‘I was a very confused child’

NPR’s Morning Edition today featured one of the world’s greatest tabla players: Zakir Hussain.

The link is right here. The feature is part of a week-long look at “beats,” aka drummers. There’s a “listen now” feature but, as best as I can tell, the written story is the same as what you hear.

The story also includes the below YouTube video of Hussain and his father:

A quick excerpt, with a storyline that sounds familiar to Ashtanga:

Hussain was 7 when his father first approached him and asked if he was ready to learn the tabla for real. The lessons were to begin in the middle of the night.

“I was woken up at 2:30 in the morning, and that’s when we sat and talked rhythm,” he says. “And he told me about the history of our tradition and the great masters of the past, and what it all is — just kind of developing inside me the whole idea of existing in this world.”

Hussain says that nocturnal ritual would be repeated every night for four years, his demanding school schedule notwithstanding.

“It didn’t matter to me; I was so happy. To be in his presence was great,” he says. “From about 2:30 on, he talked to me, and then at 6:30 I would go to the local Islamic school, the madrassa, and learn to recite the Quran. When that was over, I’d go across the street into my school, which was a Catholic school, and we’d sing the hymns and then go to class.” He adds, “Doing all of that in the space of, like, five-and-a-half or six hours, I was a very confused child.”

Following his father’s lead, Hussain would get involved in world music and play with artists including George Harrison and the Grateful Dead. There’s a funny exchange recounting that experience.

Posted by Steve