Born in Mumbai to the legendary tabla player Ustad Alla Rakha, Zakir Hussain, the Indian tabla maestro has dabbled successfully in musical production, film acting and musical composition. His younger siblings, Taufiq Qureshi, Fazal Qureshi and Maral Qureshi are all noted percussionists. Hussain was a child prodigy and began touring by age twelve. The youngest percussionist winner of the Padma Shri in 1988 and Padma Bhushan in 2002.
As a young lad, Hussain flew to America to substitute for his father in a Pandit Ravi Shankar ensemble in 1969. After the tour, he was approached for a faculty position at the Ethnomusicology Department at the University of Washington. There Hussain started performing with a guest lecturer at the college - the Afghan rubab master Ustad Mohammad Omar. His first major recording session was on the 1973 George Harrison’s album “Living In The Material World”. He soon resigned from his teaching post and joined Ali Akbar Khan’s music school AACM where he would commence his working relationship with the guitar virtuoso John Mclaughlin. They would collaborate on path breaking projects for the years to come, most notably the Indo-Jazz world fusion band “Shakti”. Hussain released his solo production album “Making Music” in 1986 featuring Hariprasad Chaurasia. In 1992, Hussain founded Moment Records, specialising in hi-definition recordings of contemporary world music as well as great masters of the classical music of India live in concert. When Moment Records released “Golden Strings of the Sarode” in 2006, with Aashish Khan and Zakir Hussain, the album was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Traditional World Music Album category for that year.
Zakir Hussain starred and composed music for the Merchant Ivory film “Heat and Dust” in 1983. Another film he composed, performed and acted as an Indian music advisor for was the Malayalam film Vanaprastham (1999) which won many accolades including the Indian National Film Award. He has worked with Ismail Merchant on the soundtrack for movies like “In Custody” and “The Mystic Massuer”. In 1979 he collaborated with Mickey Hart of The Grateful Dead on the soundtrack of the Francis Coppola movie “Apocalypse Now”. With Bernardo Bertulucci he worked on “Little Buddha” (1994), with Aparna Sen he worked on her 2002 film “Mr. and Mrs. Iyer” where he sang some of the songs, and with Vijay Singh in 2003 on the soundtrack of “One Dollar Curry”.
In 1990 he was awarded the Indo-American Award for outstanding cultural contribution to the US-India relationship. Sangeet Natak Akademi honoured him in 1991 making him one of the youngest musicians to receive this recognition from India’s premier cultural institute. The readers’ poll of the Modern Drummer and Drum! Magazines in 2007 named him as the Best World Music and Best World Beat Drummer respectively. At the 51st Grammy Awards in February 2009, Zakir Hussain won the Grammy in the Contemporary World Music Album category for his album “Global Drum Project” in collaboration with Mickey Hart, Sikiru Adepoju & Giovanni Hidalgo. This was his second win at the Grammy’s after his collaborative 1992 album “Planet Drum” won the first-ever Grammy for Best World Music Album.
Zakir Hussain married his manager, Antonia Minnecola, also a Kathak dancer and teacher. He has two daughters, Anisa Qureshi and Isabella Qureshi. He is a visiting professor at Stanford University and he was named Old Dominion Fellow by the Humanities Council at Princeton University.