Zakir Hussain Won’t Drum for Apartheid

12 June 2012

Zakir Hussain, the world renowned hand drum player from India, who is decidedly one of the world most influential Indian musicians, has cancelled his planned performance in Tel Aviv, Israel.  The 61 year old artist received a letter from over 90 Indian artists who form INCACBI (The Indian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel).  The letterwas written on 31 May from New Delhi, India.


Dear Zakir Hussain,

We, a group of artists, academics and activists in India, came together in June 2010 to campaign against yet another apartheid regime by extending support to the international campaign for the academic and cultural boycott of Israel (see

We understand that you are scheduled to perform in Israel in July this year. We appeal to you, as an artist of conscience, to cancel your scheduled performance in Israel.

Doing otherwise would inadvertently lend a stamp of approval to Israeli policies of colonialism, apartheid and occupation. Should Israel be admitted into the global cultural arena when it does not respect international law and recognize the Palestinian people s right to freedom, equality and justice? At a time when the international movement to isolate Israel is gaining ground in response to the escalation of Israel’s colonial and racist policies, we urge you to reflect upon the ethical implications of your accepting an invitation to perform in Israel. Your performance in Israel would help whitewash Israel’s practices, making it appear as though business with Israel should go on as usual.

We are aware that in February 2012, the Palestinian Al Mada Association for Arts Based Community Development, in partnership with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and UNICEF, hosted you together with the group Remember Shakti in Ramallah. You played free of charge in the knowledge that the event was a solidarity concert and a fundraising event to develop music therapy programs for Palestinian refugee children.  In addition to your music, this is what we admire you for.  So please don’t let your wonderful music be used to legitimize home demolitions, illegal raids, the use of white phosphorous, political and child imprisonments, racist marriage bans, piracy and execution in international waters, collective punishment, Occupation, checkpoints, roadblocks, and the bombing and closing of educational institutions. If you cancel your performance in Israel, you will also be encouraging other artists to follow your lead. And your fans all over the world will know you stand for justice and an end to apartheid.

Zakir Hussain joins other artists who have cancelled this shows in Israel this year, including tUnEyArDs, Cat Power, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Cassandra Wilson, Fullset and Dervish.  In addition, Bruce Springsteen, Eric Clapton, U2, and Coldplay have been invited to play Israel and refused to book this year.

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