Pt Shiv Kumar Sharma
The history of melody in India cannot be written without him being named in the list of successful musicians. He brought forward an almost unknown instrument to the level of global recognition. Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma, a born musician and a visionary, introduced santoor to the world. He became an its biggest exponent, taking it to the zenith of popularity and admiration.
At the age of five when a child can merely speak, he started learning the intricacies of Indian classical music. His father, Uma Dutt Sharma, guided his way to a perfect blend of rich knowledge and abundant spontaneous creativity. It was Pt Sharma’s father’s extensive research on the santoor that struck the chord with the music maestro and thus Pt Sharma created a new genre using the musical instrument.
In a career spread over five decades, Pt Sharma made his first public appearance at the age of 17 in 1955 in Bombay (now Mumbai). His father wanted him to be the first musician to play the Indian classical music on santoor. With utmost dedication he brought the instrument to limelight and modified its mechanism to make it adaptable to the notes of the Indian classical music. He also devised a new method to play santoor in order to retain its annotations for the sound continuity.
“My story is different from that of other classical musicians. While they had to prove their mettle, their talent, their calibre, I had to prove the worth of my instrument. I had to fight for it,” says the maestro in an interview.
He has been celebrating music in its purest form, thus never compromising on its beauty. In 1967, Pt Sharma teamed up with the flute maestro Pt Hari Prasad Chaurasia to compose some of the most popular, innovative experimental albums like Call of the Valley, Feelings and Mountains, etc.
Meanwhile, he also got married at the age of 28. It was an arranged marriage. Married to Manorama, he has two sons and one of whom is also a santoor player. The father-son duo has given many stage performances since 1996.
Pt Sharma is among those rare musicians who have successfully earned a name in the world of Bollywood as well. Starting from V. Shantaram’s Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baaje (1956) to Amitabh Bachchan starrer Silsila (1980) and finally leading his way to Shahrukh Khan’s iconic Darr (1993), his compositions were replete with richness and vibrancy. Santoor has now become an indispensible part of Bollywood.
Pt Sharma believes that “music is the food for the soul.” His melody is meditative and soothing at the same time. His immense faith and wisdom has resulted in creation of a new ‘raag’ called Antardhwani.
Today, he has over 100 recordings to his credit. A musician with such a vast spectrum of achievements has a long list of national and international awards bestowed upon him. In 1985, he was conferred with the Honorary Citizen for the City of Baltimore (USA), Sangeet Natak Academy Award (1986), Maharashtra Gaurav Puraskar (1990), Honorary Doctorate from the University of Jammu (1991) and Ustad Hafiz Ali Khan Award (1998).
In 1991, he was awarded with Padma Shri followed by the Padma Vibhushan in 2001. A native of Jammu, the maestro believes that there is no better way to create harmony than with music and poetry.