the-south-asian.com April 2003
RAHUL UNPLUGGED: SANTOOR MEETS PIANO by Avinash Kalla
RAHUL UNPLUGGED: SANTOOR MEETS PIANO
Rahul has emerged from the shadow of his legendary father Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma with his first fusion album with pianist Richard Clayderman. The young musician is all set to take the santoor to greater heights in the twenty first century with his creativity.
Santoor maestro Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma’s son Rahul has had to go through the paces and is now emerging from the wings of his father to carve an identity for himself in the world of music. Initially, of course, a little help from the father was always welcome.
Back in 1999 Sharma launched Rahul with an album that was appropriately titled Together. " The musical partnership reaches its peak when the performing artists belonging to two generations hail from the same family," says Rahul who has come a long way since he rode piggyback on his dad.
He now has a solo career all his own. His concerts in India and abroad have a following that could match that of his legendary dad. He has performed with the great fusion band Shakti which has the likes of Ustad Zakir Hussain, John Mclaughin and T.N. Vinayakram. And more excitingly, the young man has also composed music for the Hrithik Roshan starrer, Mujhse Dosti Karoge.
Rahul’s album The Confluence with pianist Richard Clayderman, recently released by Virgin Records, has been a smash hit among connoisseurs of fusion music. The two who were recently in Delhi to perform in a music festival organized by the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation, are now planning another album together.
The Confluence was a great experience, says Rahul and adds, " When I got a call from Virgin Records for a jugalbandi of the piano and santoor I agreed instantly without even checking out who my accompanying artiste would be."
When he came to know it was the legendary Richard Clayderman, he says he was simply stunned. " I then started working on it, talked to Richard and sent him compositions on CDs and E-mails. Then we met and worked out the finer details. So the album was partly done here and partly in Paris."
" It was a wonderful experience working with talented Rahul, he has a great understanding of music," says Clayderman, internationally considered to be one of the best selling French recording artists and concert performers of all times.
Rahul has other admirers as well. Admirers like tabla maestro, Ustad Zakir Hussain, who says, " It was a treat listening to the duo. Not for a moment did one get the feeling that this youngster was playing alongside one of the greatest international masters of the piano."
Not bad going for the young man who, just four years ago, was an accompanying artiste with his father and was extremely comfortable to remain in his shadow. He gave his first performance when he was 24 but in a few years he has become one of the most sought after musicians not only in India but abroad as well.
Be it the gradual unfolding of a raga through alaap or the rich, complex and intricate permutations and combinations of layakari or the soul-string rendition of an emotional folk melody, Rahul does it all with great panache.
Today, the 28-year-old can match his illustrious father string for string. Earlier he just accompanied him to concerts and was one of the many musicians in the background score. Now he can give a stirring jugalbandi with the senior ustad.
His complex unfolding of a raga and intricate rhythmic patterns of the rendition of folk melodies conjure upon the mind’s eye the visions of Kashmir---much like the music of Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma.
Though purists have always expressed reservations about the shortcomings of the santoor, essentially a Kashmiri folk instrument, to adapt itself to the needs of classical music, Rahul says he is determined to popularise it with the younger generation. " I owe it to my father and grandfather."
Indeed, he does. His grandfather Pandit Umadutt Sharma had the vision of establishing the santoor on the concert platform. Shiv Kumar Sharma achieved that ambition. He did for the santoor, what Bismillah Khan did for the shehnai-- increased the melodic range of the instrument to cover three octaves. He also enhanced its strings to 91 and its bridges to 31, making the instrument more expressive of the bhava innate to the ragas.
And that’s the legacy that his son has now inherited. Rahul is all set to take this instrument to greater heights in the twenty first century by adding new dimensions to it with his creativity.
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