As part of the recently concluded Regional Pravasi Bharatiya Divas that took place at Sydney, Australia between the 10th and 12th of November this year, a cultural feast was also organized and laid out at the Sydney city’s Convention & Exhibition Centre for the participants to immerse themselves and revel in, after they have spend the day wading through the weighty discussions and debates that formed the bulk of the activities during the various sessions during the three hectic days. One of the key performances during these three days was the 45-minute concerto delivered with aplomb by the world renowned Santoor maestro Pandit Shivkumar Sharma, who was accompanied in his recitals by Yogesh Shamsi on the Tabla, and Dilip Kale on the Tanpura. Vignettes:
Writing about music and concerts for a lay audience is a mite difficult, to say the least. Because the written word oft fails to do justice to the melody of the music, the mastery of the musician, and the rich tonality of the renditions. So we do what is second best here, by bringing you the thoughts of the performer, who in this case is none other than the internationally aclaimed master of the Santoor, Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma.
Shivkumar Sharma was born on January 13, 1938, in Jammu. The instrument he plays is called the Santoor, a folk instrument from Kashmir. The son of singer Uma Dutt Sharma, he started learning vocal music and tabla from his father at the tender age of just five. Uma Dutt Sharma had done quite a bit of research on the santoor, and was also very desirous that his son should be one of the first musicians to play Indian classical music on the santoor. In tune with his father’s wishes, Shivkumar Sharma began training on the santoor when he was barely 13, and made his father’s dream come true. His first public performance was in Bombay in the year 1955. Shivkumar Sharma is the master instrumentalist of the Santoor, and is widely credited with making the Santoor a popular Classical Instrument in modern times. Pt. Shivkumar Sharma is the recipient of numerous national and international awards, including an honorary citizenship of the city of Baltimore, USA, in 1985, the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1986, the Padma Shri in 1991, and the Padma Vibhushan in 2001.
At Sydney during the regional PBD, Pt. Shivkumar Sharma enthralled his audiences on the 10th of November 2013 with his 45 minutes of magic with the Santoor. Pt. Sharma played Raga Jhanghoti, Raga Pahari, and several other compositions like Thumri and Dadara too on the occassion. Talking to the audience during and after his performance, he told them that he was not merely a santoor player, but a representative of the centuries old tradition of classical music of India. He shared with them how live performances are neither planned nor orchestrated or rehearsed, but instead is a natural and spontaneous flow from the performer to the viewers and listeners. He outlined how audiences ought to immerse themselves into this spontaneous outpouring of melody, connect with the music and enjoy the harmony that it brings to them.
Pt. Sharma, taking the example of a chef, illustrated how we as the consumers of good food have no need to be a chef ourselves, and so with Indian classical music, one doe not need to be an expert in order to enjoy the music. Citing the evergreen nature of Indian music, he averred that it was also evernew. Listening to the same rage would on each occassionevoke a different kind of emotion, and bring about a different kind of experience, he said. Talking about Indian classical in general, he had this to say: “According to me, Indian classical music is not only just for entertainment, it is much more beyond that. Spirituality and Indian classical music are but two sides of the same coin. In India, the origin of Indian classical music was in the spiritual traditions of the country. Music that creates spiritual bliss for the performer and is shared by the listeners is the essence of this art form even today. It was my life long dream to play such kind of music which will make the listeners forget to clap; which will make them slient. My dream came true, when once I played one raga, and the listeners sat immersed deep into meditation and I experienced a state of thoughtlessness. This silence was so nourishing, so fulfilling, there was no need to play anything else.”