In newly independent India, when classical music scene was dominated by the trio Pandit Ravi Shankar, Ustad Ali Akbar Khan and Ustad Vilayat Khan, a soft-sounding, trapezoid-shaped instrument burst onto the proscenium stage with its divine glides and strokes replicating the purring of moving water. A tall man from Jammu & Kashmir, Pandit Shivkumar Sharma found melodic possibilities in this age-old Sufi folk instrument, in turn, his audience did too. In the Capital, for the HCL concert series, this weekend, Sharma will perform in three back-to-back concerts. Excerpts:
How do you look back at the journey that put a humble Sufi folk instrument like the santoor on the classical music map?
It’s been a long but fun journey. What has happened to santoor needs to be credited to my father Umadutt Sharma, who actually thought that this could be done, that a folk instrument could use 100 strings and produce micro shrutis. When I look back and see where it has reached, it’s incredible and humbling at the same time. An artiste’s own discipline and learning is one thing, but I believe in divine intervention too. It’s then that music becomes special for the listener.
Shiv-Hari has been one of the more popular music composer duos of the country. You two perform classical concerts together often but will we ever hear another film score?
When we began, Silsila came out in 1981, we decided that if there came a time when we have to choose between film music and classical, we will choose classical. We’ve had our priorities right. Darr was in 1993, and a lot of time has passed since then. The film industry has changed a lot. I don’t even know if our music will suit today’s films. I hear they call it Bollywood these days. We are very happy playing our concerts, teaching and travelling.
You are extremely strict when it comes to concert etiquette. You’ve reprimanded people during your concerts, also telling them not to applaud too much. How is the Indian audience faring these days?
Each musician has his or her own approach. How I play my music and how I connect with my listeners is a very personal idea. I’m glad that after years of playing now, my audience connects with the way I play it and respects it. I have always maintained that music is beyond just entertainment.
When it comes to music in the Valley, things generally get embroiled in politics. Your comments.
Everything gets embroiled in politics in Kashmir. Whenever somebody gets a chance to politicise matters, they take it. Our politicians need to listen before politicising things.
You’ve spoken about infringement of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) in the past. Do you think classical artistes are finally more aware?
There has been lot of effort in bringing the IPR bill. All over the world, the idea is understood and implemented, but in India we hardly have much awareness, at least not among the classical artistes. The issue is quite central to the cause of music and we need to talk and discuss it more often so that it paves the way to safeguard artistes’ rights.