Zakir Hussain's first Sydney concert a sell-out success

Sydney, Nov 10 (IANS) Tabla virtuoso Zakir Hussain dazzled Sydneysiders by demonstrating his ability to fuse orchestration, virtuosity and showmanship into a seamless outpouring of music.

The tabla maestro's first-ever concert at the Sydney Opera House Sunday was a sell-out success, featuring the traditional repertoire on tabla in solo and duet, as well as collaborations exploring the frontier between traditional and contemporary, folk and classical.

Sydney's iconic Opera House concert hall was packed as the 2,500 audience, comprising the growing Indian diaspora and Australian fans of Indian classical warmed to the beats of tabla and other accompaniments.

The ensemble comprised some of the leading masters of percussion: V. Selvaganesh (Carnatic percussion), Bhawani Shankar (pakhawaj), Niladri Kumar (sitar), Abbos Kosimov (doyra), Khete Khan (khartal), Dilshad Khan (sarangi), and Meitei Pung Cholom Performing Troupe (dancing drummers of Manipur).

Listening to a performance by Zakir Hussain requires vigilance and alertness of the highest order - otherwise you risk being transported into a time warp spiral by the relentless rhythms.

The evening featured electrifying improvisations on the sitar by Niladri Kumar, including riffs from 'Smoke on the water' segued into dhuns from the film Anarkali in an unbelievable stream.

Throughout the evening, anchoring the leaps of creativity, were the pervasive rhythms effortlessly created by the reticent maestro on the tabla and miscellaneous instruments.

One of the most memorable renditions was his abstraction of the primordial sound of Shiva's dumroo (drum) and a magical recreation of the blowing of conch shells played on the tabla!

This was a percussion ensemble that transcended stylistic and regional borders - classical Indian Manipuri Pung Cholam merged with the Uzbek Doyra, bridging eras and distance on stage.

The carefully selected repertoire offered musical excursions into the melodic (raga) and rhythmic (tala) forms alongside the dazzling and athletic prowess of the dancing drummers of Manipur.

At every rendition the applause grew louder with the finale bringing the audience on their feet, clapping long after the sounds of the drum had faded into a picture-perfect summer night.

Unfortunately, bad acoustics and poor stage lighting compromised what was otherwise an electrifying performance, distracting the audience from flowing into the mood of the rhthmic melody.

Globally revered as a tabla virtuoso of the highest standard, Zakir Hussain's contribution to both classical Indian music and cross-cultural music is unrivalled, having collaborated with luminaries from Ravi Shankar to John McLaughlin, and internationally recognised with a Grammy Award in 1992.

In his only other performance in Australia, Zakir Hussain had performed in the western city of Perth on Nov 7.

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