As a composer, he has scored music for numerous feature films, major events and productions. He has composed three concertos, and his third, the first-ever concerto for tabla and orchestra, was premiered in India in September, 2015, by the Symphony Orchestra of India, premiered in Europe and the UK in 2016, and in the USA in April, 2017, by the National Symphony Orchestra at Kennedy Center. A Grammy award winner, Zakir is the recipient of countless awards and honors, including Padma Vibhushan, Sangeet Natak Akademi Award, the USA’s National Heritage Fellowship and Officier in France’s Order of Arts and Letters. Voted “Best Percussionist” by both the Downbeat Critics’ Poll and Modern Drummer’s Reader’s Poll over several years, Zakir was honored in 2018 by the Montreal Jazz Festival with their Antonio Carlos Jobim Award. Zakir has received several honorary doctorates and, in 2019, became a Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellow, a rare lifetime distinction afforded to only 40 artists at a time by India’s reigning cultural institution. Zakir is the 2022 Kyoto Prize laureate in Arts and Philosophy, awarded by the Inamori Foundation to “those who have contributed significantly to the scientific, cultural and spiritual betterment of mankind.” Zakir became the first musician from India to receive 3 Grammys at one time at the 66th Annual Grammy Awards on February 4, 2024, for Best Global Music Album, Best Global Music Performance and Best Contemporary Instrumental Album.
As an educator, he conducts many workshops and lectures each year, has been in residence at Princeton University and Stanford University, and, in 2015, was appointed Regents Lecturer at UCBerkeley. His yearly workshop in the San Francisco Bay Area, conducted for the past 30 years, has become a widely anticipated event for performers and serious students of tabla. He is the founder and president of Moment Records, an independent record label presenting rare live concert recordings of Indian classical music and world music. Zakir was resident artistic director at SFJazz from 2013 until 2016, and was honored with SF Jazz’s Lifetime Achievement Award on January 18, 2017, in recognition of his “unparalleled contribution to the world of music”.