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  Life   Art  10 Dec 2016  The maestro and the prodigy

The maestro and the prodigy

THE ASIAN AGE. | DYUTI BASU
Published : Dec 10, 2016, 12:07 am IST
Updated : Dec 10, 2016, 12:09 am IST

In conversation with Pandit Shivkumar Sharma and Rahul Sharma, about making music together.

Pandit Shivkumar Sharma and Rahul Sharma
 Pandit Shivkumar Sharma and Rahul Sharma

When Shivkumar Sharma takes his hammer to his santoor, what comes out is an effusion of melodies that weave into melodious ragas. His son, Rahul Sharma, on the other hand is  deft at fusion, and has created his own repertoire of music.

Indeed, these two exponents of music have taken this once-humble sufi instrument, used chiefly for accompaniment, to a whole new plain. The father-son duo are now all set to perform today, as part of the Adi Anant festival at NCPA.

It was Shivkumar’s father, Uma Dutt Sharma who first thought of using the santoor, originally known as the shatatantri veena in Sanskrit texts, and turn it into a classical instrument. However, it was the son who took it a step further, by coming up with a style of playing that made the santoor completely unique. “I had to take the santoor from an accompanying instrument and make it a solo instrument in its own right. To do so, I had to come up with a way in which I could play alaap for every raga on my santoor,” the maestro recalls, adding that it took him decades to perfect the technique of sustaining notes on what is essentially an instrument for staccato sounds.

It was this rich legacy which he passed on to his son, Rahul, who remembers growing up in a home full of music. “It was a pretty normal day for me to come back from Bombay Scottish school and see several students hanging around our house taking lessons from my father and santoor or some kind of music was always in the background,” he recalls. Rahul, unlike his father, had a wide exposure to a number of western influences while growing up. This was a major factor in how he would branch out and create his own flavour of melodies. “I listened to not just Indian classical but all genres of music, so if Beatles or Pink Floyd was on my mind, I wanted my santoor to amalgamate with them. However, it had to blend seamlessly so some experimentation was required, and over the years a style was created where I could blend in with Kenny G, Richard Clayderman, Deep Forest and various other musicians,” he explains. 

Despite this, Rahul believes that his classical roots are not something that he will ever forget, no matter how much he experiments with different styles of fusion music, since that aspect of music is so completely ingrained in him. He says, “Classical is the source of all music really deep, so when I approach it, I try and connect in a spiritual manner with this genre. Only then can you elevate an audience and — of course — the maturing comes with experience. Fusion has to be a complimentary sound with your instrument and hence has to be approached with caution, and has to blend so it’s an individualistic expression.”

While Shivkumar agrees that his style of playing differs widely than that of his son’s, he is happy and proud to be playing alongside him at this juncture. “It is rare for the two of us to be playing a jugalbandi these days. During the ’90s, we used to play together very often. Later on, as Rahul developed his own style, we decided to do less collaborations so that he could grow as an artiste in his own right and I am proud of the results of that growth,” he asserts.

For Rahul, too, this is a moment of pride — to be able to play next to a man who is not only his father, but also his guru. Jugalbandis being completely impromptu pieces where one maestro complements the other, Rahul is even more excited to face the challenge. “It’s amazing, I think for me to be able to sit and perform on stage with my guru, learn and compliment him on stage, and innovate since it’s all improvised music,” he signs off.

Tags: sufi music, ncpa, pandit shivkumar sharma, rahul sharma