Pandit Shivkumar Sharma Biography


Birthday: January 13, 1938 (Capricorn)

Born In: Jammu, India

Pandit Shivkumar Sharma was an Indian classical musician and a renowned ‘Santoor’ player. Born to a trained vocalist and tabla player, he was destined to become a classical musician from an early age. His father recognized the `potential in a folk instrument ‘Santoor’ and encouraged him to learn playing it. Shivkumar Sharma became famous because of his improvisations with santoor and the way he revolutionized it as one of the most riveting classical instruments. He is accredited for making the santoor a popular classical instrument. He introduced the new chromatic arrangement of notes and increased the range to cover full three octaves. He also improvised a new technique of playing with which he could sustain notes and maintain sound continuity. He is the sole musician to have brought santoor at par with other classical instruments and established it across the globe with his sheer brilliance and conviction. He is among those rare classical musicians who have been able to achieve success in the world of film music as well. His compositions for blockbusters such as ‘Silsila’ and ‘Chandni’ are a manifestation of his musical brilliance. With his creative genius, he created a new genre of instrumental music. Through his performances over a period of more than half a century, he created millions of new listeners and ardent fans of Indian classical music. His music will continue to enthral the coming generations.

Quick Facts

Indian Celebrities Born In January

Also Known As: Shivkumar Sharma

Died At Age: 84


Spouse/Ex-: Manorama

father: Uma Dutt Sharma

children: Rahul

Born Country: India

Composers Classical Musicians

Height: 5'8" (173 cm), 5'8" Males

Died on: May 10, 2022

place of death: Mumbai, India

City: Jammu, India

More Facts

awards: Sangeet Natak Akademi Award (1986)
Maharashtra Gaurav Puraskar (1990)
Padma Shri (1991)

Ustad Hafiz Ali Khan Award (1998)
Padma Vibhusan (2001)

Childhood & Early Life

Shivkumar Sharma was born on January 13, 1938, in Jammu, British India (now Jammu and Kashmir, India) to Uma Dutt Sharma, a vocalist and musician in the tradition of the Benaras Gharana and the "raj pandit" at the court of Maharaja Pratap Singh.

He started learning music at the age of 5. Initially, he learnt playing the tabla and was trained to be a vocalist by his father and Guru. When he was twelve, he started playing at the local radio station in Jammu.

His father did extensive research on santoor, a string musical instrument, and dreamt of his son becoming the first musician to play Indian classical music on it. When he was thirteen, he started learning Santoor to fulfill his father’s dream.

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In 1955, he delivered his first public performance in Bombay (present day Mumbai). The following year, he composed the background music for one of the scenes for the movie Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baje. His first solo album was recorded in 1960.

In 1967, he teamed up with the renowned flautist Hariprasad Chaurasia and musician Brij Bhushan Kabra, to produce a concept album titled Call of the Valley. The album turned out to be one of the greatest hits in Indian Classical Music.

Throughout his career, he released numerous innovative experimental albums on santoor music, including ‘The Glory Of Strings – Santoor’ (1991),‘Varshā - A Homage to the Rain Gods’ (1993), ‘Hundred Strings of Santoor’ (1994), ‘The Pioneer of Santoor (1994)’, ‘Sampradaya’ (1999), ‘Vibrant Music for Reiki’ (2003), ‘Essential Evening Chants’ (2007) ‘The Last Word in Santoor’ (2009) and Sangeet Sartaj (2011).

He also composed music along with flautist Hari Prasad Chaurasia, for many films, such as Silsila (1981), Faasle (1985), Chandni (1989), Lamhe (1991) and Darr (1993). They came to be known as the Shiv-Hari music duo.

In 2002, he published his autobiography, Journey with a Hundred Strings: My Life in Music. He used to teach santoor without charging any fees to students who came to him from all the corners of India as well as different parts of the world, including Japan, Germany, Australia and America.

Major Works

His most significant contribution to music was the popularization of the santoor. He carried out experiments with the santoor for many years to make it more suitable for his classical technique. The modified santoor, which is played in present days, has 31 bridges with a total of 91 strings. It has a range of three octaves with a chromatic tuning. He is also known for creating a technique for smoother gliding between music notes in order to imitate human voice quality.

Awards & Achievements

Pandit Shivkumar Sharma was awarded a ‘Platinum disc’ each, for the 1967 Hindustani classical music album Call of the Valley, the 1981 romantic drama film Silsila and the 1989 romantic drama film Chandni

In 1985, he was awarded an honorary citizenship of the city of Baltimore, USA.

In 1986, he received the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award, the highest Indian recognition given to practicing artists. It is awarded by the Sangeet Natak Akademi, India's National Academy of Music, Dance & Drama.

In 1990, he was awarded the Maharashtra Gaurav Puraskar. The following year, he received an honorary doctorate from the University of Jammu.

In 1991, Pandit Shivkumar Sharma was conferred with the Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award in the Republic of India.

He also received a ‘Special Award for outstanding music and sale of film’ for the 1991 romantic film Lamhe and the 1993 romantic psychological thriller film Darr.

In 1998, he was honored with the Ustad Hafiz Ali Khan Award.

In 2001, he became the recipient of the Padma Vibhusan, the second highest civilian award in the Republic of India.

Personal Life, Legacy & Death

Pandit Shivkumar Sharma married Manorama and the couple had two sons. One of his sons, Rahul, is also a renonwed santoor player and the father-son duo performed together at many concerts.

Pandit Shivkumar Sharma died on May 10, 2022, from cardiac arrest, in Mumbai. He was on dialysis as he was suffering from kidney-related ailments. He was 84.

See the events in life of Pandit Shivkumar Sharma in Chronological Order

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