#darbarfestival | “Before I started playing santoor, I was trained as a vocalist and a tabla player and I feel that has helped me a lot...I tried to balance melody with rhythm.” (Shivkumar Sharma)
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Shivkumar Sharma is one of very few Indian instrumentalists who has near-single-handedly put their instrument on the classical map. Born in the Himalayan state of Jammu to a Dogri family, his father Uma Dutt Sharma was an esteemed singer who inducted him into vocal music and tabla from a young age. But his path deviated at age 13, as his father recommended that he took up the santoor - a 100-stringed hammered dulcimer traditionally used in Sufi folk music.
They set about studying the instrument together, working out how it could be adapted to Hindustani classical settings. Conservative members of the music establishment viewed the endeavor as hopeless folly - the santoor’s rigid strings each have a fixed pitch and cannot be bent, seemingly ruling out the distinctive ornaments of Indian music. But they restrung, retuned, and reconfigured the instrument, changing the weight of the small mallets used to strike it and developing new techniques that allowed the young Shivkumar to glide and bounce his way through a melody, capturing the essence of Hindustani music’s gayaki ang [singing-style].
From the critics came first silence, and eventually applause - although Shivkumar estimates that it took almost two decades from his controversial 1955 debut to win over "the die-hard connoisseurs…and purists." He attributes his santoor style to blending the melodic turns of vocal music with his two-handed percussive training on tabla (he maintained his tabla study for decades, becoming proficient enough to accompany Ravi Shankar at one stage).
His long career since has seen him rise to the forefront of Indian classical music. He played on 1967’s Call of the Valley, the first Hindustani album to find a global audience, and teamed up with bansuri master and close friend Hariprasad Chaurasia for several acclaimed film soundtracks. International collaborators have included electronic producers as well as a successful stint with Indo-jazz heavyweights Remember Shakti. Today he takes keen interest in therapeutic music, and teaches dedicated students for free at his ashram during breaks from touring with his santoor-playing son Rahul, who carries his lineage forward. Hear more of Shivkumar here:
-Origins of Santoor | https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4gFe5LYrThw
Anindo Chatterjee is one of the most accomplished tabla players of the modern age, known for breathtaking speed and extraordinary clarity of stroke. Aged five he became All India Radio's youngest artist, and studied with Jnan Prakash Ghosh guru for three decades, learning the intricate grammar of the Farrukhabad gharana before then branching out to others. Hear more of Anindo here:
-Kings of Tabla (+ Kumar Bose) | https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gXW8BQ_7nQ8
-Mian Ki Malhar | https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aCz4tvuA8iU
Jog describes a ‘state of enchantment’. Commonly played in the late evening, it has a finely balanced mix of major and minor phrases, and is popular among Western listeners due to its almost bluesy tension. Its wide interval jumps give a spacious melodic feel. It ascends as SGmPnS, but descends with a characteristic ‘Gmg zigzag’ to form SnPmGmgS. It favours strong phrasings, often starting on Ga, and Pa is usually considered to be the vadi [king note]. Listen to more of Raag Jog here:
-Rakesh Chaurasia (bansuri) | https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rFjasQ7y7fg
-Pelva Naik (dhrupad vocal) | https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2VA6D4sdmuI
-Rupak Kulkarni (bansuri) | https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AXDomj6KnkE
Recorded at Darbar Festival on 4 Apr 2010, at London’s King’s Place:
-Shivkumar Sharma (santoor)
-Anindo Chatterjee (tabla)
-Roopa Panesar (tanpura)
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