- Stephen Slawek
(b Bombay [now Mumbai], India, March 9, 1951). Percussionist and tabla player of Indian birth. Hussain began studying music at the age of three with his father, the late Ustad Alla Rakha. He presented his debut performance in Bombay at age 15, providing tabla accompaniment for the master of the Indian santur, Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma. Hussain’s rise to fame was rapid and sustained, leading to international renown after he traveled to the United States in 1970. His first US public performance came as accompanist to Pandit Ravi Shankar. By age 20 he had become one of the most sought-after tabla accompanists; his virtuosic playing also led to collaborations with popular musicians such as drummer Mickey Hart of The Grateful Dead and guitarist John MacLaughlin, whose Mahavishnu Orchestra had fused elements of Indian classical music with rock and jazz. Hussain stands out for his work in creating fusions of Indian music with Western popular idioms, a practice that has grown into a major stream of activity for a large number of Indian musicians. The first of these efforts to receive widespread recognition was Shakti, a group consisting of MacLaughlin, violinist L. Shankar, and South Indian percussionists Ramnad Raghavan and T.H. “Tikku” Vinayakram. While Shakti retained acoustic instrumentation, Hussain’s later fusion projects such as ...