Rahul Sharma and Kenny G come together for the album “Namaste India”

For Rahul Sharma, ace santoor artist, collaborating with the internationally-acclaimed saxophonist Kenny G has been a dream come true — the album “Namaste India” brings them together for the first time.

“Kenny is, by far, the world's most popular and successful saxophonist, and I truly respect him as a musician. It is a dream collaboration,” says the son of Pandit Shivkumar Sharma and the grandson of Pandit Uma Dutt Sharma, both maestros of the stringed instrument. “Namaste India” comprises an exciting fusion of the wind and string instruments, to give a lounge feel.

Melody rules

“Since I was composing this album for Kenny and me, I wanted it to be different from each of our earlier albums. And, that could happen only if Kenny plays Indian-style compositions. ‘Namaste India' has seven melodies, and the elements of a wind instrument in contrast to a string instrument are captured aesthetically,” says Rahul.

Kenny says the effort behind the album has been great. “I wanted to make sure that my saxophone blended in with the Indian sounds and still sounded like my own voice. Very tricky! But with time and heart, it worked out beautifully, I think!” he exclaims.

The album also includes a special instrumental version of the Hindi song ‘Yeh Kahaan Aa Gaye Hum' from the film “Silsila”. The composition has been played afresh by Kenny and Rahul with improvisation and yet retaining the original, including the parts voiced by Amitabh Bachchan. Ask Rahul about including a Bollywood tune in an album meant for instrumental lovers, and he says: “ This Bollywood song is one of my favourites, with Amitabh Bachchan's voice. With his voice and Kenny's sax and my santoor, the song sounds refreshing.”

Rahul's association with Bollywood has been very limited. He has composed music for “Mujhse Dosti Karoge”, and was approached for “Hum Tum”, but declined due to lack of time.

“My first experience with Bollywood was great. It was a Hrithik-starrer, I had Lataji singing for me in my first film, and the songs were a hit. While I was offered ‘Hum Tum' and many more movies, I realised film composing was time consuming. Since I travel for a good four to five months a year with concerts, this would be difficult. I'm glad I stuck to my decision, as I have a huge responsibility with santoor. Today, I've done over 50 albums, and collaborated with international musicians. I have one or two film offers, which I may take up — now I'm better placed in my career,” he reveals.

Rahul, who has worked with international musicians including oud player Georges Kazazian from Egypt, rabab player Homayun Sakhi from Afghanistan, Richard Clayderman for two albums, says “it's a humbling and learning experience”.

Both artists are hoping to perform live in India soon. Kenny says: “I had a wonderful time performing in India a couple of years ago. The people were amazing — so warm and friendly, and so proud of their country. I can see why! I can't wait to come back, and this time hopefully I will be able to play some Indian music as well as my own sounds.” Rahul echoes his sentiment: “Kenny and I are enjoying ‘Namaste India' topping the charts, and look forward to concerts together in the near future.”