The stories of Zakir Hussain's training are legendary: 40 days of fasting and sleep deprivation capped a childhood of routinely practicing 18 hours per day. His father and guru Alla Rahka (one of India's most distinguished performers himself) taught Hussain the techniques of memorizing ridiculously long strings of percussive permutations and translating them to the tablas. Hussain was extremely young when he began to accompany some of India's most famous musicians, such as Ravi Shankar and Ali Akbar Khan, before leaving to team up with guitarist John McLaughlin to form Shakti. One of his greatest contributions has been successful attempts at blending North Indian Classical music with Western music. Collaborations with Bill Laswell and Mickey Hart (of the Grateful Dead) have produced multi-cultural percussive mixtures enhanced by top-notch musicians from around the world. Seeing Hussain perform is magical: his fingers fly faster than the eye, synchronized with an empathic understanding of his fellow musicians.