I grew up listening to Hindustani classical music. Pt. Bhimsen Joshi, Kishoni Amonkar, Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia, Ustad Bismillah Khan were regular names we listened to and discussed about. One big name missing from the list is Pt. Shivkumar Sharma. I have no idea why, but my guess is my dad was not a big santoor fan, or he was just uninitiated. After reading Panditji’s memoir Journey With A Hundred Strings, and being completely awed by this maestro, I had made a promise to myself that I will listen to him play live one day. And that dream came true.
Splendor of Masters is an annual event organized by Banyan Tree and this year they brought the father-son duo of Pt.Shiv Kumar Sharma and Rahul Sharma together after a long period. Vidwan Vikku Vinayakaram was going to be the star performer later in the evening. The event was held at Chowdiah Memorial Hall on Friday. That being a working day and having to travel to the opposite end of the city did hamper our plans, but luckily, we made it on time. Wish such events were held on Saturdays/Sundays, but that is a rant for another day.
The event started on time. After a quick introduction, the maestros walked onto the stage and began almost immediately. Panditji addressed the crowd in English (which I was surprised about, I expected him to speak Hindi) and let us know his plans for the evening. Before he began his recital, he did comment on keeping the kids in check so it doesn’t disturb the musicians. Digressing here, but why do people think it is a good idea to bring little kids to such shows? I saw a couple with a kid who couldn’t have been more than 2 years old. Exposing kids to classical music is a great thing, but this is not the way to do it. If you cannot arrange for the kids to be looked after, then please rethink on attending such shows. I left my own kid back home for the evening and have sacrificed many such shows in the past because my kid was too small and there wasn’t anybody to take care of him. I say this first as a mother and then as a music lover. Rant over.
Panditji started the evening with Raag Charukeshi. A peaceful and melodious alaap with Panditji taking the lead, ably supported by Rahul Sharma turned into a harmonious music after the tabla maestros joined in. We got to see the juglabandi play between the father-son duo and the tabla players. It soon reached a crescendo and the entire hall burst into applause. The musicians thoroughly enjoyed themselves, with an often heard “wah wah” for their peers, but the crowd enjoyed it the most.
Vidwan Vikku Vinayakaram joined the others for the next piece in Raag Pahadi. There was an experimental piece where Vidwanji used two ghatams with different scales. Panditji and Vidwanji had a go at jugalbandi. While some parts of this was a treat to the ears, I was left unimpressed with the ghatam piece. I blame myself; I don’t think I have the ears to appreciate ghatam. And the experiment with different scales of ghatam was beyond my grasp.
We bid adieu to Vidwanji and the concluding piece was a semi-classical composition in Raag Pahadi. The name for this raag is so apt: you close your eyes while listening to this raag and you immediately find yourself in a valley with a cool breeze blowing on your face. This reminded me of a few songs which Panditji has composed for Hindi film music. Though Panditji took the lead here too, this clearly belonged to Rahul Sharma. He showed a lot of variation and his music sounded more “youthful” to my ears.
Having lived through my dream, I can say it was everything I had imagined it to be: an evening filled with pure, unadulterated music. My admiration for Panditji has increased manifold after this event, but I have added another name who I want to listen to more: Rahul Sharma. Being born and brought up under the shadow of such a great personality, having to carve out a place for your own is not easy, so kudos to Rahul Sharma. At the end of the program, the simple gesture of Rahul touching his father’s feet and Panditji patting him on his back left me very emotional. It was a memorable experience to see such big, yet humble, names play and I hope I get to witness more such events.
Photo credit: Banyan Tree