Friday, December 29, 2023


   ( Teaching students in his Mumbai house) 
     ( Ustaad reading morning newspaper )
                         ( Thoughtful Ustaad )
               ( Blessing Ustaad Zakir Hussain ) 
                  ( With Ahmed Jan Thirakwa ) 
( Change of instruments with Pandit Ravi Shanker)
     ( Father and son....Ustaad Allah Rakha and Ustaad Zakir Hussain )


The well known American percussionist and musicologist Mickey Hart  called him " EINSTEIN OF THE RHYTHM". And this great Ustaad did all to introduce Eastern Tabla rhythms to the  West . He was a Tabla wizard next to the legendary Ahmed Jan Thirakwa.His talented son Zakir Hussain is also following father's footsteps. When he died , the then  president of India Shri  K.R. Narayanan said this :-

"An uncommon pulsation has been stilled. His wrists, palms, and fingers produced from the Tabla ,  percussion of magical quality which maintained the tenor and tempo of India's uniquely assimilative musical culture."

A proud Dogra and the son of a farmer, Allah Rakha was born at Bhagwal village falling in Hiranagar Tehsil( district Kathua)  ,  Jammu . Falling in Chan Arorian Panchayat block,  Bhagwal vilage is about 12km from Hiranagar town. Ustaad Allah Rakha  left his village when he was barely 12 years old to learn music from  Mian Qader Baksh of the Punjab Gharana (Punjabi Gharana ) ..At the age of 15, he had  learnt  Tabla and moved to Pathankote and later to Lahore where he stayed for some years .In 1930,   he joined the then AIR Lahore  .In 1940,  he joined   AIR Mumbai as station's first ever Tabla solo player .
His influence turned global when he accompanied  Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Allauddin Khan, Vilayat Khan, Vasant Rai, Ali Akbar Khan and  more specifically Pandit Ravi Shanker in various performances .  Ustaad Allah Rakha had closest  association with with Pandit Ravi Shanker and George Harrison  .
While Ustad used to generally team up with Pandit Ravi Shankar for his performances, he once collaborated with jazz drummer Buddy Rich for an album, Rich à la Rakha in 1968. Some of his greatest works have been in the form of albums Improvisations, West Meets East, Album 3 (with Ravi Shankar, Yehudi Menuhin, Jean Pierre Rampel, Martine Gelliot), Angel (1976), Master Drummers with Zakir Hussain (1991), Tabla Duet, Chhanda Dhara (1994), Ultimate in Taal-vidya, Magnasound/OMI (1996), Magical Moments of Rhythm with Zakir Hussain and Eternal Music (1997).He also accompanied several Carnatic musicians including  Vidwan K V Narayanaswamy ,
Vidwan Palghat Raghu and L Subramaniam.

Very few people  know he also composed music for about 35  Hindi films from 1943 to 1948. Some of them include 'Bewafa' (1947), Laila (1954), Khandaan' (1955), Alam Ara (1956). He worked closely with music director Naushad . His  name appears on the screen as 'A R Qureshi', hence easily missed by many film historians.

As father and  a  dedicated  teacher ,  he taught everything of Tabla to his talented sons Zakir Hussain  and Fazal Qureshi . His well known disciples include  Shankha Chatterjee  , Prafulla Athalye, Aditya Kalyanpur, Anuradha Pal, Nishikant Barodekar, Uday Ramdas and Yogesh Samsi .

He was honoured with Padama-Shri, Padama-Bushan  and Sangeet Natak Akademi  awards .Ustaad Allah Rakha  became a devotee of Satya Sai Baba of Puttaparthi. He   was simple , god fearing and helpful person.  Meeting any   person from his land of birth would cheer him up. Dogri Sanstha Jammu also honoured Ustaad some years before his death and ustaad spoke fluent Dogri in his address during that event. This is what Manu Khajuria has tweeted about Ustaad Allah Rakha :-

"I was lucky to hear Ustad Allah Rakha ji speak chaste Dogri in an event in Delhi demanding the inclusion of the Dogri language in the 8th schedule."

In an interview to Ravinder Kaul, Ustaad Allah Rakha has said this in chaste Dogri  :-

" I have  travelled and performed all over the world  but Jammu is really very special. It is my homeland .The best recognition that  a man cherishes  is the one that he gets in his own homeland.I feel very elated. I feel I must  do something for my own land. I love to come here and converse in my own mother tongue ."

About  his sons  especially Zakir Hussain Ustaad Allah Rakha has said this :-

“I don’t expect my sons to be me because what I’m doing is already done. They’ve to be better than me. Photocopies are eventually consigned to the dust bin and only originals preserved.”

( Avtar Mota )

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