BY JYOTHSNA HEGDE
Atlanta, GA, April 9, 2018: “Arre Huzur, Wah Ustaad Boliye!” The tagline from a popular tea commercial of the 1990s, slightly rephrased to fit the occasion, hardly suffices to describe the invigorating and inspired performances of tabla virtuoso, Zakir Hussain and flute prodigy Rakesh Chaurasia.
On March 17, 2018 Kennesaw State University’s (KSU) Bailey Performance Center, Morgan Hall reverberated with musical notes that transported the audience to a world of melody and beyond. The seamless, flawless and effortless chemistry of the junior and senior artist perfectly complimenting each other, be it music or expressions, only enriched the experience.
Presented as part of KSU’s Year of India, the event was a collaboration between the KSU School of Music and KSU’s Division of Global Affairs.
“It is a matter of pride and joy to me, after having played with his uncle, Hariprasad, to be sitting next to the young genius, Rakesh Chaurasia. My job today is to be his accompanist,” said the accomplished Hussain, who blended humor and humility in equal parts through the evening.
“This is a dual concert, but my primary job is to accompany him, to make sure whatever musical ideas he has, the emotional content he wishes to convey is put forward in as soulful a way as possible. Having said that, being the elder statesman, I can take some liberties, of course,” he added.
The enchanting ride began with the solo instrumental Alaap by Chaurasia playing the flute, and Hussain steadily transitioning into the music of tabla in the second portion, jod in Raag Kaunsi Kanada, Matt Taal. Having spoken only through his music all through the night, the very few times Chaurasia actually spoke was when he introduced the second piece.
“Raag Desh in videsh,” he smiled. The world musician and the worthy heir of the Chaurasia clan wrapped up with a scintillating Pahadi Dhun, leaving the audience yearning for more.
As a master of his craft and international cultural ambassador, Zakir Hussain has been recognized countless times throughout his career for distinct contributions in his field and beyond. Hussain’s awards and honors include the titles of Padma Bhushan (2002) and Padma Shri (1988) given to civilians of merit by the Indian government, the Indo-American Award (1990) in recognition of his outstanding cultural contribution to USA-India relations, the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award (1991) presented by the President of India and India’s government cultural institute, the United States’ National Heritage Fellowship (1999) given by the National Endowment for the Arts as the agency’s most prestigious honor for a master in the traditional arts, top honors for Best World Musician in Modern Drummer magazine (2007) and Drum! magazine’s Best Worldbeat Drummer (2007), the 2009 GRAMMY® Award in the Best Contemporary World Music category, among many others. On January 15, 2018, HarperCollins Indiareleased Zakir Hussain’s memoir, A Life in Music, by Nasreen Munni Kabir, the distinguished British television producer, director, and author.
Amongst the promising musicians of the second generation, Rakesh Chaurasia has carved a niche for himself as an accomplished flautist. Incorporating the tradition of his renowned uncle and infusing his personal style, he has evolved a style that maintains purity of the flute, irrespective of the genre he plays. His forte is blending his flute without losing its identity in mixed instruments’ concerts. He is also an accomplished studio musician having recorded with most of the leading stalwarts of the Indian film industry. Rakesh Chaurasia is the recipient of the Indian Music Academy Award, presented by the Honorable President Of India, Dr. A.P.J Abdul Kalam in 2007, the Aditya Birla Kalakiran Puraskar in 2008, the Guru Shishya Award in 2011, IWAP-Pandit Jasraj Sangeet Ratna Award in 2013 and the Pannalal Ghosh Puraskar 2013. Rakesh was invited to conclude the twenty-four-hour live BBC Radio broadcast celebrating Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth’s Silver Jubilee, reaching audiences worldwide. Rakesh’s most recent venture is his fusion band Rakesh and Friends(RAF) which creates music that appeals to the young without sacrificing the essence of classical music.
The 2017-2018 academic year at KSU, designated as Year of India serves to engage local and global communities through a series of new courses and curricula, research projects, education abroad programs, lectures, performances, and other global partnerships.
Masters of their art, both musicians demonstrated their art forms to the full, rendering rhythmic vibrations that stirred the soul. The players displayed much sensitivity, allowing time and space for each other’s notes and expressions and yet stunningly, they seemed to be blended into one at times.
It was a magical, ethereal and cerebral evening; one that will surely be etched forever in the listener’s memory.