The Master of Tabla: Zakir Hussain

Zakir Hussain performing in the Song Around The World, “King Clavé”

The pre-eminent 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. 

The tabla is the percussion instrument most commonly used in north Indian classical music. The instrument consists of two drums, called bayan (left) and dayan (right) as per the hand they are most commonly played with. The drums consist of a layer of goatskin stretched over a metal or clay vessel.

Zakir Hussain is considered an architect of the contemporary world music movement, collaborating with artists such as Mickey Hart, Belá Fleck, Charles Lloyd, Eric Harland and many more contemporary artists.

As a composer and educator, Zakir has scored for numerous films, major events and productions around India, Europe and the United States. He has also conducted many workshops at Princeton University and Stanford University and received two honorary doctorates from Berklee College of Music and Indira Kala Sangit.

Zakir Hussain named Percussionist of the Year by the 68th DownBeat Critics Poll


What is Hindustani (North Indian) Classical Music?

Hindustani Classical Music, also known as North Indian Classical Music (NICM) is an Indian musical tradition born of the Vedic scriptures from over 6,000 years ago, these scriptures then developed into chants and musical notes, rhythms and variations.

This genre is usually associated with nature and the natural phenomena of seasons, which creates “ragas” or musical moods, and “taals” or cycles. The complexity of this genre is why most of the performances are improvised within the structure of notes and mathematics, creating a spontaneous melody and providing us with a unique moment in every performance.

Why does Indian music sound so different from western music? 

A raga or raag (: rāga; also raaga or ragam; literally “coloring, tingeing, dyeing”]) is a melodic framework for improvisation akin to a melodic mode in Indian classical music. The rāga is a unique and central feature of the classical Indian music tradition, and as a result has no direct translation to concepts in classical European music.[4][5] Each rāga is an array of melodic structures with musical motifs, considered in the Indian tradition to have the ability to “colour the mind” and affect the emotions of the audience.

Don’t miss the master of tabla, Zakir Hussain December 15th, 2021 at Peace Through Music: A Global Event For The Environment.


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Musicians Spotlight: Miryam Quiñones

Great talent comes from everywhere, that’s why we are happy to announce a new blog series featuring emerging artists around the globe! Musicians Spotlight gives deeper insight into the lives of some of the most outstanding musicians from around the world.

Discover how music can change lives and unite the world through the stories of these artists!

Miryam Quiñones

A tenacious promoter of contemporary Peruvian and Latin American music, Miryam Quiñones has visited more than 22 countries, sharing her music with a strong foundation on the beauty of poetry and the power of words.


How did you discover Playing For Change?

I remember someone posted a video on Facebook like 3 or 4 years ago, it was the year 2017 or 2018 where I participated in PFC Day and I wished to take part because I thought the idea of connecting the world through music sounded beautiful, the idea of celebrating a day where everyone around the world joined in some way through art, music or any other artistic expression, there is also the fact that by doing these activities we help a good and necessary cause, so I got thrilled with the idea.

The spirit that I’ve found on Playing For Change’s proposal is to join and create a universal chain between people and music from every country, color, and language.

How did your passion for music start?

Music has always been part of my home because there was a guitar laying on the corner of our living room that belonged to my father. He played it like a hobby so music became natural for us.

When I was a kid they told me my voice was pretty tuned but we never thought that music would become my way of life because my parents had different plans for me and my brothers, they thought about a more traditional way of living like getting a degree and working in a company or something like that.

Turns out that when I was about to finish high school I discovered Silvio Rodríguez’s songs when my brother was playing his song “Ojalá”. It was at that moment that his music got me hooked! I say it as a joke but it’s true that he got me into the way of creating art with music because that was like a wake-up call for me, it was a new discovery and something so different from what I used to listen to on the radio, or the disks that my brothers used to play, it was like poetry that you could sing and the message was deep and full of reflection, it was like a special type of chant.

After that I went to college to study communications and for my good luck, there was a workshop group for Latin American music where I discovered a lot of singer songwriters that I didn’t know existed. It started as a hobby but soon started to become more necessary for me because I was a really shy girl and I realized that the songs helped me to express myself, they told stories I wanted to share with others but couldn’t express and I felt like that person who lived in another place, in another time, thinks the same way I do, that’s why I started to sing those songs.

It was kind of complicated because of my family’s expectations, they didn’t want me to be an artist but we managed to make a deal where my parents told me to finish my studies, and only then I could make my way through music. I guess they thought it was just a phase but it never passed, so I got my bachelor’s degree as they wanted and I started to dedicate myself to music, beginning a new life, a new career, and new places.


What instruments do you play and which one’s your favorite?

I play the guitar. I’m not an expert guitar player because I think singing is what I’m very good at but I can sing and play without trouble and I can do a full concert by myself, however, I do prefer to sing with more musicians. I also play a few percussion instruments like “cajón Peruano” or the ukulele which I just started playing.


As a musician, what do you think is the most challenging thing about writing and composing a song?

To be an artist (no matter where you are) it’s already complicated, of course, it’s more complicated in some places than in others. Being a “trovador” it’s a lot more challenging because this proposal is not commercial at all, you don’t just reach a lot of people and fill stadiums like Silvio Rodriguez, we move on a smaller circle with fewer people and some of us don’t have the resources to hire someone so we have to do it ourselves. I do that job myself and the career I picked really helped with spreading my work. Sometimes I have to go out looking fresh and rested but something comes up right before I get on stage and I have to take care of that myself.

There’s also a lot of new artists around the world that we haven’t heard of because they haven’t been able to become that popular amongst people, sometimes the public asks me who the author of the song is and I’m happy to share that because it helps to spread the work of my colleagues, that’s why I thought “Musicians Spotlight” was an amazing idea because it helps musicians spread their music around the world and reach more people.

What’s the best experience you’ve had playing on stage?

Definitely one of the best experiences I’ve had was when Silvio Rodriguez invited me to perform at his concert in Lima, Peru. He hasn’t been to Peru in more than 20 years and when my friends and I found out he was going to perform again we immediately got tickets, then suddenly I got an email where he invited me to take part in his concert so of course I accepted! That is what marked my career because at that moment I thought: ”I think I’m heading the right way, this is for me.”

Later I’ve had other amazing guests like Vicente Feliú, we recorded a very special album called Con El Alma en Vilo along with other guests: Jorge Fandermole, Alberto Rojo, Augusto Blanca, and Teresa Parodi. I also have a very emblematic single with Silvio Rodriguez called “El Necio” and of course all of this is very hard work but I feel the reward is worth it in the end.


Do you consider music as a way to connect people? How so?

The magic within this type of music and proposals is that it transcends time and space, it’s a very human feeling and it doesn’t matter whether the song has been composed 50 years ago at the time of Cuban revolution or yesterday, it’s emotion that touches the roots of a person’s life no matter where they are, it helps us understand that each of us has problems, happiness, dreams, hopes and illusions, we fall in and out of love and is that kind of connection that helps people, that is the reason why this music is so powerful, because of the beauty of the message itself. A friend of mine used to say that the ethic and aesthetics of a song have to come together to form a beautiful song and offer sincerity in its words, so you can believe what the artist is saying.

Tell us about your future projects:

I am planning to collaborate with some Peruvian singer songwriters to perform a few local songs, fortunately, I’ve been granted the Bicentennial Seal which is an initiative to support projects that promote Peruvian Independence as a historic event, so recently I made a tribute to the Peruvian Song in the “Museo de América” here in Madrid. I also won the Ibermusicas 2020 contest which led me to make a tour around Argentina.  I’m also currently working on musicalized poetry and recently offered two virtual concerts in the Gran Teatro Nacional (in tribute to Chabuca Granda) and the Británico Cultural (contemporary Peruvian songbook).


Want to listen to more of Miryam’s work? Check out her social media:

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Stay tuned for more artists soon and check out our Songs Around The World, featuring even more talented musicians!