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Indian percussion virtuoso Zakir Hussain to perform in New Zealand

2:50 pm on 9 May 2024
Zakir Hussain is regarded as one of the best tabla (hand drums) players of his generation.

Zakir Hussain is regarded as one of the best tabla players of his generation. Photo: Supplied / Society for Performing Arts, NZ

Grammy winning percussion virtuoso Zakir Hussain is poised to dazzle New Zealand audiences with a collaborative tour next month.

Regarded as one of the best tabla (hand drum) players of his generation, Hussain will perform alongside acclaimed violinist Kala Ramnath and renowned Saraswati veena (an ancient string instrument) musician Jayanthi Kumaresh.

The trio will perform in Christchurch on 27 June and Auckland two days later.

Organised by charitable trust Society of Performing Arts, New Zealand (SPANZ) and performing arts trust Bhoomija, the Triveni tour will act as a conduit for the rhythm and melodies of the three artists to come together in the same place.

Triveni is the mythical site of the confluence of India's three sacred rivers - the Ganges, Yamuna and Saraswati.

Zakir Hussain

Hussain is the son of Ustad Alla Rakha, whom The New York Times described as "the most important tabla drummer of his generation".

Hussain rose to prominence at the age of 19 when he replaced his father to perform on stage with famed sitar player Pandit Ravi Shankar.

More than half a century later, Hussain is now considered to be one of the chief architects of contemporary world music on the planet.

He has previously collaborated with iconic musicians such as Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart, saxophonist Charles Llyod, drummer Eric Harland, double bassist Dave Holland, saxophonist Chris Potter, banjo player Bela Fleck and jazz star Herbie Hancock.

In recognition of his contributions to world music, Hussain has received a Padma Vibhushan, the second-highest civilian award in India, a National Heritage Fellowship in the United States and been named an officer in France's Order of Arts and Letters.

He became the first Indian musician to win three Grammys in the same year when he won gongs for the best global music album, best global music performance and best contemporary instrumental album at the 66th Grammy Awards in February 2024.

Zakir Hussain will perform alongside acclaimed violinist Kala Ramnath and renowned Saraswati veena (an ancient string instrument) musician Jayanthi Kumaresh.

Zakir Hussain will perform alongside acclaimed violinist Kala Ramnath and renowned Saraswati veena musician Jayanthi Kumaresh. Photo: Supplied / Society for Performing Arts, NZ

Kala Ramnath

Trained in Hindustani classical music and familiar with the Carnatic traditions of southern India, Ramnath has performed at world-renowned venues such as the Sydney Opera House, Théâtre de la Ville in Paris, Carnegie Hall in New York, the Rudolstadt Festival in Germany and the Edinburgh Music Festival in Scotland. She learnt her music from legendary Indian vocalist Pandit Jasraj.

Ramnath has collaborated with the London Symphony and London Philharmonic orchestras, as well as world musicians such as saxophonist George Brooks, bassist Kai Eckhart, drummer Terry Bozzio, percussionist Giovanni Hidalgo and Ray Manzarek of the Doors.

UK-based Songlines magazine has called Ramnath one of the 50 top instrumentalists in the world. She is the first Indian musician to be featured in violin bible The Strad.

Jayanthi Kumaresh

For more than 35 years, Kumaresh has taken one of the oldest classical musical instruments from India to all corners of the world. She plays the Saraswati veena, a popular string instrument in Carnatic classical music.

Kumaresh has performed at many international festivals, including the San Francisco Jazz Festival, Darbar Festival in London, Celtic Connections in Scotland, Queensland Music Festival, Darwin Music Festival, Adelaide Music Festival and BBC Proms in London's Albert Hall.

She has also performed at venues such as the United Nations in New York, the Palladium in Indiana and the Théâtre de la Ville in Paris.

One of her best-known works is 45 Ragas, a solo show on a single instrument that is performed live non-stop for 124 minutes.

Kumaresh is also founder of the Indian National Orchestra, which features 21 musicians from over the country.

Suruchi Vengurlekar, co-founder of SPANZ, says Triveni tour will give music lovers in New Zealand a chance to enjoy India's classical music traditions.

"We are ... breaking away from the norm of Auckland-centric events to include Christchurch, which takes centre stage as the first venue among the two cities to witness the brilliance of these maestros in unison," Vengurlekar says. "We hope the concert marks a pivotal moment in the city's cultural journey and emergence as a vibrant cultural hub."

Vengurlekar says the tour offers music fans a chance to learn more about India's classical music history.

"With a vision to showcase the beauty of this musical heritage, we aim to introduce Ustaad Zakir Hussain, a global ambassador of Indian classical music, to New Zealand audiences."

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