Sitar player and tabla drummer carry on ‘Tradition’ with show in Vancouver

Published: February 13, 2013


Shahbaz Hussain and Mohamed Assani

Shahbaz Hussain (left), a tabla player from the U.K., has reunited with Vancouver sitar player Mohamed Assani for several shows, including one in Vancouver. Submitted photo

After a two-year hiatus, two traditional north Indian musicians are back together and performing in Vancouver on Saturday.

“When people come they can expect something very special because … we haven’t seen each other for around two years now,” said tabla player Shahbaz Hussain, in from the U.K to do a mini tour with longtime friend and Vancouver’s very own, sitar player Mohamed Assani. “(Assani and I) are so close — really close friends, so I’m sure people will love to see us perform.”

“Once you know the person you’re playing with on a personal level … it just brings in something very personal.”

The two will perform their traditional sitar and tabla concert, titled Spirit of Tradition (the name of an album they produced together) at 8 p.m. at ArtStarts on Richards Street in Vancouver.

“To play with him on stage after a long time – it’s like a great feeling,” said Assani, who just returned from a show with Hussain in Kamloops. “We have a lot of history, hence we have charisma, we have fun on stage … we have a connection.”

Spirit of Tradition is a performance of classical north Indian music, “(which) means the music of the subcontinent — before the partition of India,” said Assani. “It’s going to be a high-energy performance.”

Assani plays the vocal style on the sitar, which he describes as a “more lyrical style of playing (that) emulates the human voice.”

And Hussain provides the accompanying percussion on the tabla.

“I’ve been learning (the tabla) for 25 years,” he said, as opposed to playing for 25 years. “The tabla is such a difficult instrument to master … I have so many more things to master, so many more things to conquer.”

Hussain and Assani met in England about 10 years ago and have been performing together ever since. And while they’re both knowledgeable and aware of their cultural roots, their music has something for everyone.

“Rhythm is one aspect of any kind of music which is appealing to anyone,” said Hussain. “Anyone can tap their foot on the ground while listening to a good groove — a good rhythm.

“Music is one language — it’s universal. Everyone can have some kind of connection, some kind of feeling towards it.”

Tickets are $22 and available at the door at 808 Richards St. or online at

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