Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Sound of Harmony

By Sarita Alurkar-Sriram
Rahul Sharma in concert

Fitting into the shoes of his illustrious father, living legend Pandit Shivkumar Sharma  is no easy task. But Rahul Sharma has managed this so well, that his father has  said .” I believe Rahul has a gift from God.”

Rahul’s musical virtuosity and mastery of the santoor, a 100 stringed instrument , has been widely acknowledged. He starting learning this instrument from his father Pandit Shivkumar Sharma, whose name is synonymous with the santoor today.

Indeed, the Sharma family’s association with the santoor goes back a long way. It started in the 1930s when Pandit Uma Dutt Sharma, (Rahul Sharma’s grandfather) became fascinated with the santoor, a Kashmiri folk instrument that was used to accompany Sufi music. He introduced it in the classical style, working out a system tuned to the needs of Indian ragas. It was his son Pandit Shivkumar Sharma, who  virtually reinvented this instrument and transformed it into a popular classical instrument.
“The santoor was a little known folk instrument until my father introduced classical music on it and gave it its current stature. My father brought it out from the valleys of Kashmir to the world’,’ says Sharma.

Rahul Sharma’s own journey with the santoor has been equally spectacular. He has expanded the possibilities of this instrument while keeping his foot firmly planted in the soil of the Hindustani classical tradition. “Be it classical music or collaborations, I am always looking to do more”, he says.”To me, music is a way of expressing my ideas and philosophy.”

His first taste of success was in September 2000 with 'Music of the Himalayas', a live performance in Turin which featured Rahul, percussionist Pandit Bhawani Shankar and tabla player Ustad Shafat Ahmed Khan. There was no looking back after that and Rahul Sharma has performed at various music festivals in North America and Europe, including WOMAD, and has also collaborated with international musicians like Richard Clayderman and Kersi Lord. 

But for Sharma, his first love remains pure Indian classical music. He says,” I began learning under my father at the age of 12.Initially I was also interested in composing my own tunes and that skill was complimented by the intracacies of classical music. Today after doing more than 60 albums , half of which are fusion/ collaborations and the other half classical , I still believe that classical music has immense depth and elevates listeners to a spiritual level. The fact that I collaborated with several Grammy winning musicians like Kenny G, Richard Clayderman, Deep Forest, etc is thanks to my classical training.

Being the son of living legend, Pandit Shivkumar Sharma , Rahul Sharma is often asked if the legacy of his father weighs him down. “ Its been an interesting journey , he says “and  I’m indebted to have a guru such as my father who has encouraged me at each step. Whatever I am today is because of him. Comparisons are inevitable but as long as one has passion about his/her work , he/she will succeed.”

Sharma looks forward to his classical concert in Singapore on 30th March at the annual SIFAS Festival of Music and Dance 2014.It has been 17 yrs of performing all over  the globe and each concert , tour  or collaboration is an eye opener and a learning experience. I enjoyed performing at the Esplanade with Richard Clayderman on my last visit there. Singapore is a vibrant city with lots of positive energy and Singapore audiences are great. I look forward to presenting some beautiful evening ragas and different shades of light classical and folk music.

Naadagatha –Sound of Harmony
A Santoor Recital by Rahul Sharma
Accompanied by Yogesh Samsi on the Tabla
Sunday,30th March, 2014, 7.30 pm
Esplanade Concert Hall
Tickets at $40 and $ 25, available at SISTIC
Limited tickets at $ 80

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