From the valley to the hills

World Musician

From the valley to the hills

When santoor or the Indian hammered dulcimer was just a Kashmiri folk instrument, Pandit Uma Dutt Sharma reconstructed it. His son Pandit Shivkumar Sharma gave it a unique voice and made it an integral part of Indian classical music, something that was hitherto unheard of!

Continuing the line of tradition is his son Rahul Sharma, who has taken santoor to the world stage, proving that his forte is not just classical music but mixing musical genres as well. As part of the much-awaited album, ‘Deep India’, he is now collaborating with ‘Deep Forest’, in which he has also created a special track called Viva Madikeri to pay tribute to ‘Vivanta by Taj’.

“I am looking forward to performing with Eric Mouquet (‘Deep Forest’) in Madikeri,” informs Rahul. “We have eight songs together. Earlier, I had collaborated with international artistes like Richard Clayderman and Kenny G, but this time it is different. I have got folk musicians and instruments from all over India in the album. They are from Jammu and Kashmir, Maharashtra, Madikeri, Kerala etc. It was after doing a lot of research that I did the composition while Eric did the sound design,” he adds.

Recollecting his growing-up years and his musical influences, Rahul adds, “Whatever I know, I had learnt from my guru — my father. He introduced santoor to classical music. He was also lenient enough to let me try what I want to and experiment with music,’’ he says.

Rahul’s albums, now more than 50, are not just spiritual in nature but also speaks a universal language. Well, it is hard to forget ‘Confluence’, where he plays with Richard Clayderman and in Namaste with Kenny G. While he continues to perform classical concerts all over the world, he innovates to offer a contemporary musical experience in his albums. “Santoor is used in different countries under different names and is one of the difficult instruments to learn and to tune. The one I have has almost 100 strings,” he says.

There is no denying the unmistakable Kashmiri folk flavour in his compositions, transporting one to the valley. “Kashmir has definitely influenced my music, especially the folk songs of Jammu. And composing is something that comes to me naturally,” he informs. If one could recollect, his album ‘Music of the Himalayas’ has traditional folk and classical influences.

That all this is originating from a staccato medium is unbelievable.
“I have travelled to 40 countries and each time we play, we are appreciated everywhere. Audience abroad looks at it as a meditative art form. They say it takes them to a higher level,” he adds.

Talk of genres and he has done them all — Bollywood music, collaborations, new age, high-energy trance, folk and what not. Ask him whether a sound base in classical music has helped and he avers, “Everything evolves out of Indian classical music. A grounding in classical music is definitely important. But after having received that, one has to move on, re-learn and go beyond what one is trained in. Looking back, I used to listen to a lot of world music,” he recollects.

But that was a long time ago, the world is indeed listening to his music now!

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