Pandit Shivkumar Sharma, renowned santoor player and celebrated musician who introduced the folk instrument to the global stage, passed away yesterday in Mumbai.
He was 84 years old. He had reportedly been suffering from kidney problems for the previous six months and was on dialysis. According to reports, he passed away yesterday due to cardiac arrest. He is survived by his wife, Manorama Sharma, and sons Rahul and Rohit Sharma.
“My father was my guruji,” said Rahul Sharma. “He is no longer with us, but his music lives on. He has given the entire world peace through his music, and what he has done for Santoor… It is now known all over the world. His music will always be remembered. He will be with us through his music,” added Rahul Sharma.
The veteran gave Santoor international recognition. He was one half of the composer duo Shiv-Hari. He collaborated with flute legend Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia on music for films such as Silsila (1981), Lamhe (1991), and Chandni (1989). He received the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1986, the Padma Shri Award in 1991, and the Padma Vibhushan in 2001.
Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, a renowned sarod maestro and composer, expressed his grief on Twitter. “The death of Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharmaji signals the end of an era. He was the Santoor pioneer, and his contribution is unparalleled. It’s a personal loss for me, and I’ll never forget him. May his soul find peace. His music will live on forever! “Om Shanti,” he wrote on Twitter.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid tribute to the Santoor maestro, saying that our cultural world would be poorer without him.
“Pandit Shivkumar Sharma Ji’s death has made our cultural world a poorer place. He popularised the Santoor all over the world. His music will continue to captivate future generations. I have fond memories of my interactions with him. Condolences to his loved ones and family. Shanti Om,” said PM Modi on Twitter.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee also expressed condolences to Pandit Shiv Kumar’s family, saying his death “impoverishes our cultural world.”
Sharma was born on January 13, 1938, in Jammu and Kashmir. His father, Uma Dutt Sharma, was a Tabla player and vocalist. When he was five years old, his father began teaching him vocals and tabla. His father saw an opportunity to introduce him to the santoor, a hammered dulcimer that had its origins in ancient Persia but was popular in Kashmir. He saw the styles that combined sufi notes with traditional Kashmiri folk music and had his son play the instrument, which was new to Indian classical music at the time. Sharma began learning santoor at the age of 13 and gave his first public performance in 1955 in Mumbai.
The Jammu-born musician, who also received a Padma Vibhushan, is considered to be the first to perform Indian classical music on the santoor, a Jammu and Kashmir folk instrument.
His biographer, art curator and documentarian Ina Puri said, “Following his music and learning about his journey, which began with an instrument that very few people had even heard of, has been a great honour. I am grateful beyond words to have known and worked with such a luminary.” “Shiv Ji looked like a man endowed with divinity when he performed on stage. I’ve seen him from Kolkata, his favourite city to perform in, to London, Mumbai, and other cities,” Puri added.
Dr Alka Pande, an art historian, emphasised his enormous contribution to bringing santoor to the world stage. “Yet another of the masters has died,” she said. “He drew a lot of attention to santoor and integrated it into mainstream instrumental music. He was a very appealing performer who was dedicated to his craft.”
While Pande expressed her condolences on Sharma’s death, she expressed joy that his legacy will live on through his son, Rahul Sharma, who is also a santoor player. “He has fostered yet another promising artist. We are all heartbroken by the death of the great artist, but such is life. It’s encouraging to know that his legacy will live on through his son,” she said.