The Artists Pandit Shivkumar Sharma, is one of the most popular and revered Indian classical musicians of our time and is widely accepted as our greatest living santoor player. Throughout a performance career of more than 50 years, Shivji, as he is affectionately and respectively known, has fashioned another genre of instrumental music, creating an audience of new listeners and ardent fans of Indian classical music. If the santoor today needs no introduction, it is due to his work and genius, since he has brought this little-known Kashmiri folk instrument to the classical concert halls of India and the world. Shivji has made important modifications to his instrument, refining the santoor to Ninety two strings and increasing the range to cover a full three octaves. At the same time, he created a new technique with which he is able to masterfully sustain notes and maintain sound continuity. Shivji was trained by his father, Pandit Uma Dutt Sharma, and learned vocal music and tabla before beginning his study of the santoor, thereby receiving a complete musical training evident in his work and performances. His open-minded approach has resulted in popular and innovative recordings, including Call of the Valley, Feelings and Mountains. So far he has released more than 100 Albums. He has had a long and successful career composing for films and has made the sound of the santoor indispensable to Indian film music. His compositions for blockbusters like Silsila, Lamhe, Chandni, and Darr are all-time favorites. He is also a dedicated teacher, imparting his knowledge in the Guru Shishya tradition to the next generation of musicians, training students from all over the world. His son and disciple Rahul Sharma has already made a name for himself as a formidable talent and performer. Shivji has garnered many prestigious awards, notably – The Honorary Citizen for the City of Baltimore, USA (1985); Sangeet Natak Academy Award (1986); Maharashtra Gaurav Puraskar (1990); Honorary Doctorate from the University of Jammu (1991); Padma Shri (1991); Ustad Hafiz Ali Khan Award (1998); Padma Vibhushan (2001); Tansen Samman (2004); Master Deenanath Mangeshkar Award (2005); Honoured by The House of Representatives of The State of New Mexico (2007); International Cultural Ambassador Award by World Bank (Sept 12, 2007); Honorary Degree of Doctor Of Letters of The Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) on 16 Feb, 2008; Honoured by Sangeet Natak Akademi with The Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellow (Akademi Ratna) on 9 Oct, 2012.
Zakir Hussain is considered one of the greatest musicians of our time. Along with his legendary father and teacher, Ustad Allarakha, he has elevated the status of his instrument, the tabla, both in India and around the world. A favorite accompanist for India’s leading classical musicians and dancers, Zakir is also widely recognized as a chief architect of the world music movement with his many historic collaborations, including Shakti, Remember Shakti, Diga, Planet Drum and his ever-changing moveable feast, Masters of Percussion. In Summer 2012, Zakir was named Best Percussionist in the Downbeat Critics’ Poll.
A child prodigy, Zakir began touring at the age of twelve, becoming the most acclaimed Indian musician of his generation and one of the world’s leading percussionists. He is the recipient of many honors, including a recent Grammy in the Best Contemporary World Music category for Global Drum Project with Mickey Hart, Giovanni Hidalgo and Sikiru Adepoju, Padma Bhushan from the government of India in 2002, and the 1999 National Heritage Fellowship, the United States’ most prestigious honor for a master in traditional arts. In 1992, Planet Drum, an album co-created and co-produced by Zakir, became the first recording to win a Grammy in the Best World Music category and also won the Downbeat Critics’ Poll for Best World Beat Album. Both Modern Drummer and Drum! magazines named him Best World Music Drummer and Best World Beat Percussionist, respectively, in 2007. In April, 2009, his music was showcased for four sold-out nights at Carnegie Hall’s Artist Perspective Series. Also in 2009, Zakir was named an Officer in the Order of Arts and Letters by France’s Ministry of Culture and Communication.
Most recently, the National Symphony Orchestra commissioned and presented his Concerto for Four Soloists at the Kennedy Center. He has contributed to innumerable recordings and has received widespread recognition as a composer for his many projects, scores and soundtracks including Little Buddha, In Custody, Vanaprastham, Mystic Masseur, Mr & Mrs. Iyer, YoYo Ma’s Silk Road Project and the acclaimed Concerto for Banjo, Bass and Tabla commissioned by the Nashville Symphony for their center’s opening gala in 2006 and co-composed with his constant colleagues, Edgar Meyer and Bela Fleck. In March, 2013, SF Jazz in San Francisco will present 4 nights featuring Zakir Hussain and his music to for their much-anticipated new center’s inaugural season.
North Indian Classical Music
Any performance of North Indian classical music depends considerably on the mood and inspiration of the artists and their rapport with the audience. Therefore, the selection of ragas and talas will be chosen according to the mood of the evening and announced just prior to the performance by the artist. Moods from solemn and sad, to romantic and restless are said to be embodied like personalities in the thousands of ragas in classical literature.
Indian classical music is a highly developed musical language which expresses itself entirely through melodic tone rows called raga. Whereas in Western music a major key may be said to symbolize happiness and a minor key sadness, different ragas express or symbolize a whole variety of emotions as well as the various times of day and seasons of the year. In Indian music there is no harmony, so all musical meaning must rest with the interrelation of the notes in each particular raga. The octave is divided into the same number of semitones as the Western chromatic scale, but the intervals are not tempered. Furthermore, most musicians deviate from these intervals in certain ragas by sharpening or flattening specified notes micro-tonally. In North Indian music, such as will be heard in this program, microtonal inflections are used as a means of emotional expression on certain predetermined notes.
Only seven of the twelve semitones have names: Sa, Re, Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha, and Ni (equivalent to Doh, Re, Me, Fa, Soh, La, and Ti). The other five are thought to be alternatives for Re (second), Ga (third), Ma (fourth), Dha (sixth) and Ni (seventh). Sa (first) and Pa (fifth) are fixed.
A raga selects five, six, or seven of the named notes or their variants, and in some cases both alternatives of a note are used. The ascending and descending lines of raga need not necessarily use the same notes nor the same structural sequence, as a raga is not just a scale. Rather, a raga implies elements of melodic shape which are brought out by omitting certain notes, by placing more emphasis on one note than another, by certain zigzag shapes, and by end notes, on which characteristic cadences may rest. Often these are the inflections mentioned earlier. These inflections, also called Gamak, give the performer tremendous scope for expression and variation of interpretation during his performance.
The most important note in any raga is the tonic, around which the development of the raga evolves. It must be pointed out that in Indian music, once the instrument has been tuned, the tonic never changes, as opposed to Western music where the tonic may change frequently during a work by way of modulation and harmonic development. Indian music is entirely melodic, firmly rooted in its tonic, and any apparent harmony is a matter of coincidence rather than intention. However, if a prominent note is stressed particularly in a passage, a Western listener could possibly imagine this as a change of tonic - or key.
The santoor was known in India as the “Shata Tantri Veena” or the hundred-stringed lute. Unlike other stringed instruments which are usually plucked, the santoor is played by striking the strings with two curved hammers made of walnut. The santoor was first presented on the classical stage by Shivkumar Sharma in Bombay in 1955, when the maestro was only 17 years old. Used in the early decades of the twentieth century to accompany a style of singing known as Sufiana Mausiqi, the santoor is thought to have been spread around the world by itinerant Gypsies.
The tabla, the premier North Indian classical percussion instrument, consists of a pair of single-headed tuned kettledrums. The left-hand drum, banya, is made of an alloy of copper and silver with a goatskin membrane and provides a bass note of indefinite pitch. The right-hand drum, tabla, has a hardwood body and the membrane is stretched by a number of thongs and eight wooden blocks which are used for tuning the drum to the keynote Sa. In the center of the membrane there is a small black circular area composed of a dried paste made from flour, iron and manganese filings and other ingredients. This increases the resonance of the drum considerably. Each drum stroke has its own particular name: Na, Ta, Dha, Dhin, Trik, and so forth, and the rhythmic patterns are transmitted orally through these onomatopoeic names.