Wednesday, August 2, 2017


( Pandit Ji performing in Mumbai .1955)


Pandiit ji belongs to an illustrious family of musicians from   Jammu (Panjtirthi ) city .Santoor was introduced to him by his father Pandit Uma Dutt sharma (  A disciple of Pt. Bade Ramdas ji of Benaras) ,  who himself was an accomplished vocalist and Tabla player .

Santoor  had an  ensemble role  in Sufiana music of Kashmir  sung by a group of musicians . It was one of the instruments used by by the group . But Pandit Ji used its full potential to play  solo Hindustani classical music  . He has single-handedly lifted his folk instrument, the Santoor, to full acceptance within the classical solo field.

In the early decades of the 20th century, the Santoor, or Shata-tantri Veena as it was called in earlier times, was used as an accompaniment to a specific type of singing called Sufiana. Pandit JI modified this  instrument to make it more suitable for his classical technique, increasing the range of the instrument to three full octaves. Besides, he also created a new technique of playing with which he could sustain notes and maintain sound continuity.The modernised Santoor, played by Pt. Shiv kumar Sharma has 31 bridges and 91 strings. The resonance is cut down by placing the instrument on the lap of the player, rather than on a wooden stand.

Zaz family of Zain Kadal ,Srinagar makes special Santoors for Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma and Pandit  Bhajan Sopori. The ancestors of Ghulam Mohammad Zaz were also engaged in the Santoor making activity. Presently ,only this family makes Santoors in Kashmir.

Panditji’s struggle in establishing the Santoor as an independent and complete musical instrument in the Hindustani music world is commendable. Pandit ji informs this :-

" Some critics were very harsh in saying that the  Santoor would never be accepted as a classical instrument. Others, mostly senior musicians who knew my father, were sympathetic, and framed their comments in a different way: ‘Beta, you have chosen the wrong instrument. There is still time: give up this instrument, take up the sitar or sarod and you will be very successful."

He did some fantastic and soulful   Jugalbandis with Ustaad Zakir Hussain ( Tabla  ) , Hari Prasad Chaurasia ( Flute  ), Brij Bhushan kabra (Guitar   ) and  many other well known names in classical music  (Instrumentalists ).Pahadi remains his favourite Raaga. He has created some memorable compositions based on this Raaga.

It may not be out of place to mention that both Ustad Zakir Hussain and Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma  have strong ancestral link with Jammu and both could be called as eminent Dogras.Ustad Zakir Hussain  is the worthy son of Tabla legend Ustad Allah Rakha. Allah Rakha's family  was  from a  village near  Samba town in Jammu province of J&k .He used to speak fluent Dogri .I believe he was also honoured by Dogri Sanstha Jammu.

For his  contribution to Indian Classical  music, Pandit ji received  Sangeet Natak Akademi  Award in 1986  ,  Padma Shri in  1991 and the Padma Vibhushan in 2001). In 1985, he was awarded an honorary citizenship of the city of Baltimore, USA.

Joined by Hari Prasad Chaurasia   under Shiv- Hari banner  , Pandit ji also scored music for some successful Hindi  films notable being Silsila ( 1981)  and Chandini ( 1989 ).  They  first collaborated in 1967 as part of a trio with guitarist Pandit Brij Bhushan Kabra to produce the album “Call of the Valley”. And his albums such as " Call of the valley "and  Soundscapes - Music of the Mountains "  remain my prized possessions .

Not many of his fans know that Pandit Ji is a wonderful Tabla player .  Many amongst us don't  know that S. D. Burman  was also an admirer of Pandit Ji's music. Later R. D. Burman too became his admirer. It was R.D. who knew  Pandit Ji's expertise at Tabla and suggested to his father to use some Tabla   notes  from Pandit Ji   for Devanand's super hit  movie 'Guide' . And senior Burman Da used Pandit ji's  scintillating   Tabla notes  in two songs ' Mo se Chhal Kiye Jaaye and "Piya to se naina laage re "


     ( Ustad Zakir Hussain and Pandit ji   )            

                 ( Pandit Ji playing on Tabla)

About his decision to come to Mumbai in 50s of the last century, Pandit Ji says this:-

I would like to mention one incident which could be called a turning point in my life. In 1960, I was offered a job as music producer in Radio Jammu which my father wanted me to take up as a financial security but I could never imagine myself doing a 9-to-5 job even though it was connected with music. I wanted to experiment my talent as a freelance musician and left home totally unplanned and landed in Mumbai with my Santoor and Rs500 in my pocket on June 1, 1960. Had I not taken that blind jump in the darkness of the future, I don't know what would have happened to the Santoor and my life. "

About his Tabla playing, Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma has many interesting memories. Once, he said this :-

“Many people do not know that Pt Jasraj,the renowned vocalist  was a great tabla player also. Once, he came to Kashmir for a  broadcast from the Radio  Kashmir , Srinagar. This was early 50s. It was a live concert in Srinagar, and we both were supposed to be performing there. I was playing the Santoor and he had come to perform as a vocalist. The tabla player who was supposed to play with me, was not so competent and the station director requested Pandit Jasraj ji to accompany me on the tabla. Then, after many years when he was performing in Dadar, Mumbai, to a packed hall, I had gone to attend his concert. His tabla player got late that day and Pandit ji requested me that I accompany him on the tabla. This is a very rare thing."

Pandit Ji's  contribution  towards enriching Hindustani classical music is Immense . Good health and long life to this  great musician  . ...

( Avtar Mota )

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