RIP Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma

The legendary Santoor maestro Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma (born: 13th Jan 1938) is no more. He passed away yesterday in Mumbai at the age of 84.

Some people are so great that they are synonymous with the art form they are known for. In India, there are few such legends in the world of music who ARE the instrument they play.

Zakir Husain means Tabla. Ravi Shankar means Sitar. Shehnai means Bismillah Khan. If I say Sarod, the first name you would think of would be Amjad Ali Khan and if I say flute you would think of Hariprasad Chaurasiya. Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma was in that league. You could not associate anybody else with Santoor.

Of course there are other greats who have mastery over the musical instruments mentioned above. But the legends which I quoted have some unique greatness which makes us associate them with the instrument they play.

I feel that each musical instrument has some aura and a particular quality (tone/pitch/mood etc) which resonates with our personality or a particular mood we carry. When I am at a big book exhibition, all by myself, quietly going through interesting books, I hear Santoor in the background. I wouldn’t prefer a flute or a violin and certainly not any kind of vocal. Somehow Santoor’s sentiment, mood is perfectly soothing, calming, relaxing for that environment – at least for me.

I remember that in my childhood we had an audio cassette of Shiv Kumar Sharma’s first big album from 1967 – Call of The Valley. It was so soothing and mesmerising! His concerts with Hariprasad Chaurasiya (Pt. Sharma didn’t like the word Jugalbandi/जुगलबंदी – which has connotations of a competition. He preferred word Saha Vaadan/सहवादन which meant playing the music together) were just amazing!

Later on I got to know that they – Shiv-Hari – are the duo who composed melodious music for some of the movies in 80’s and 90’s such as Silsila, Chandani and Lamhe.

I often wondered how these two legends of their own musical instruments used to compose music which involves so many other instruments and singing. Not every great musical instrument player is a composer. Composing music a very different creative art form.

I found the answer of that in one of the interviews of Pt. Shiv Kumar Sharma where he mentioned that he was also a (good) Tabla player in his early age as a kid. Not only that, he also used to play harmonium well. So probably among the duo, he was the one who contributed more to the music arrangement and orchestration.

Just as aside, Pandit Vasantrao Deshpande and Pandit Jasraj were also very good Tabla players.

Coming back to Shiv Kumar Sharma, I found a couple of very interesting video clips of him – one where he is playing Tabla and is accompanying his son Rahul Sharma who is playing Santoor. The other one is a music rehearsal of the song “Morni Baga Ma” from Lamhe, where Pt Sharma is seen playing harmonium while Lata Mangeshkar and Pt Chaurasiya are seen sitting with him.

You’ll find umpteen videos on Youtube of Shiv Kumar Sharma playing Santoor. So I thought I should share these two rare and different videos here. RIP Pt. Shiv Kumar Sharma! 🙏💐

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