National Symphony Orchestra gives the North American premiere of tabla virtuoso Zakir Hussain’s Peshkar in the Kennedy Center on April 21

Zakir Hussain (Photo: Jim McGuire)

WASHINGTON— The National Symphony Orchestra (NSO) gives the North American premiere of tabla virtuoso Zakir Hussain’s Peshkar: Concerto for tabla and orchestra in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall on Friday, April 21, at 9 p.m.

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Hussain is the featured soloist in his concerto and conductor Cristian Măcelaru leads the National Symphony Orchestra. Activities before and after the concert enhance the performance experience offstage in the Grand Foyer. Jazz pianist Utsav Lal performs pre-concert on the Millennium Stage at 8:15, multi-genre DJ Rekha performs a set to a live video mix by Robin Bell at 10:15.

All tickets are $39.

Zakir Hussain is renowned the world over for his virtuosity on the tabla, a South-Asian tuned drum. This performance sees Hussain as soloist in his concerto, Peshkar, in his return to the NSO and the Kennedy Center for the first time since his packed 2011 appearances as part of the Center’s international culture and arts festival, Maximum India. The concerto is Hussain’s third, reshaping the intricate rhythms of the tabla for full orchestra. A Grammy Award® winner, Hussain has earned a reputation as genre-defying, collaborating with many celebrated jazz, world, and fusion musicians such as Yo-Yo Ma, Béla Fleck, Herbie Hancock, and George Harrison. Before the performance of Peshkar he will be joined for some improvised North Indian classical music by santoor player Rahul Sharma, whose own adaptability has earned him attention and applause.

Zakir Hussain (Photo: Jim McGuire)

Boundary-breaking classical and jazz pianist Utsav Lal opens the evening at 8:15 on the Millennium Stage, in a showcase of musical creativity, drawing from Western classical, jazz, and North Indian classical music. A dance party follows the NSO concert from 10:15 to 11:15pm featuring a set by DJ Rekha accompanied by a live video mix by Robin Bell. Rooted in Hip Hop and dub, DJ Rekha’s sets range from Brazilian baile funk to Balkan beats and everything in between. She was a pioneer of merging bhangra and Bollywood sounds with contemporary electronic dance music.

Brooklyn Raga Massive appears on the Millennium Stage at 6 p.m. in a free concert celebrating the genre of raga. Featuring classical ragas from India and contemporary adaptations in America, the ensemble presents original visions reflective of the group’s experiences with communities and cultures across the world.


Friday, April 21, 2017, at 9:00 p.m.

National Symphony Orchestra

Cristian Măcelaru, conductor

Zakir Hussain, tabla

Rahul Sharma, santoor

HUSSAIN Peshkar: Concerto for Tabla

Tickets: $15–$89.


The 2016–2017 season marks the NSO’s 86th, and its seventh and final led by Music Director Christoph Eschenbach, also the Music Director of the Kennedy Center. Founded in 1931, the Orchestra has, throughout its history, been committed to artistic excellence and music education. In 1986, the National Symphony became an artistic affiliate of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, where it has performed a full season of subscription concerts since the Center opened in 1971. The National Symphony Orchestra regularly participates in events of national and international importance, including performances for state occasions, presidential inaugurations and official holiday celebrations. Its regularly televised holiday appearances for Capitol Concerts and local radio broadcasts on WETA make the NSO one of the most-heard orchestras in the country.

The Orchestra itself numbers 96 musicians who perform approximately 150 concerts each year. These include classical subscription series, pops concerts, summer performances at Wolf Trap and on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol, chamber music performances in the Terrace Theater and on the Millennium Stage, and an extensive educational program, with performances designed for ages three years and up, and audience engagement activities, as well. Additionally, the NSO’s community engagement projects are nationally recognized, including NSO In Your Neighborhood which comprises of a week of approximately 50 performances in schools, churches, community centers, and other neighborhood venues) and NSO Sound Health, which has taken the NSO to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Children’s Inn at NIH, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Children’s National Medical Center, and Inova Health System. Career development opportunities include the NSO Youth Fellowship Program and its Summer Music Institute.


The pre-eminent classical tabla virtuoso of our time, Zakir Hussain is appreciated both in the field of percussion and in the music world at large as an international phenomenon. A national treasure in his native India, he is one of the world’s most esteemed and influential musicians, renowned for his genre-defying collaborations.

Widely considered a chief architect of the contemporary world music movement, Hussain’s contribution has been unique, with many historic and groundbreaking collaborations, including those with artists and ensembles such as Shakti, Remember Shakti, Masters of Percussion, the Diga Rhythm Band, Planet Drum, Tabla Beat Science, Sangam with Charles Lloyd and Eric Harland, in trio with Béla Fleck and Edgar Meyer and, most recently, with Herbie Hancock. The foremost disciple of his father, the legendary Ustad Allarakha, Hussain was a child prodigy who began his professional career at the age of 12 and was touring internationally with great success by the age of 18.

He has scored music for numerous feature films, major events, and productions. He has composed three concertos, the last one being the first-ever concerto for tabla and orchestra, which was premiered in India in September, 2015 and in Europe and the U.K. in 2016. A Grammy Award winner, he is the recipient of countless awards and honors, including Padma Bhushan, National Heritage Fellowship and Officier in France’s Order of Arts and Letters. In 2015, he was voted “Best Percussionist” by both the Downbeat Critics’ Poll and Modern Drummer’s Reader’s Poll.

As an educator, he conducts many workshops and lectures each year, has been in residence at Princeton University and Stanford University, and, in 2015, was appointed Regents Lecturer at UCBerkeley.  He is the founder and president of Moment Records, an independent record label presenting rare live concert recordings of Indian classical music and world music. Hussain was resident artistic director at SFJazz from 2013 until 2016.


Raul Sharma learned music and the santoor from his father, Guru Pandit Shivkumar Sharma, who is a music legend in India and throughout the world. Sharma’s father has been instrumental in introducing this little known instrument from the valleys of Kashmir to the Indian classical music world. Today Sharma performs worldwide at such prestigious venues and festivals as WOMAD (World of Music, Arts and Dance), Edinburgh Festival, the Esplanade in Singapore, and the Royal Festival Hall in London. He is proud and honored to have continued the tradition of bringing the santoor on a journey from folk to classical and beyond.

Sharma has written music for several Bollywood films with many leading film stars. In 2002 he was one of the youngest music directors for whom the nightingale of India, Lata Mangeshkar, sang all the songs for Yash Chopra’s Mujhase Dosti Karoge! starring Hritik Roshan-Kareena Kapoor. However his primary interest remains in Indian classical, fusion, and experimental music.

In 2002 he was the first Indian musician to record with the French pianist Richard Clayderman for the album Confluence, which was one of India’s best-selling records. His latest recording The Rebel, a santoor rock album, was released in 2011. He has collaborated on over 60 live and studio albums throughout his 15 year career, including an album with folk musicians of Kashmir. He and Zakir Hussain have collaborated on several projects, including a live recording. Sharma is honored to continue to carry on his father’s legacy and especially honored to be collaborating again with Hussain on these classical Indian music concerts.


Cristian Măcelaru has established himself as one of the fast-rising stars of the conducting world. With every concert he displays an exciting and highly regarded presence, thoughtful interpretations and energetic conviction on the podium. Măcelaru came to public attention in February 2012 when he conducted the Chicago Symphony Orchestra as a replacement for Pierre Boulez in performances met with critical acclaim. Conductor-in-Residence of the Philadelphia Orchestra, he made his Philadelphia Orchestra subscription debut in April 2013 and continues to conduct them annually on subscription programs and other special concerts. In September 2016, he was announced Music Director of Cabrillo Festival, America’s longest running festival dedicated to new music for orchestra, to succeed Marin Alsop with immediate effect. Măcelaru leads his inaugural season as Cabrillo Festival Music Director in August 2017.

The 2016/17 season sees Măcelaru returning to the Philadelphia Orchestra and National Symphony Orchestra and the symphony orchestras of St. Louis, San Diego, Milwaukee, Colorado, Detroit and Vancouver. Internationally he leads the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, Rotterdam Philharmonic, Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, WDR Sinfonieorchester, Weimar Staatskapelle, Hallé Orchestra, Royal Flemish Philharmonic, Royal Scottish National Orchestra and New Japan Philharmonic with Anne-Sophie Mutter as soloist. In Summer 2016, Măcelaru made debuts at Dresden Staatskapelle, Ravinia Festival with the Chicago Symphony, Hollywood Bowl with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Wolf Trap Festival with the National Symphony Orchestra and at the Aspen Music Festival. Additionally, he returned to the Mann Center and Saratoga Performing Arts Center with the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Chautauqua Music Festival with Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.

Cristian Măcelaru made his Carnegie Hall debut in February 2015 on a program with the Danish National Symphony Orchestra and Anne-Sophie Mutter. A keen opera conductor, in June 2015 he made his Cincinnati Opera debut in highly acclaimed performances of Il Trovatore. In 2010, he made his operatic debut with the Houston Grand Opera in Madama Butterfly and led the U.S. premiere of Colin Matthews’s Turning Point with the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra as part of the Tanglewood Contemporary Music Festival. In 2019, he returns to the Houston Grand Opera on a Kasper Holten production of Don Giovanni.

Măcelaru formerly held the position of Resident Conductor at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music, where he was Music Director of the Campanile Orchestra, Assistant Conductor to Larry Rachleff and Conductor for the Opera Department.  A proponent of music education, he has served as a conductor with the Houston Youth Symphony, where he also conceptualized and created a successful chamber music program.  As Founder and Artistic Director of the Crisalis Music Project, Mr. Măcelaru spearheaded a program in which young musicians perform in a variety of settings, side-by-side with established artists.   Their groundbreaking inaugural season produced and presented concerts featuring chamber ensembles, a chamber orchestra, a tango operetta, and collaborations with dancer Susana Collins, which resulted in a choreographed performance of Vivaldi/Piazzolla’s Eight Seasons.

Cristian Măcelaru resides in Philadelphia with his wife Cheryl and children Beniamin and Maria.


Tickets ($15–$89) are available at the Kennedy Center Box Office, online at, and via phone through Instant Charge, (202) 467-4700; toll-free at (800) 444-1324. For all other ticket-related customer service inquires, call the Advance Sales Box Office at (202) 416-8540.



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