Shiv Kumar Sharma: I would like to compose music of my taste (Interview)

Shiv Kumar Sharma
Shiv Kumar Sharma

New Delhi, Aug 27 (Calcutta Tube) The musical instrument santoor largely remained in the precincts of Jammu and Kashmir until instrumentalist Shiv Kumar Sharma gave his first public performance in 1955. And 55 years thereafter, he is proud that even soaps and restaurants are named after the instrument.

‘If I trace the development and popularity of the santoor and compare it with other instruments which were widely known that time, I can proudly say it has come a long way. I am happy that many people play the santoor, and there is a large number of listeners for it. In fact, it makes me happier that there is also a soap named santoor,’ Sharma, 72, told IANS over phone from Mumbai.

‘Some friends even told me that there is an Indian restaurant named Santoor in Paris and what’s wonderful is that the santoor is played live in the restaurant. If it has reached such places internationally, it is an indicator that the instrument has definitely arrived somewhere,’ he added.

Such is the market for his music, that Saregama India, with whom Sharma has recorded most of his works, has launched an 18-CD premium pack comprising all his works recorded with it till date.

It covers 43 years (1955-1998) of Sharma’s music career and includes his solo performances, jugalbandi, rhythms, thematic music, live concerts, music from his albums and his work with his son and disciple Rahul Sharma.

‘I am humbled at their gesture. I am sure 18 CDs will be a bit too much of me for listeners, but it will be very interesting to just see what I have been doing with the instrument over the years. It is a great way, in fact, for me to sit back and assess myself.

‘Also, it is very important as a reference point for those who are learning the santoor, for listeners who like my music, and even for those who have never heard what it sounds like,’ said Sharma.

Born in Jammu, he has been playing the santoor since he was 13. He recorded his first album in 1960 with Sa Re Ga Ma, after which he even composed music for Shantaram’s 1965 film ‘Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baje’.

His major landmark came in 1967 with the album ‘Call of the Valley’, for which he teamed up with renowned flautist Hariprasad Chaurasia and guitarist Brij Bhushan Kabra. He continued his association with Chaurasia and composed for films like ‘Silsila’, ‘Chandni’, ‘Lamhe’ and ‘Darr’.

But now he says he has no time to compose for films.

‘There is no film on hand right now. Hari-ji and I are getting old. We have to travel all over the world for our concerts. Where’s the time? But, yes, in future if we get some time and suitable project, we will surely compose,’ said Sharma.

What would a suitable project be?

‘I would like to compose music of my taste – whether classical or non-classical. Every song must have feelings and melody. For film songs, I feel an important ingredient is the lyrics. A heady combination of good melody and poetry is all I would like to do,’ he said.

A Padma Shri and a Padma Vibhushan awardee, Sharma says even though he has a classical bent of mind, he doesn’t despise the loud music used in Bollywood movies.

‘Films keep changing and tastes also undergo change. Each generation has different ideas and change is a constant in life. I don’t think there is anything wrong with any kind of music. The youth is a better judge of the music today. I don’t listen much to film music.

‘But, yes, the music of every film depends on its script as well as taste and liking of the director. If film content is changing, so will the music.’

(Radhika Bhirani can be contacted at

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