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Taufiq Qureshi, Niladri Kumar talk about performing with Ustad Zakir Hussain

(From left) Taufiq Qureshi, Ustad Zakir Hussain, and Niladri Kumar will showcase different patterns of beats with melodies at a concert on Sunday
(From left) Taufiq Qureshi, Ustad Zakir Hussain, and Niladri Kumar will showcase different patterns of beats with melodies at a concert on Sunday

“I don’t have any idea about what we are going to play at the concert. When you are playing with Zakir bhai, anything can happen,” says Taufiq Qureshi, noted percussionist and younger brother of tabla maestro, Ustad Zakir Hussain. The brothers, along with sitar genius Niladri Kumar and a host of musicians from different styles, are uniting for a classical fusion concert this weekend.

Ustad Zakir Hussain and Taufiq Qureshi at a soundcheck
Ustad Zakir Hussain and Taufiq Qureshi at a soundcheck

“Each time I step on stage with him, I feel he brings his standards down to my level of playing to maintain a balance. When people start comparing and calling us equals, this is what I tell them. If he had to play at his best, we would be nowhere. There would be a huge gap,” reveals Qureshi, 55, who is 11 years younger than the legend.

Qureshi started his career playing the tabla but later, shifted gears to the drums, djembe and other percussion instruments. He has played for many popular Hindi films like Mission Kashmir (2000) and Asoka (2001). “Though I have been playing with him for over three decades, I still feel nervous. But he keeps saying that if I am tense, that’s a good sign for I will be alert and not be prone to errors. I also know that even if there is a mistake, he will cover it up,” he adds.

Qureshi recalled an incident from his younger days, and pointed how Hussain had instilled confidence in him at a full house concert in Germany in the ’80s. “My father [Ustad Alla Rakha] and Zakir bhai used to open the concerts those days and I would join them in between. But one fine day, he called me on stage and asked me to start the show. It also confused my father and they exchanged glances. But, I was encouraged to play. When I stopped, there was a loud applause, which boosted my confidence; that day, I realised that I can survive on my own.”

Kumar, legendary sitar player Kartik Kumar’s son and the inventor of Zitar (electronic sitar) feels Hussain’s genius lies in his ability to handle musicians from different genres and sounds on one stage. “At the concert, there will be six other terrific musicians on stage, apart from the three of us. I have not heard any other musician in the filament of Indian classical music, who is able to co-ordinate with this kind of variety of sound. This format is not new to him. He has been touring the world with all kinds of musicians,” says Kumar, who first shared stage with Hussain at Jai Hind College in 2005. “I was nervous but he, being a humorous and witty person, made me feel comfortable and at ease.”

The concert will also feature Anantha R Krishnan (mridangam), Ustad Sabir Khan (sarangi), Navin Sharma (dholak), Vijay Chavan (dholki), MR Vasudevan (Thavil) and Darshan Doshi (drums).

On: July 16, 6 pm
At: Shanmukhananda Hall, behind Gandhi Market, Comrade Harbanslal Marg, Sion
Call: 24078888
Cost: Rs 250 onwards

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Taufiq Qureshi, Niladri Kumar talk about performing with Ustad Zakir Hussain