Santoor Maestro Passed Away At The Age Of 84
In what came as one of the most heart-breaking news from the music industry, legendary musician Pandit Shivkumar Sharma passed away at the age of 84 on May 10. The iconic Santoor Maestro was suffering from kidney-related ailments for six months and was on dialysis, died of a cardiac arrest. Despite suffering from renal alignment and undergoing regular dialysis, he was due to perform in Bhopal next week. Soon after his passing away, many influential personalities from the country offered their condolences. This included President Ram Nath Kovind, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, J&K Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha, former J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah led the galaxy of prominent persons including politicians, artistes, litterateurs and those from other walks of life across the country in paying glowing tributes to Santoor virtuoso. He is survived by his wife Manorama and two sons, Rahul, also a Santoor player and Rohit.
A Padma Vibhushan recipient, Pt Shivkumar Sharma was born in Jammu in 1938 and is believed to be the first musician to have played Indian classical music on the santoor, a folk instrument from Jammu and Kashmir. He picked up 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. He was not just a great performer but a magnificent individual as well. He had his initial training in Classical music and Tabla from his illustrious father Pandit Uma Dutt Sharma, who was associated with (the then) Radio Kashmir Jammu (RKJ). It was Shivji’s virtuosity which accorded recognition to Santoor as a classical instrument at the international level and he became a synonym to the stringed instrument. Very few people would be aware that he would play Tabla and Violin too with great ease and regale his audience with his performance.
Though his performance stirred up criticisms as traditionalists claimed that the santoor is not an 'unfit' instrument for Hindi music, he went on to win hearts, skating from local stages to international platforms. Gliding along the strings of santoor, Sharma's melodies worked like magic, intoxicating music lover worldwide with the sweet and peaceful sound of this folk instrument. With him garnering love and praise in every step along his way to success, Sharma managed to familiarise and establish santoor worldwide. He received the Padma Shri in 1991 and the prestigious Padma Vibhushan in 2001 for his contributions to Indian music.
Pandit Shivkumar Sharma composed the background music for one of the scenes in the 1956 film Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baje. Four years later, Pandit Shivkumar Sharma recorded his first solo album. He collaborated with flute legend Hariprasad Chaurasia and guitarist Brij Bhushan Kabra in 1967 to produce the acclaimed concept album Call of the Valley. Under the name “Shiv-Hari”, Sharma also composed music for several critically acclaimed films such as Silsila, Lamhe, Chandni and Darr, along with Chuarasia. He is the winner of Sangeet Natak Akademi Award. Cascading flow of octave notes emanating through his stringed instrument would instantly ‘transport’ one to a state of trance, amid lush green meadows, lofty mountains, majestic lakes and springs of Jammu & Kashmir – an identity he proudly cherished, anywhere and everywhere.
It was his grit and determination that made him and “Santoor” – a synonym to each other internationally and made J&K and Jammu, his home town in particular, very proud. It was his passion that took Santoor, a traditional folk instrument of J&K and so innate to its culture, to the exalted status of classical instrument and that too at international level. However, this recognition to “Santoor” and its virtuoso Pandit Shiv Kumar did not come so easily. Eventually, Santoor reached where Indian music reached. This is the contribution of Pt Sharma's continuous sadhana (disciplined and dedicated practice).
Over the past two years, in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, Pandit Shivkumar Sharma hardly stepped out of his residence. However, he was occasionally spotted at events. His art is appreciable and recognised worldwide undisputedly. He is such a gem that none will forget him. His immense prints are deep down in our hearts and will be cherished forever. India feels proud on him and side by side mournful to lose such a star.