Tabla Maestro Zakir Hussain to receive honorary doctorate from Berklee College of Music

Zakir Hussain (Photo: Jim McGuire)

Berklee College of Music will present an honorary doctorate to world-renowned tabla virtuoso Zakir Hussain at a historic concert celebrating his life and music. The concert will be held on Friday, Nov. 22, at 7:30 p.m., at Harvard Business School’s Klarman Hall in Allston, Massachusetts. The Grammy Award-winning artist is being honored for his contribution to global musical culture.

 John McLaughlin, guitarist, composer and a long-time friend of Hussain will participate in bestowing the honorary doctorate to the tabla maestro. Hussain’s visit to the college is part of a five-day residency beginning Nov. 18, in which the legendary musician will present a master class and record a music video with the Berklee Indian Ensemble.

 “This is my first doctorate and I think you have to get to a certain age where you qualify for something like this, your ‘retiring age’,” said Hussain. It isn’t possible for me to even consider that I’m deserving of this honor, the reason being because we are born being students and we will die being the same. There isn’t any point in trying to be a master, there’s never an end, you can never reach your goal. You’re always trying to take another step forward and for me to reach a point where I deserve accolades of the highest honor is not something I’m highly convinced of.”

 The evening’s concert, produced by the Berklee India Exchange—a Berklee Institute launched in 2013 to establish a platform for cultural conversation about Indian music through artist residencies, musical collaborations, and performances—will feature Hussain as well as an international cast of students and faculty performing reinterpretations of his compositions and original tributes.

 “Ustad Zakir Hussain is a living legend and witnessing him receive an honorary doctorate from Berklee is a dream come true. He is a trailblazer who has made Indian classical music "cool",” says Clint Valladares, managing director, Berklee India Exchange. “Mr. Hussain's fearless, innovative approach to diverse musical styles will inspire young musicians for generations to come.”

 Under the tutelage of his father and teacher, Ustad Allarakha, Hussain was inclined towards tabla from a very young age. He began touring by the age of 12, and together, he and his father elevated the status of the Indian percussion instrument across the globe.

 Widely considered a chief architect of the contemporary world music movement, Hussain’s contribution has been unique both as a performer and composer, with almost 150 albums to his credit and numerous collaborations with artists such as George Harrison, Yo Yo Ma, Chick Corea, Van Morrison, and Béla Fleck, as well as choreographers Mark Morris and Rennie Harris.

 A frequent collaborator with English guitarist John McLaughlin, the two, along with Indian violin player L. Shankarand Indian percussionist T.H. “Vikku” Vinayakram, founded Shakti in 1974, an acoustic fusion band which combined Indian music with elements of jazz. Hussain’s most recent projects include a trio album with bassist Dave Holland and saxophonist Chris Potter, Good Hope, released on October 11, and a guest feature on McLaughlin’s upcoming sixth album, Is That So?, with Shankar Mahadevan, one of India’s most prolific vocalists and composers.

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