SFJAZZ honors Zakir Hussain with Lifetime Achievement Award

Mickey Hart presents the award at the SFJazz Center’s fifth anniversary gala.

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Mickey Hart speaking at the SFJazz Center fifth anniversary gala, where Zakir Hussain (right) was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

By Sharmistha Chakraborty

SAN FRANCISCO: Tabla maestro Zakir Hussain was honored with the SFJAZZ Lifetime Achievement Award for his historic and groundbreaking contributions to music. Former Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart presented the award to the Indian musical legend at the fifth anniversary season of the SFJazz Center here on January 18.

“We are all learning, and we have a long way to go,” said Hussain — who calls himself “a student, a master student” — while accepting the award.

The longtime-San Anselmo, California, resident had flown back from Bangalore just a day before he was honored.

“He brought back many things from India, the Monsoon and his father’s tabla,” said SFJazz gala chair Tim Dattels, addressing patrons and jazz lovers inside the recently built auditorium. He was referring to the torrential rain that hit the San Francisco Bay Area on Wednesday.

Hart, a friend of Hussain, who had also recruited the table virtuoso for his Grammy Award-winning Planet Drum ensemble, spoke about the Indian musician’s passion and dedication for music. Hart called “my dear brother for 47 years.”

As a soloist or with diverse groups, Hussain—the son of world renowned percussionist Alla Rakha — always brings his distinctive style and rich repertoire of music to each event. And SFjazz was no different. He played a few pieces including a Bollywood song with the Kronos Quartet, an American string quartet based in San Francisco.

From softly swinging dinner jazz to vibrant singing, the night of the gala featured performances by many Bay Area jazz stars. Saxophonist Joe Lovano, guitarist Bill Frisell, trumpeter Terence Blanchard and drummer Cindy Blackman Santana and other talented musicians were part of the celebration.

The SFJAZZ Center on Franklin Street, opened in January 2013, is considered the “first free-standing building in America built for jazz performance and education.”

Zakir Hussain (center) performing at the SFJazz Center fifth anniversary event in San Francisco on January 18.

Watch a short film on Zakir Hussain, directed by his daughter Anisa Qureshi 

Watch Zakir Hussain performing at the 2011 Maximum India festival

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