Renowned Tabla virtuoso Zakir Hussain enthralled audiences at a special Kyoto Prize 2023 event at the University of Oxford this week, with a captivating performance and insightful lecture.
The hybrid event was held at the Holywell Music Room at the and attended by music lovers, scholars, and enthusiasts worldwide. Incidentally, Hussain has been recognised as the 2022 Kyoto Prize Laureate in Arts and Philosophy.
Hussain's lecture was engaging, giving a peek into his deep knowledge and passion for music. He shared personal anecdotes, stories from his life, and experiences that shaped his musical journey.
"Tabla is the language I speak," the maestro said.
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"We learn the music but don't present it verbatim, as it is written down or taught. But we try to absorb it and organise it in a way unique way. Each of our stories is individually spoken but collectively understood."
He briefly traced the history of the Tabla in and how it has become an essential part of the music. He also highlighted the need for musicians to improvise on what they learn and make the music their own.
"You take the music that you've been taught, and as you sit on the stage, spontaneously speak it as the inspiration comes to you. So, it's always fresh. It's always different. Yet, the root is always the same. I learnt from my father, , but I don't play like him," the maestro added.
Hussain imparted some valuable lessons during his performances which will surely inspire any budding tabla player. He spoke about the different styles and techniques, explained 'Kaayda', a part of the repertoire and demonstrated them beautifully. He also explained the 'rhythm cycle' and how tabla needs a melodic instrument to form a baseline or 'lehra' of the 'rhythm cycle'. Prominent Esraj player Kirpal Singh Panisar accompanied him perfectly as he concluded with an electrifying performance followed by some audience interactions.
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The event was part of Kyoto Prize 2023, an international award recognising outstanding achievements in , and the arts. The awards are held annually in November in Kyoto, Japan, and the laureates then travel to the UK this month for the event hosted by the Blavatnik School of Government at the University of Oxford.
The event showcased the rich cultural heritage of India and the beauty and complexity of Indian classical music. The thrilling experience of watching Hussain perform live was a remarkable celebration of music, culture, and diversity and a testament to the to unite people.