The Indian Express: Why Zakir Hussain couldn’t collect his Grammy for Shakti: ‘I wasn’t expecting it at all’

Tabla maestro Zakir Hussain, who is celebrating winning three Grammys at its 66th edition, explains why he was missing from the stage when his band Shakti was being awarded, talks about the significance of the honour for the band.

Renowned tabla player Zakir Hussain had a remarkable night at the 66th Grammys as he became the first Indian artist ever to win three hallowed gramophones in a single night — Best Global Music Album (The Moment by Shakti), Best Global Music Performance (Pashto), Best Contemporary Instrumental Album (As We Speak). While speaking to Rolling Stone India, he explained why he couldn’t be on stage to receive the award for Shakti despite being present at the ceremony.

The Padma Vibhushan awardee, who admits that he wasn’t expecting the honour, recalled, “The award for Pashto was announced first. I wasn’t expecting it at all, and since I hadn’t prepared a thank-you speech, I ended up mumbling something randomly. Bela (Fleck) couldn’t attend the ceremony, and as per the procedure, Edgar (Meyer), Rakesh (Chaurasia), and I went backstage to give bytes to the media. While that was happening, the Shakti award was announced, and I was clueless.” He added that the younger generation of Shakti musicians receiving the honour, perhaps, was the best thing. “It was only befitting that the younger generation of Shakti musicians — vocalist Shankar Mahadevan, violinist Ganesh Rajagopalan, and kanjira player V. Selvaganesh — collected the award,” he said.

Shakti comprises Zakir, British guitarist John McLaughlin, kanjira player V Selvaganesh, violinist Ganesh Rajagopalan, and vocalist Shankar Mahadevan. The Indo-jazz fusion group was co-founded by McLaughlin and Zakir in 1973. 

He then went on to score two more Grammys for the album As We Speak — Best Global Music Performance for the song Pashto and Best Contemporary Instrumental Album — which he collaborated on with other musicians. Pashto was created in collaboration with flautist Rakesh (nephew of Pt Hariprasad Chaurasia), American banjo virtuoso Béla, and noted composer and bassist Edgar.

The hat-trick at the Grammys comes at an important juncture in the maestro’s musical career, especially the award for Shakti. After completing a monumental 50th-anniversary tour across India, the US, and Europe, the legendary band Shakti was recognised with the award. According to Zakir, this win feels particularly significant, as it coincides with the release of Shakti’s first studio album in 46 years. When the group released their albums A Handful of Beauty and Natural Elements back in the ‘70s, the category of ‘world music’ didn’t even exist. “When we came back in the 1990s as Remember Shakti, we focused on live performances. The new Shakti album just happened when all of us were in different places during the pandemic and wanted to create something new. There has been a huge change in the content, with more vocals now,” he added.

Read the full article in The Indian Express.