Remembering the tabla maestro

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A tribute concert titled A Homage to Abbaji – Ustad Alla Rakha will be held on February 3.

One of the greatest tabla players of the century, Ustad Alla Rakha, fondly known as Abbaji, enthralled music lovers all over the world. The event, A Homage to Abbaji – Ustad Alla Rakha began right from his first death anniversary on February 3, 2001, as a tribute to him. The event, which is now in its 20th year, will see many renowned artists come together to remember the tabla maestro.

Born in 1919 in Jammu, Ustad Alla Rakha learnt tabla from Punjab Gharana guru Mian Qadar Baksh. He also learnt singing from Ustad Ashiq Ali Khan before moving to Mumbai to score music for Hindi films. He composed music for as many as 45 films from 1944 until 1968 using the screen name AR Qureshi. He left film music to focus on tabla and is credited with raising its status as a classical concert instrument and taking it to the global platform.

He was also part of the ensemble accompanying Pandit Ravi Shankar during George Harrison’s Concert held in New York City in 1971. The success of the live album and concert film from this event presented Indian classical music to a much wider audience.

Shedding light on the annual event, his son, and tabla maestro Zakir Hussain says, “Through these 20 years, we have had the good fortune of having some of the greatest luminaries of Indian music bless this occasion, along with masters representing many musical and rhythmic traditions from all across the globe.”

Singer Suresh Wadkar, who will be performing at the event, says, “A few years ago, I had the privilege to pay my tribute to Abbaji in the yearly concert organised by Zakir bhai. That memory will remain with me forever and I’ll always cherish it. I feel doubly blessed to be able to play along with the fascinating Zakir bhai.”

Drummer Gino Banks, who has grown up watching this annual tribute show, says, it is a huge honour and a privilege for him to collect these experiences. “I have had the pleasure to experience India’s greatest musicians along with the world’s best and have been in awe of it all. It has been a huge Inspiration in my musical life,” he shares.

Fazal Qureshi believes playing with Zakir Hussain is a challenge and a learning experience. “I am looking forward to it. It is going to be fitting tribute to Abbaji,” he says.

More Info

What: A Homage to Abbaji — Ustad Alla Rakha

Where: Sri Shanmukhananda Chandrasekarendra Saraswathi Auditorium, Sion (e)

When: February 3.