Zakir Hussain--a true master!

The whole evening was unexpected. I did not know I would be meeting Maestro Zakir Hussain and shake hands with him. The only thing I could think of saying at that moment was 'I was fortunate to hear your father in the sixties...' and before I could complete my sentence he said ' And still you came... ( to hear me!) ' with a smile. I had no quick response for that!

I did not tell him that I almost did not come. The program was titled 'Masters of Percussion'. I was not really sure about a program of this nature. I had heard him in India and was mesmerised by his exuberance and the sheer enjoyment he showed while accompanying on the tabla. I felt that it was better to keep my old memories intact.

The concert was held at the 'M' theatre. I suppose 'M' meant modest. We waited at the lobby tucked in between 'Starbucks' in the front and the car park at the rear! As we went up to the theater, the stairs reminded me of the fire escape. Probably it was so. I do not know about others, but we were directed to the auditorium from the rear!

As I entered the auditorium, I thought Ty will have a real challenge here optimising the sound system. Some of you will remember Ty Burhoe who was here last year with Shubendra Rao. A disciple of Zakir Hussain, he also works as an arranger backstage.

Soon the theatre lights dimmed and the magical evening began, surprisingly with our Ambassador Latha Reddy walking towards the audience as the spotlight picked her. It set the tone of the evening as she was there sans any formality and introduced the artists briefly and the program commenced. She was her usual charming self in spite of this lack of protocol. No wonder she is our favourite Ambassador and we all admire her a lot! (Moreover, she later reminded me that I had enough material for one more blog now! It is a nice feeling when one speaks about my blog!)

As we drove back home, Khalid expressed a sentiment we all felt, that this concert should have been held at the 'Thailand Cultural Centre'. While I agreed, I also felt that the artists had succeeded in overcoming all the deficiencies of the stage, the theatre and possibly the equipment and had given us a memorable evening of music and rhythm: full of innovation, exuberance and comradeship.

They transported us to a different world; they truly were the masters of their art. Their energy and obvious enjoyment they showed performing individually and together made it an unforgettable experience.

After the concert, we went behind the stage to meet Ty Burhoe and Nanda Sethi who is one of the organisers invited us to join the artists at an informal dinner at the theatre itself. It is nice that Tara, Viji and Gayathri are recognised for their contribution to music here in Bangkok. We were with the artists and the organisers for the dinner. I enjoyed speaking with Niladri Kumar the Sitar master and V. Selvaganesh the Kanjira master. The atmosphere of easy camaraderie which I noticed at the concert continued to be there and it was clear that it was not just put on for the benefit of the audience during the concert.

While it was obvious that they all revered Zakir Hussain and he was their leader, I had a feeling that they all felt equal at the same time. They were truly masters in their chosen medium, obvious by the way they performed at the concert. I wondered about this sense of equality that they seemed to enjoy, definitely unique among Indian artists where 'Respect' needs to be shown and is expected.

I think it is entirely due to the personality of Zakir. The way he spoke of Krishna mischievously with a sparkle in his eyes, explaining a piece he played at the concert, gave me the clue. I think he could be a reincarnation of Krishna! He was really the 'Gopala' amongst them. While they were his equals, you could see that they also respected him.

If you were at the concert you would have seen this in reality. There were many moments of brilliance from each of the performers as the concert continued to enthrall the audience time and again. They built on each others strength and seemed to climb on the shoulders of others, so to speak, to reach the peak reminiscent of the Dahi Handi during Janmashtami.

Sarangi master,Khalid, Niladri Kumar, Shivaganesh, Ambassador, Viji and Zakir
(Others not in the picture: Khete Khan master of Khartal, Navin Sharma master of Dholak,
Abbos Kosimov master of Doyra and Meiti Pung Cholom masters of Manipuri.)


Viji Khalid said…
Nidhi a very well written blog, pl forward to Latha also. viji
Sreela said…
Dear Tara and Nidhi
Felt great reading about Z H. I too had had the good fortune of listnening to his mesmerising performance here and having dinner with him, got his autograph. By the way I will be in B'kok after long from the 11th to 13th of Dec en route to India. Hope to meet you! Bye
Viji Murthy said…

It needs to be mentioned that you have been extremely prompt in giving us an update on all the current events and happenings. Honestly we feel lucky to be in your maillist. We do remember getting excited about shows when we read about them in posters and also remember how we used to patronise them in the past. Now before we realise the show is over and then your blog confirms yes it is over indeed. But once again glad that we get to read and see the live comments and the pictures.

Thank you and much appreciated.

Ram Prasad said…
Delighted to see the pictures.
Thanks for the blog

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