Zakir Hussain and Masters of Percussion Program

Masters of Percussion:

Zakir Hussain, Tabla
Anantha Krishnan, Mridangam
Marcus Gilmore, Drumset
Pezhham Akhavass, Tombak and Daf

Every other year since 1996, Zakir Hussain has served as curator, conductor and producer, bringing the very cream of Indian music to tour America and Europe with his series, Zakir Hussain and Masters of Percussion. Growing out of his renowned international tabla duet tours with his father, the legendary Ustad Allarakha, Masters of Percussion began as a platform for both popular and rarely heard rhythm traditions from India. While performing and collaborating in India for a few months every year, Zakir has sought and unearthed lesser known folk and classical traditions which feed into the greater stream of Indian music, playing an educational role in affording them greater visibility, as well as introducing them to audiences in the West. Over time, the constantly changing ensemble has expanded to include great drummers and percussionists from many world traditions, including jazz.

All of it creates a truly beautiful field from which he can bring Masters of Percussion to the West. The 2021 version will be no exception, presenting American audiences with extraordinary, exciting and spontaneous combinations of percussive as well as melodic performances.

Maestro Hussain comments, “MOP 2021 features master drummers from Uzbekistan, Iran, India and the USA.  Pezhham Akhavass is an acclaimed exponent of the tombek and the Iranian frame drum, daf. I represent the traditional rhythm repertoire of north India on tabla and Marcus Gilmore is the most talked about young jazz drummer of our time.”

“Indian, Uzbek and Iranian rhythm traditions have common routes; the technique and the repertoire of these three ancient traditions can be interchangeable. The above four genres could easily be recognized as cousins, with the salient unifying feature in all of them being improvisation. Every MOP tour performance is a casting off into the unknown, but 2021 is exceptional in that regard. We will be operating in new musical territories—every moment of every night.”

About the artists:

Zakir Hussain

The preeminent classical tabla virtuoso of our time, Zakir Hussain is appreciated both in the field of percussion and in the music world at large as an international phenomenon and one of the world’s most esteemed and influential musicians. The foremost disciple of his father, the legendary Ustad Allarakha, Zakir was a child prodigy who began his professional career at the age of twelve, accompanying India’s greatest classical musicians and dancers and touring internationally with great success by the age of eighteen. His brilliant accompaniment, solo performance and genre-defying collaborations, including his pioneering work to develop a dialogue between North and South Indian musicians, have elevated the status of his instrument both in India and globally. He has continued the work begun a generation earlier by his father and thereby brought the tabla into a new dimension of renown and appreciation.

Widely considered a chief architect of the contemporary world music movement, Zakir’s contribution has been unique, with many historic and groundbreaking collaborations, including Shakti, Remember Shakti, Masters of Percussion, Planet Drum and Global Drum Project with Mickey Hart, Tabla Beat Science, Sangam with Charles Lloyd and Eric Harland, CrossCurrents with DaveHolland and Chris Potter, in trio with Béla Fleck and Edgar Meyer, and in quartet with Herbie Hancock.

As a composer, he has scored music for numerous feature films, major events and productions. He has composed three concertos, and his third, the first ever concerto for tabla and orchestra, was premiered in India in September, 2015, by the Symphony Orchestra of India, premiered in Europe and the UK in 2016, and in the U.S. in April, 2017, by the National Symphony Orchestra at Kennedy Center. A Grammy award winner, Zakir is the recipient of countless awards and honors, including Padma Bhushan, Sangeet Natak Akademi Award, the USA’s National Heritage Fellowship and Officier in France’s Order of Arts andLetters. Voted “Best Percussionist” by both the Downbeat Critics’ Poll and Modern Drummer’s Reader’s Poll over several years including 2020, Zakir was honored in 2018 by the Montreal Jazz Festival with their Antonio Carlos Jobim Award. In 2019, Zakir was named a Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellow and receivedtwo honorary doctorates, one from Berklee College of Music and the other from Indira Kala Sangit University in Khairagarh, India.

As an educator, he conducts many workshops and lectures each year, has been in residence at Princeton University and Stanford University, and, in 2015, was appointed Regents Lecturer at UC-Berkeley. His yearly workshop in the San Francisco Bay Area, conducted for the past 30 years, has become a widely anticipated event for performers and serious students of tabla. He is the founder and president of Moment Records, an independent record label presenting rare live recordings of Indian classical music and world music. Zakir was resident artistic director at SFJazz from 2013 until 2016, and was honored with SF Jazz’sLifetime Achievement Award on January 18, 2017, in recognition of his “unparalleled contribution to the world of music.”

Anantha Krishnan

Anantha R. Krishnan is the grandson and disciple of mridangam (a double-ended “Carnatic” Southern Indian drum) maestro Vidwan Shri. Palghat R.Raghu. Anantha initially learned mridangam from his uncle, Shri. R. Ramkumar.  He also studies tabla with Ustad Zakir Hussain. He holds a Bachelor of Arts from Dartmouth College and a Master of Fine Arts from Mills College, California. He currently serves on the faculty of KM Music Conservatory in Chennai

Marcus Gilmore

Multi-Grammy Award winning drummer/composer Marcus Gilmore is one of the most gifted jazz prodigies on the scene today. The grandson of the master jazz drummer Roy Haynes, Marcus graduated from Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, and subsequently received full scholarships to both the Juilliard School and Manhattan School of Music. In addition, Marcus has embarked on studying and incorporating ideas and techniques from many folk rhythms of Africa and the diaspora, while cultivating an encyclopedic knowledge of the history of jazz, funk, gospel and soul drummers as well as the rhythmic sensibilities of contemporary producers in hip-hop and electronic music. He has been touring since he was sixteen, and has performed with a large selection of the best and best-known contemporary jazz players, including (the late) Chick Corea, Pharoah Sanders, Savion Glover, Pat Metheny, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Nicholas Payton, Steve Coleman, Vijay Iyer, Ambrose Akinmusire, Wadada Leo Smith, Cassandra Wilson, Bilal, Talib Kweli, Queen Latifah, Black Thought, Esperanza Spalding, and Roy Hargrove. He pursues solo projects with his bands Actions Speak and Silhouwav.

Among his honors was being introduced as one of the “25 for the Future” by DownBeat magazine in 2016. He won a Latin Grammy for his work with Chick Corea and was also featured on the cover of the June 2019 issue of Modern Drummer. In 2020, he performed his first orchestral composition, “Pulse,” with members of the Cape Town Philharmonic as part of the 2018 – 2019 Annual Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative for which Zakir Hussain was his mentor.

Besides his illustrious grandfather, he cites as major musical influences Tony Williams’s group Lifetime, Elvin Jones’ album Speak No Evil, and the work of free jazz drummer Milford Graves. Marcus’ playing is unique, a melodic language of fine shadings and gradations, eliciting optimal tone and vibrations from his instrument.

Pezhham Akhavass

Pezhham was born in Iran and began his percussion studies at the age of five with Ostad Naser Farhanghfar, and soon after with Saeid Roudbary. Pezhham developed a remarkable ability to grasp the technical aspects of the tombak and simultaneously bring a new approach to rhythm, and this unique gift has made him one of the most distinguished musicians of his generation. After earning a Bachelor’s degree in music from Sureh University in Tehran, he earned a second Bachelor’s and a Master’s from San Francisco State University. He has also studied tabla with Zakir Hussain.

From 2001 to 2007 he toured around the world with the renowned vocalist Shahram Nazeri, with shows ranging from Iran to Australia, the U.S. and Europe, including such prestigious music festivals as the Festival del Popolo in Italy, Théâtre de la Ville and Théâtre du Soleil in Paris, and the Fes Festival in Morocco. In 2008, he was a guest artist with Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble at the Hollywood Bowl. In 2010 he was the featured percussionist of the Masters of Persian Music Tour across the U.S., and in the years since he has continued touring and performing at major festivals, including the Pan Asian Music Festival. He is also the Global Music Director for Iran of the San Francisco World Music Festival. The pandemic brought him an invitation from the Stanford Livestream Project at the behest of Zakir Hussain to take part in the “The Stitches That Bind Us,” which united him with Zakir and Abbos Kosimov.