Zakir Hussain began performing as a child prodigy at age 8. In constant demand as an accompanist, he has performed with most of India's greatest musicians and dancers. While he has few equals as a traditional tabla player, he has also been an innovator, bridging the Hindustani and Carnatic traditions by performing with both North and South Indian masters and presenting percussion concerts both as a soloist and with other drummers.
In addition to his dedication to the Indian classical music tradition, Zakir has been a pioneer in introducing the tabla to wider audiences in the West through his collaborations with jazz and rock musicians, and with percussionists from Latin America, Africa and Europe. As a member of the East/West fusion group Shakti, he won critical acclaim for his virtuosity.
Zakir Hussain has composed and performed music for various films. He arranged the opening music for the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.
Hussain has also played on several ECM discs with violinist L. Shankar-Who's to Know, Song for Everyone, Nobody Told Me, M.R.C.S., and Pancha Nadai Pallavi.
He has been played with the aptly-named Tabla Beat Science whose high-volume collision of cultures incorporates an ever-shifting cast of percussionists and DJs around a core of Zakir, sarangi player Ustad Sultan Khan and bassist Bill Laswell. Zakir Hussain has also collaborated on music for ballet with Yo-Yo Ma.
In 2007, Zakir was chosen by the government of India to compose an anthem, “Jai Hind,” to celebrate India's 60th year of independence.
Zakir has been the recipient of many awards and titles, including Padma Bhushan (2002); Padma Shri (1988); the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award (1991); the 1999 National Heritage Fellowship, this country's highest honor for achievement in the traditional arts; and Grammy Awards for Best World Music Album for Planet Drum (1992) and Global Drum Project (2009) with Mickey Hart, Sikiru Adepoju and Giovanni Hidalgo.