Splendor Of Masters – Santoor in Jugalbandi with Ghatam and Tabla

My earliest memory of Pandit Shivkumar Sharma (and the musical instrument Santoor) is of the Doordarshan filler – ‘Desh Raag‘. The filler that featured stalwarts of Indian music performing the track ‘Baje Sargam..’ based on Raag Desh was a window to the amazing talent in Indian classic music from all parts of the country. I, like many others, still credit that filler for the knowledge of the various instruments (Santoor, Sarod etc.) and the musicians (Veenai Balachander, Shivkumar Sharma, Hariprasad Chaurasia and others). When my friend, Tejas, told me about this concert where the father-son duo of Pandit Shivkumar Sharma & Rahul Sharma would be performing, I was more than happy to accompany him. Another attraction to the event was the promise of a Jugalbandi of the Santoor masters with ‘Ghatam’ Vidwan Vikku Vinayakram.

'Splendor Of Masters' Concert Ticket

‘Splendor Of Masters’ Concert Ticket

The concert was scheduled for 7:30 pm on a Friday evening, the 23rd of January 2015 at Chowdiah Memorial Hall, Malleswaram, Bangalore. The hall was near full when we entered and the stage was beautifully set. After a brief introduction and a light warning to parents with infants, the artists made entrance to the stage, one by one. Pandit Anindo Chatterjee and Ramkumar Mishra, both Tabla players, made the first entrance amidst claps from the audience. Then came Rahul Sharma and the audience reciprocated with a higher pitch in their welcome. But the loudest of the welcome was reserved for the senior, Pandit Shivkumar Sharma with his mushroom cloud of hair now salt coloured. A sizeable number from the audience took to their feet to give a standing ovation. It was announced that Vidwan Vikku Vinayakram would accompany the musicians on the stage a little while later into the program.

Beautifully set stage at Chowdiah Memorial Hall, Malleswaram, Bangalore

Beautifully set stage at Chowdiah Memorial Hall, Malleswaram, Bangalore

With a brief introduction from the Pandit himself, the duo set forth into an Alaap for Raag Charukeshi. They started in a slow tempo, as is the custom, and gradually built up the pace and the excitement of the audience. The Table duo too was not left out; their charged accompaniment was equally appreciated by the audience and the Santoor masters. This performance was the longest of the day, clocking almost a little more than 45 minutes. For the next performance, a light classical composition of Pandit Shivkumar Sharma based on Raag Pahaadi, the Ghatam Vidwan Vikku Vinayakram was invited on to the stage. The aged musician struggled to get onto the stage and set himself right next to Rahul Sharma, who dutifully touched the former’s feet, amidst glowing appreciation from the senior Santoor master. Once into the performance of the composition, the old man unbuttoned the front of his shirt and cast away with it his “years” too! He suddenly became alive and charged, belting out the perfect percussionist rhythm from his Ghatams – yes, he had 2 Ghatams of varying pitches and he skilfully switched between these two and at times played them simultaneously. He appeared suddenly, by some miracle, 20-30 years younger. This performance ended, similar to the previous one, with thunderous applause. The Ghatam expert too stood up, gave his salutations to the crowd and the musicians on the stage and made his exit. It was a short stint from him for the day, but one that is worth remembering. The last performance was based on Raag Mishr Pahaadi – the base Raag being Pahaadi but with interludes from other Raags as well (as described to me by my musically Knowledgeable friend). It was a quick and energetic piece to conclude the concert.

To me the most astonishing part of the evening was the co-ordination between the musicians. I don’t think so it came out because of them being a father and son – there was more to it. They were seated next to each other, and the Tabla players, one each seated at 90 degrees to the father and the son. So, the eye contact between the Santoor players and the Tabla players is understandable, but what kind of cue or co-ordination that the father-son employed is something that is beyond my grasp. One knew where the other would stop or go into the low pitch so that the other can take over. The instrument itself is unique – a trapezoid box with horizontal strings that are played with two antenna like contraptions. They created magic by playing a range of sounds from that “box” and at the end, enthralled the audience with playing it unconventionally – plucking the string with hand in tandem and holding the palm pressed against the strings to bring out an electronic kind of music.

The concert was aptly titled – ‘Splendor of Masters’.

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~ by Jayanthan Ravi on January 26, 2015.

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