Tell me about winning your second Grammy last month.
That's fun. It's a humbling experience to be told, 'Keep on, you're on the right track.' When I won the first one [in 1992] it was the first year for the world music Grammy, so it wasn't yet a big deal. The competition is much more intense now-Youssou N'Dour was on the list, Gilberto Gil was on the list-and keeping that in mind, this was much more satisfying.
You've been a leading tablaist since before your teens. How do you stay engaged?
When you are young and you are doing something that everyone is enjoying and patting you on the back, you just learn to keep going. And then I got to that point in my life where I was like, 'Now what do I do?' I kept thinking that I was not getting better at it. At that point I ran into some musicians that really opened a door for me, like Mickey Hart and [jazz guitarist] John McLaughlin. I've made this my goal: to find musicians in any corner of the world and see if I can interact with them and learn from them. My father [tabla virtuoso Ustad Alla Rakha] told me, 'Son, don't try to be a master, just try to be a good student and it will all be fine.'
Can you tell me about Shivkumar Sharma?
He is the greatest living exponent of his instrument. He's one of those musicians who you'd never know but who is revered and worshipped as a god in his country. He grew up playing tabla, so he understands what I do. The interaction isn't limited to him being melodic and me being rhythmic.
Why should people go to your show?
The way I feel, for those few moments that you are in the theater, you forget your worries, you forget what's negative, and you go out and face your worries with fresh strength. Second, it's just to get to know your fellow brother or sister through their tradition. If you just look at a documentary about India, you don't get to know the people.
Zakir Hussain and Pandit Shivkumar Sharma perform Sunday in Page Auditorium at 8 p.m. Tickets are $5 for students, $20 to $34 for others.
Get The Dirt
Subscribe to our weekly email about what's trending at Duke