Having “Slumdog Millionaire” dominate the Academy Awards has been good for India — and for Indian music. But Zakir Hussain, the master tabla player and renowned World Music artist from Mumbai, cautions that there’s more to the sounds of his homeland than the contemporary styles highlighted in the film.
“ ‘Slumdog’ has kind of brought it to the fore,” says Hussain, 58, now a U.S. resident who’s logged memberships in the bands Shakti and the Grammy Award-winning Global Drum Project with the Grateful Dead’s Mickey Hart. “People are more aware of our music from a global point of view now. I guess it’s more acceptable now.
“But while all of this Bollywood and contemporary and remix kind of (music) is going on and getting all this attention, people are also playing traditional Indian classical music, which is a few thousand years old. So I’m hoping we’ll be able to keep the traditional art forms also visible and develop an audience for it.”
Hussain is doing his part. He’s touring with another Indian music master, santoorist Pandit Shivkumar Sharma. Hussain also will be honored with threeand-a-half weeks of retrospective performances in April at Carnegie Hall in New York City, and he’s finishing work on an album in Nashville with banjo virtuoso Bela Fleck and bassist Edgar Meyer that will include an original concerto the trio recorded in January with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.
A score for a film called “Real” and a new Global Drum Project album are also in the offing, and he maintains parttime teaching positions at Princeton and Stanford universities.
“There are invitations coming now to do all sorts of things,” Hussain notes. “It’s a busy time, but having (played) for 40-odd years, it’s only been in the last 15 or 17 years that it’s gotten really busy; before that it was OK, it just wasn’t as frantic.
“But these are exciting projects on line. These are things that keep that excitement towards what I do going, and at a high level. It’s certainly not boring at all.”
Zakir Hussain and Pandit Shivkumar Sharma perform at 7 p.m. Sunday (March 22) at Rackham Auditorium, 915 E. Washington St., Ann Arbor. Tickets are $20-$46. Call (734) 936-9658 or visit www.ums.org.