Rakesh possesses the right balance of strength and serenity, very critical factors for an exceptional flautist. Rakesh has already globe trotted many times over, enthralling audiences at classical and semiclassical concerts in Japan, Australia, Europe, South Africa and USA. He is also an accomplished musician having recorded with most of the leading stalwarts of the Indian film industry.

Ganesh Rajagopalan, is the older of the two violinists from the renowned duo Ganesh-Kumaresh. Ganesh gave his first performance in 1972 when he was 7 years old. His impeccable technique and exquisite interpretations have placed him solidly on the map of Indian music. He and his brother Kumaresh are celebrated as the only violin duo to perform as main artists and not accompanists. Ganesh Rajagopalan has brought his creative prowess to the music scene through the albums ‘Colours of India’, ‘Aksharam’ and ‘Seasons’ amongst others. Deeply embedded in the Carnatic tradition, Ganesh marries his technique and background with various forms of music ranging from Hindustani to jazz, folk, blues and much more. He has collaborated with a large variety of instrumentalists and has worked with countless luminaries around the world, the foremost among them being Ustad Zakir Hussain.

Sridar Parthasarathy has been studying the mridangam since the age of six as a disciple of Vidwan Shri. Karaikudi R. Chandramouli. During his career, he has accompanied leading Carnatic musicians such as Smt. D. K. Pattammal, Shri. Madurai G. S. Mani, Dr. M. Balamurali Krishna and Shri Ranganatha Sharma and had taken part in jugalbandhis (jugal = dual, bandhi = performing), or the confluence of two artists performing classical music, accompanying such illustrious musicians as Shankar Mahadevan, Rattan Mohan Sharma, Sanjeev Abhyankar and Nandkishor Muley. He regularly performs with rhythm ensembles headed by Ghatam Vidwan Shri. T.H. “Vikku” Vinayakaram, Louiz Banks, Ranjit Barot, Fazal Qureshi, Taufiq Qureshi and Niladri Kumar and recorded and performed for the “Miles From India” album produced by Bob Beldon in 2008.

Navin Sharma was born in the Ulhasnagar district of Maharashtra in 1975 to a musical family and started studying the dholak at a very young age. His first guru was Shyam Rughuram Sharma, his father, and through these studies was introduced to other local musicians who were actively composing scores for Bollywood films. After realizing his desire to study more Indian Classical music, his father insisted he learn from tabla master Ustad Alla Rakha, with whom he studied for several years. Navin has performed with many master musicians over his career, including jazz, fusion, pop, rock, gazal and bhajan ensembles.

T.H.V. Umashankar is descended from a lineage of highly accomplished Carnatic (South Indian classical) percussionists. The grandson of Shri T.R. Hariharan Sharma and son of ghatam legend T.H. “Vikku” Vinayakram, he has distinguished himself as an accompanist to the esteemed Carnatic musicians of our time, including M.S. Subbulakshmi, Balamurali Krishna and U. Srinivas. He has also performed with great musicians in the Hindustani (North Indian classical) tradition, with Western jazz artists such as John McLaughlin and Jonas Hellborg, and as a regular session artist for Indian cinema music composers such as A.R. Rahman and Illayaraja.
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