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Ustad Zakir Hussain, who performed in Delhi after a hiatus of three years, was at his best.
It's been ten days in India and I have already had four concerts all over. It's been tiring, still wonderful" said tabla maestro Ustad Zakir Hussain, 61, as he acknowledged us with an unexpected hug. The two-time Grammy winner's locks reverberate as he talks, while his fingers seem to be stroking an invisible tabla. For somebody who has been playing professionally for half a century, Hussain's enthusiasm is heartwarming.
Earlier in the day, the maestro regaled the Delhi audience after a hiatus of three years. Hussain's live concerts never have a set trajectory and that is exactly why they are a sublime experience. His concert at Siri Fort on Saturday, organised by National Centre of Performing Arts, was no different, as he entertained those present with his puckish virtuosity. Titled "Aadi Anant", it was not a typical solo gig, but had Hussain play with his father Ustad Allah Rakha's students — Aditya Kalyanpur and Navin Sharma. "Unlike vocal or instrumental music, there is a bit of a confusing situation with tabla because the primary function of a tabla player is to be an accompanist," said Hussain before he began the evening, which was divided into three sections. "Our first piece is a Chinese item called tuning," said Hussain. His friendly banter won him many fans. His music had them awestruck, which was evident with the thunderous applause at regular intervals.
The concert opened with Raag Yaman on sitar by Ravi Chari while Hussain accompanied him on rupak and teen taal. For Hussain, the dynamics of being on stage with his father's students were quite different. "I am the budhau of the group. So I call the shots," he said with an impish smile and went on to become this mischievous wizard, who took the first 40 minutes to a different level.