Farewell to the sultan of strings
Giving a voice to the twinkling stars above us with his santoor, Pandit Shivkumar Sharma always echoed the beauty of his home state Jammu through his music.
Born to singer Uma Dutt Sharma on January 13, 1938, the Dogri-speaking music legend started his journey with vocal and tabla lessons at the mere age of five, under the tutelage of his father. By the time he was 12, he had started performing for the local radio station in Jammu.
The santoor maestro passed away yesterday at his residence in Mumbai at the age of 84 of a cardiac arrest.
Shivkumar had been suffering from kidney-related issues for the last six months and been on dialysis. Despite suffering from renal alignment and undergoing regular dialysis, he was due to perform in Bhopal next week.
He picked up the santoor, originally a folk instrument resembling a dulcimer, at the age of 13 and went on to give his first public performance in Mumbai in 1955. Despite his performance stirring up criticism from traditionalists claiming the santoor was "unfit" for Hindi music, he went on to win hearts, skating from local stages to international platforms.
Gliding along his strings, Sharma's melodies worked like magic, intoxicating music lovers worldwide with the sweet twinkles of this folk instrument.
Garnering love and praise at every step towards success, Sharma managed to familiarise and establish the santoor worldwide.
Sharma ventured out into movies with the background score in V Shantaram's "Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baje" (1956). He went on to record his first solo album in 1960.
Aiming to introduce and integrate Kashmir Sufism into the Hindi film scene, Sharma predominantly incorporated local instruments and folk musical tunes into his compositions.
As part of the Shiv-Hari duo, he went out to deliver some of the most cherished playback numbers with celebrated flautist Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia, for acclaimed films such as "Silsila", "Chandni", "Lamhe" and "Darr".
Alongside his Bollywood releases, Sharma went on to craft an array of experimental albums, including "The Glory Of Strings – Santoor" (1991), "Varsha- 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 received the Padma Shri in 1991 and the Padma Vibhushan in 2001. He was also honoured with the Platinum Disc for "Call of the Valley" (1967), "Silsila" (1981) and "Chandni" (1989).
Sharma was awarded the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award, the highest Indian recognition given to practicing artistes, conferred by the Sangeet Natak Akademi, India's National Academy of Music, Dance and Drama.
Mourning the legendary composer's demise, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted, "Our cultural world is poorer with the demise of Pandit Shivkumar Sharma Ji. He popularised the Santoor at a global level. His music will continue to enthral the coming generations. I fondly remember my interactions with him. Condolences to his family and admirers. Om Shanti."
Sarod maestro Amjad Ali Khan also took to his Twitter and wrote, "The passing away of Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharmaji marks the end of an era. He was the pioneer of Santoor and his contribution is unparalleled. For me, it's a personal loss and I will miss him to no end. May his soul rest in peace. His music lives on forever! Om Shanti."
Tributes also poured in from numerous Indian artistes, including musicians Jeet Gannguli, Vishal Dadlani and actor Annu Kapoor.
Pandit Shivkumar Sharma is survived by his son, Rahul Sharma, who is also a santoor player.