Zakir Hussein © Heinz Kronberger

Of all  the crazy things to see on a Friday afternoon, it had to be the Behind the Scenes Masterclass in Tabla, the ancient Indian drums, given by the sweetest man on earth, Zakir Hussain.

Ok, so this is a tricky wee blog post.

The thing is, Zakir Hussain played the live musical accompaniment to Alonzo King and his Lines Ballet performance at the Festival Theatre, Edinburgh.  Then he gave a Masterclass on the tabla after the second performance, and before the 3rd and 4th shows.

But I didn’t get to see the ballet.

So I can’t comment on the ballet.

Phew, domestics over.

The hour-long Masterclass took place at the beautifully restored Hub.  I was running late and had to run the gauntlet through the High Street Festival crowds at top speed like a contestant in supermarket sweep in the streets of Pamplona.

The packed house of fans, afficionados and curiosity-seekers learned about the intricacies of the two incredibly versatile drums commonly known as the Tabla: how to make different sounds; the history of the drums and Indian music; Indian rhythmic patterns; the process of learning tabla at a young age and the verbalisations of rhythmic patterns (tha thiki thiki ga, digadara da).

Mr Hussein brought in his violin and vocal assistant, Kala Ramnath, to illustrate how the structure of Indian pieces work together, and the kind of signals required to improvise, play with strict discipline and basically mash it up together.

Zakir Hussain

But the joy of the event came from Zakir’s humour and repartee.  When opening up the proceedings to the Q and A, he would announce, “We have a winner on the left” and calmly wait for the mike to arrive before listening intently to the question.

A most charming man with the most incredible skills at both drumming and enthusing an audience.



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