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Updated: May 22, 2014 14:29 IST

Call of the santoor

CHITRA SWAMINATHAN
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Pandit Shivkumar Sharma. Photo: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar
The Hindu
Pandit Shivkumar Sharma. Photo: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

Pandit Shivkumar Sharma, who performs in the city today, talks about his experiments with the santoor

From mountains to plains. From cool climes to scorching heat. Pandit Shivkumar Sharma’s santoor has journeyed through varied geographical regions and climactic zones to capture the essence of the saptaswaras in its 100-strong strings. It has also weathered many challenges to occupy the centre-stage in classical concerts. And today, his santoor will mesmerise music lovers in the city when it brings alive the romance of rain as part of the Barkha Ritu series of concerts organised by Banyan Tree.

“I do not think there can be any artiste who does not long to perform in Chennai. There’s music in its air and most its residents are rasikas. I have performed here several times but it’s interesting to portray the moods of the monsoon through ragas,” says the santoor maestro, who’s worked hard for this sufiana instrument to acquire a classical status

“I literally nurtured it in my lap,” he smiles. “It was my father-cum-guru’s vision and dream that I play classical music on it. And when I set out to fulfil it, I was surrounded by sceptics. People even advised me to take up vocal music or play the tabla in which I am well-versed too. All this only made me more determined in my mission.”

With the help of local craftsmen, the skilled musician brought about modifications and improved the tonal quality of the santoor to adapt it to Hindustani music. His experiments with strings were met with resounding success. Soon he became a prominent fixture at classical music festivals around the world. He even joined hands with flute ace Hariprasad Chaurasia (Shiv-Hari) to come up with some unforgettable film tunes. His son, Rahul, an accomplished artiste, has taken it forward by making the santoor an integral part of many cross-genre collaborations.

“I am excited that my son is seeing more possibilities. The free-flowing exchanges among artistes have inspired many youngsters like Rahul to discover newer facets of swar and taal. Such influences, though, are not new to music. For instance Khyal gayaki in Hindustani music has Persian roots. With changing times the way influences are drawn and displayed are changing too. But I strongly feel when artistes perform a classical concert they should by all means stick to the purity of style.” The senior musician, who is known for his quaint, unhurried raga-delineation as much as his lilting pahadi tunes (he hails from Jammu), is delighted that more and more youngsters are spotted at classical concerts today. And that most cities have a chock-a-block cultural calendar. “This genre will continue to strike the high note,” he signs off.

Pandit Shivkumar Sharma and Sudha Raghunathan will perform today at the Barkha Ritu concert at The Music Academy, 6.30 p.m. For donor passes call, 9323119381

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