Hussain was a child prodigy, and was touring by the age of twelve. He went to the United States in 1970, embarking on an international career which includes more than 160 concert dates a year. He has composed and recorded many albums and soundtracks, and has received widespread recognition as a composer for his many ensembles and collaborations.
Hussain is a founding member of Bill Laswell's 'World Music Supergroup' Tabla Beat Science.
Hussain participates in the Silk Road collaborative musical project.  He teaches Tabla to advanced students in both San Francisco and Mumbai. Zakir participates in the Global Drum Project with percussionists from around the world.
In 1992, Hussain founded Moment! Records, which features original collaborations in the field of contemporary world music, as well as live concert performances by great masters of the classical music of India. The label presents his own world percussion ensemble, The Rhythm Experience, both North and South Indian classical recordings, Best of Shakti and the Masters of Percussion series. Moment Records’ 2006 release Golden Strings of the Sarode, with Aashish Khan and Zakir Hussain, was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Traditional World Music Album category for that year.