Who is Pandit Shivkumar Sharma?
Pandit Shivkumar Sharma is an Indian classical musician and a renowned ‘Santoor’ player; santoor is an Indian folk instrument. Born to a trained vocalist and tabla player, he was destined to become a classical musician from an early age. His father recognized potential in a folk instrument ‘Santoor’ and encouraged him to learn playing it. Shivkumar Sharma became famous because of his improvisations with santoor and he revolutionized it as one of the most riveting classical instruments. He is single-handedly responsible 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 has created a new genre of instrumental music. Through his performances over a period of more than half a century, he has created millions of new listeners and ardent fans of Indian classical music.
Childhood & Early Life
He 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 Benaras Gharana and the "raj pandit" at the court of Maharaja Pratap Singh.
He started learning music at the age of five. Initially, he learnt playing tabla and was trained to be a vocalist by his father and Guru. When he was 12, 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 13, 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).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 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 titled ‘Journey with a Hundred Strings: My Life in Music’. He continues to teach santoor music in the Guru Shishya tradition, without charging a fee from his students, who come to him from all the corners of India as well as different parts of the world like Japan, Germany, Australia and America.
His most significant contribution to music has been towards the popularization of the folk classical instrument ‘santoor’. He carried out experiments with santoor for many years to make it more suitable for his classical technique. The modified santoor which is played in present days has got 31 bridges with a total of 91 strings. It has got 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
He 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 the Honorary Doctorate from the University of Jammu.
In 1991, he 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 1991 romantic film ‘Lamhe’ and 1993 romantic psychological thriller film ‘Darr’.
In 1998, he became the winner of the ‘Ustad Hafiz Ali Khan Award’.
In 2001, he became the recipient of ‘Padma Vibhusan’, the second highest civilian award in the Republic of India.
Personal Life & Legacy
He married Manorama and the couple is blessed with two sons. One of his sons, Rahul, is also a delightful santoor player and the father-son duo have performed together at many concerts.