Internationally renowned percussionist Zakir Hussain returns with “Celtic Connections”: March 21

Photo by Susana Millman
Photo by Susana Millman

THE Chan Centre for the Performing Arts at the University of British Columbia (UBC) is bringing back Indian tabla maestro Zakir Hussain, on Saturday, March 21 at 8 p.m. in the Chan Shun Concert Hall. Known the world over for his masterful talent on percussion and esteemed intercultural collaborations, Hussain has long been fascinated by the connection of his native country’s music to the music revered by the Celtic nations. Celtic Connections will bring together an all-star ensemble to perform works inspired by both the Celtic and Indian traditions.

Highlighting the distinctive percussive sounds of regions worlds apart, Hussain’s skillful prowess on tabla – two small hand drums, the left larger “Bayan” and the right smaller “Dahina”- is artfully accompanied by Ireland’s famed John Joe Kelly on bodhrán, a shallow one-sided Irish drum played with a short wooden stick. The ensemble boasts an array of other musicians accomplished in their own right, including: fiddle player Charlie McKerron of Scotland’s Capercaillie fame; award-winning bansuri (Indian bamboo flute) player Rakesh Chaurasia; one of Scotland’s most distinctive pipers Fraser Fifield; Dublin-based guitarist Tony Byrne; highly sought after Scottish fiddle player Patsy Reid; distinguished Indian violinist Ganesh Rajagopalan; and French flautist Jean-Michel Veillon, renowned for his part in introducing wooden flute into the folk music of Breton.

Hussain, one of the most highly-respected architects of world music fusion, first experimented with fusing Celtic and Indian music together in 2011 as the result of a commission he received for Glasgow’s annual Celtic music festival while in residency with the Scotland Council of the Arts. For this commission he assembled various musicians to create a 90-minute show and received such a strong response that he was requested by the UK Council of the Arts to play at the London 2012 pre-Olympic performances. Since then, the group has successfully toured throughout the USA and India, and now embarks to bring this rich collaboration to audiences in Canada.

“Celtic music has a beautiful spirituality to it that resonates very strongly with audiences, and Hussain has an impressive ability to seamlessly blend together Indian sounds conveyed through the tabla’s deep and methodical beats with many different styles,” said Joyce Hinton, Co-Managing Director of the Chan Centre. “We last welcomed Hussain to our stage in 2012 and are thrilled to have him once again join us to demonstrate his fearless, innovative spirit that truly knows no bounds.”

Hussain is hailed a “national treasure” in his home country and his contribution to world music is nothing short of staggering. With a career that began at the age of 12, Hussain has collected countless honours and accolades, among them multiple Grammy Awards and the prestigious honour of the US National Heritage Fellowship. In 2012, he was named Best Percussionist in the Downbeat Critics’ Poll. Considered one of the greatest musicians of our time, Hussain regularly collaborates with world-class artists as diverse as YoYo Ma, Bela Fleck and George Harrison. Some of his most historical collaborations include 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, and Sangam with Charles Lloyd and Eric Harland.

The percussive genius, whose blurring nimble fingers rival “the beat of a hummingbird’s wings” according to the New York Times, has performed sold-out concerts at Carnegie Hall, Kennedy Center, with the Nashville and Detroit Symphony Orchestras, and has scored music for numerous films, productions and special events such as the 1996 Summer Olympics. His most recent composition – a concerto for tabla – will premiere in Mumbai this fall with the Symphony Orchestra of India.