He may be one of the greatest percussionists around, but tabla maestro Ustad Zakir Hussain is wary of being seen as the "torchbearer" of Indian classical music.
"As far as Indian music is concerned I wouldn't call myself a torchbearer. It's the media that focuses on it, like at one time Pandit Ravi Shankar was the poster boy of Indian music. It did not matter that there were equally good sitar players in India that time. Everybody talked about him and not others like Pandit Nikhil Banerjee or Ustad Ali Anwar Khan," Hussain told PTI.
Music runs in Zakir's blood as his father Alla Rakha was the legendary tabla player. Hussain, who was touring by the age of 12, did his schooling and graduation in Mumbai and later went to the US in 1970 that marked the beginning of his international career.
"Similarly people talk about me now but they don't realise that there are equally good tabla players around. I wouldn't call myself a torchbearer or anything of that sort. I am just one of those who is able to articulate, may be slightly better than others," the 61-year-old veteran artiste said.
"May be, by default I have been chosen who speaks on music globally. But there are fabulous artistes who deserve to be doing it here.
"Suddenly I am like the poster boy of music, but I think the whole idea is to realise how deep is the base of Indian art and culture, how many fabulous young artistes there are, how many incredible great senior artistes are present today but not seen in limelight. We all have our turn at being the spokesperson for something or the other," the renowned musician said.
"There are incredible number of great Indian artists around like Aditya Kalyanpur, Shubhankar Banerjee, Satyajit Talwakar, Amaan and Ayan, among women are Anuradha Pal and others. It is great that such musicians are around. But the media has not adopted to give them the push or put them in open. They deserve to be up there," Hussain stressed.
Despite a career spanning across over almost half a century, Hussain likes to call himself just a drummer.
"What celebrity status, I think I am just a drummer. There are so many talented artists around here," he said.
Hussain now stays in San Francisco but he keeps visiting India every year.
"Every winter I am here sometimes for two or four months. These are my roots, this is where I feel I must come to grow and learn as an artist. I must always come back to the guru to learn and grow more as a musician. There is no question of going anywhere and forgetting where I came from because that would be like losing my identity," he said.
"The plan is to always have a plug into my past, where I am from. And how deep that is and having that gave me confidence to be able to expand. I am confident that I have something (music) that is backing me and that is always there for me... so that I can explore more, learn and grow more as an artiste and as a musician," he said.
Hussain has associated his label 'Moment Records' with Times Music to launch a rich collection of music in India.
'Moments Records' is managed by Hussain and his wife Antonia Minnecola and it hosts a wide range of internationally acclaimed artists and albums.
In addition to Hussain's own classical and fusion recordings, the catalogue boasts of recordings of music stalwart like Pt Ravi Shankar, Ustad Alla Rakha, Pt Bhimsen Joshi, Pt Jasraj, Pt Shivkumar, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, noted classical singer Girija Devi among others.