Though his father was a first rate singer of North Indian classical music, at six Tari was mesmerized by the tabla playing of Ustad Mian Shaukat Hussain. Over the next eight years, taking every opportunity to hear his idol on TV, in concert or on record, young Tari reached virtuoso level without a teacher—an amazing achievement.
At the end of those eight years, when Shaukat Hussain first heard the 14 year old Tari play, he was shocked: "You're playing my style!" Then, after a long pause, "I can tell how much you love me. You can come, I will teach you." So the Ustad became Tari's guru.
"I was hungry to learn," says Tari, "and Mian Shaukat was a great teacher with a very special sound, so beautiful, so effortless—it went straight to my heart. More than that, he was a genuinely kind and humble man. From him I learned humanity."
At 14, Tari was already accompanying such internationally famous ghazal singers as Mehdi Hassan (ghazal—the thousand year old, Persian-derived love song form—is South Asia's most popular classical genre). By 16, he had revolutionized the art of ghazal accompaniment, regularly playing with most of the greats of that world. He had also developed a unique solo tabla style, composing several pieces that today every tabla player knows. Among them is "The Train," a tabla tone poem evoking an old steam locomotive, and "World Kherwa," a suite weaving together the different ways 4/4 rhythms (kherwa) are played on every continent.
At 17, he gave his first major solo tabla concert, performing at the anniversary of the death of the Punjab gharana's revered maestro, Mian Qader Bakhsh, teacher of Tari's guru. All the great ustads of the tabla were there. Tari, waiting in the wings to play, was terrified. Shaukat Hussein leaned over and said, "You have no reason to be afraid. Nobody will be able to play after you." Inspired, Tari played for over 2½ hours. When he finished, his guru’s prediction proved to be exactly correct.
Since then, Tari has continued to play and record classical ragas with some of the greatest instrumentalists—and he remains one of the most sought-after ghazal accompanists. Expanding his horizons, he moved to California 16 years ago, founded an academy for tabla studies there, and started touring universities and conservatories throughout America and Europe. At the same time, he's been absorbing the creative influences of other musics: jazz, African, rock, etc . He has recorded cross-cultural CDs in each of these genres, as well as numerous Hollywood and Bollywood film soundtracks—more than 80 recordings in all.
Another growing facet of Tari's creativity is his singing. Building on the teaching of his two vocal gurus, his father and Mehdi Hassan, Tari's recent solo performances have included more of his fresh, original approach to singing.
Tari has been awarded the most coveted honors in Pakistani and Indian music. This year he received Pakistan's highest artistic honor, the President's Pride of Performance Award—and was invited to present a concert at Washington's Kennedy Center honoring Mrs. Laura Bush and President Musharraf.
For more information please visit his website: www.TariTabla.com
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