Performance Saturday, March 28, 2015 | 8 PM

Zakir Hussain's Pulse of the World:
Celtic Connections

Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage
It’s a jam band with a touch of the highlands when Indian ragas meet Scottish strathspeys for The Pulse of the World, an evening of irresistible rhythms with Zakir Hussain—the reigning tabla master who has played with everyone from George Harrison to the Grateful Dead—laying down beats for Scottish fiddlers Charlie McKerron (of Capercaillie fame) and Patsy Reid (formerly of the fiery band Breabach), and Ganesh Rajagopalan, a master violinist of the classical Indian Carnatic style. The Pulse of the World is a freewheeling, pulse-quickening, constantly surprising fusion of Indian and Celtic sounds.


  • Zakir Hussain, Tabla
  • Rakesh Chaurasia, Bamboo Flute
  • Fraser Fifield, Flute and Pipes
  • Jean-Michel Veillon, Flute
  • Ganesh Rajagopalan, Violin
  • Charlie McKerron, Fiddle
  • Patsy Reid, Fiddle
  • Tony Byrne, Guitar
  • John Joe Kelly, Bodhran

Event Duration

The program will last approximately two hours with no intermission.


  • Zakir Hussain

    Zakir Hussain is an international phenomenon and one of the greatest musicians of our time. A classical tabla virtuoso of the highest order, his consistently brilliant and exciting performances have established him as a national treasure in his home country of India and as one of India's reigning cultural ambassadors.

    Widely considered a chief architect of the contemporary world-music movement, Hussain's contribution has been unique, with many historic collaborations that include Shakti (which he founded with John McLaughlin and L. Shankar), Remember Shakti, the Diga Rhythm Band, Making Music, Planet Drum with Mickey Hart, Tabla Beat Science, Sangam with Charles Lloyd and Eric Harland, and recordings and performances with artists as diverse as George Harrison, Yo-Yo Ma, Joe Henderson, Van Morrison, Airto Moreira, Pharoah Sanders, Billy Cobham, Mark Morris, Rennie Harris, and the Kodo drummers. His music and extraordinary contribution to the music world were honored in April 2009 with four concerts as a Carnegie Hall Perspectives artist.

    A multiple Grammy Award winner and the recipient of countless honors, Hussain has received titles from the Indian, American, and French governments, and "best percussionist" awards from significant music journals. He has scored music for many films, events, and productions, including the 1996 Summer Olympics. He has both composed and performed with Alonzo King's LINES Ballet (for which he received two Isadora Duncan Dance Awards); Yo-Yo Ma's Silk Road Project with choreographer Mark Morris; and his frequent collaborators Béla Fleck and Edgar Meyer, with both the Nashville and Detroit symphony orchestras under the baton of Leonard Slatkin. Hussain's Concerto for Four Soloists, a special commission for the National Symphony Orchestra, was performed at Kennedy Center in March 2011, conducted by Christoph Eschenbach. His third concerto, the first ever composed for tabla, will be premiered in Mumbai this fall with the Symphony Orchestra of India.

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  • Rakesh Chaurasia

    Rakesh Chaurasia is following in the tradition of his uncle, Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia, who is among the icons of his generation. Chaurasia has performed with a broad spectrum of the great musicians of India, as well as Western musicians like Béla Fleck, Edgar Meyer, and Joshua Redman. He has received many important awards in India, most recently the Pannalal Ghosh Puraskar in 2013. He has taken part in many prominent festivals, including the WOMAD Festival in Athens and the Festival de Saint-Denis in Paris, and was invited to conclude the 24-hour live BBC Radio broadcast in celebration of Queen Elizabeth's Silver Jubilee.

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  • Fraser Fifield

    One of the more distinctive pipers in Scotland, Fraser Fifield is an uncommonly wide-ranging multi-instrumentalist, performing on various pipes, whistles, soprano saxophone, Bulgarian kaval, and occasionally percussion. He has released five albums of original music on his own Tanar label; has been commissioned by a range of festivals, including the Scottish Arts Council, and the BBC; and performed in locations from the US to Azerbaijan with groups like Capercaillie and Afro-Celt Sound System, among many others.

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  • Jean-Michel Veillon

    Though Celtic culture is associated with Scotland and Ireland, the region of France known as Brittany is Celtic as well. Jean-Michel Veillon was first a dancer and then a bombard (double-reed oboe) player in his teens, before moving on to the transverse wooden flute. His first influences were Irish, but he soon created distinct articulation techniques that reflected his Breton heritage. After years of touring the US with groups like Kornog, Pennoù Skoulm, Den, and Barzaz, he has become renowned for introducing the wooden flute into Breton folk music.

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  • Ganesh Rajagopalan

    The violin became a part of Indian music perhaps 200 years ago, and in that time few have become more distinguished than Ganesh Rajagopalan. In the Indian tradition, he began his studies young, and was performing by the age of seven. He became famous in a duo with his brother Kumaresh, but has played extensively with a who's who of Indian musicians over the years. He has worked with many greats, from Zakir Hussain to Oscar-winning Bollywood music director A. R. Rahman to the legendary John McLaughlin.

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  • Charlie McKerron

    Charlie McKerron was born in London and spent time in Africa before his family returned to his father's homeland of Scotland when he was five. By the age of 12, he was winning fiddle competitions. After completing his education, he came to prominence as a member of Capercaillie, a traditional Celtic band from the Argyll area of Western Scotland. It began in a purely acoustic vein, but over the years achieved considerable fame by experimenting with various elements of fusion-funk bass, synthesizers, and the like. McKerron has also achieved acclaim for his ability to write new songs-"Bulgarian Red," for instance-that have been adopted as part of the Scottish folk canon.

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  • Patsy Reid

    Patsy Reid is undoubtedly the most in-demand traditional fiddle player in Scotland. Just as she was finishing her studies at the University of Strathclyde, she co-founded Breabach, which was nominated in the Best Folk Band category at BBC Radio 2's 2011 Folk Awards. Soon after, Reid began working with various other musicians, including the celebrated Northumbrian piper Kathryn Tickell, Dougie Maclean, and Kylie Minogue. At theLondon 2012 Festival,she began performing with Zakir Hussain, and has since visited India four times and collaborated with various South Asian musicians.

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  • Tony Byrne

    A native of Dublin, Tony Byrne has focused on traditional Irish music since leaving college in 1999, including work with Matt Molloy and Lunasa. He has also crossed into other varied musical territories with Led Zeppelin's John Paul Jones, American Dobro master Jerry Douglas, banjo king Béla Fleck, and classical violinist Nicola Benedetti. In addition to college teaching credentials in Dublin, he has worked with the Galway Arts Festival and has been a cast member of the award-winning play Trad, which has toured to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe as well as Australia.

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  • John Joe Kelly

    John Joe Kelly is certainly one of the most sought-after bodhran players on the folk-music scene today. He is a member of Rook and the Mike McGoldrick Band, among others. Although a stalwart of the traditional scene, he is constantly expanding the boundaries of what one can get out of a simple drum. In recent years, he has been involved in many world-music collaborations, with musicians who vary from Tim O'Brien and Kate Rusby to Dan Tyminski … and now Zakir Hussain.

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"Jai Taal"
Zakir Hussain, Tabla
Living Media

At a Glance

In January 2011, tabla master Zakir Hussain and four of his Indian collaborators were invited to Scotland, where they were joined by several Celtic musicians. After a few days of rehearsing, sharing ideas, and discovering common ground in their respective genres, they kicked off Glasgow’s Celtic Connections festival with an opening concert that was deemed by many to be one of the most successful in recent years.

The beautiful and flowing melodies of Celtic instruments—including bodhran, violin, pipes, flutes, and whistles that are so familiar to audiences of Riverdance —joined with the tabla, bamboo flute, and Carnatic violin to provide a musical experience that explored common threads with sounds rarely heard together.

“I had all these preconceived ideas of what we would do and how we would make it work,” Hussain said. “But the more I thought about this, the more I came to realize that we’re the same the world over. If you put us in a room together, we’ll make music … There’s no meter that hasn’t been played, no rhythm that hasn’t been composed. It’s the musicians’ own qualities that allow them to make music different—that’s what’s exciting about this project for me. It’s fresh music sparked by the humanity of those involved.”

After the Glasgow performance, this groundbreaking ensemble went on to perform at the London 2012 Festival. And finally this spring, the group is embarking on its first tour of North America.
This performance is part of Around the Globe.