Music has been in Ikhlaq Hussain’s family for generations. But after the dictator Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq came to power in Pakistan, the country’s policies towards music and art became dramatically restrictive.
Mr. Hussain grew up in Karachi, Pakistan. He learned to play sitar from maestros like his father, Ustad Imdad Hussain, and the legendary Pandit Ravi Shankar. At the age of fourteen, Ikhlaq performed in his first concert. His first visit to the United States came during a concert series where he performed in Portland, Chicago, Boston, and New York. Astounded by the applause and appreciation he received from his American audiences, Ikhlaq knew he would return someday. He received a visa in 2001, but his family urged him to remain in Pakistan after the attacks on the World Trade Center. After much deliberation, Ikhlaq decided to give life in the U.S. a chance.
Upon his arrival, Mr. Hussain had a difficult time finding a job where he could perform his beloved music. While he had an established career in Pakistan, he soon realized he would have to start over in his new home. Reluctantly, he took a job as a musician in a restaurant. In the following years, Ikhlaq performed at venues such as Central Park and Harvard University.
Currently, Ikhlaq continues to perform across the globe and passes his musical heritage on to future generations by teaching a variety of students. He lives in New York with his wife.
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