Tabla maestro, Zakir Hussain and Santoor maestro Shiv Kumar Sharma together, gave a Jugalbandi concert at Grand Opera House at Wilmington, Delaware on April 24th, 09. My husband and I went to this concert as we are music lovers and we wouldn’t miss it as we never saw their duet performance on stage before. Jugalbandi is a duet with two different instruments or an instrument and vocals. This kind of concerts take people into a different world and not only lift the spirits up of audience but their bodies, minds and souls are filled up with wonderful musical experience. Before I talk about the great experience of the music I want to introduce these two great musicians of India. Both of them made their instrumental classic music very popular throughout the world.
Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma was born in Kashmir and was trained by his father Pandit Umadutt Sharma. Shiv Kumar Sharma learned Hindustani Vocal (There are two kinds of Classical music in India one is Hindustani, Northern Indian music style, and Carnatic Music South Indian style, nowadays both the styles are learned throughout India) and Tabla (Indian Percussion) before he learned Santoor. Audiences can see this complete training of Vocal and Tabla and it is often said that he has great knowledge of the table player’s rhythm. He is always in total command of laya which is tempo and his power is always overwhelming.
Santoor, which was originally known as ‘Shata Tantra Veena,’ means hundred – stringed instrument. Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma has refined the Santoor to eighty-six strings, in order to achieve the subtleties of Indian music. Santoor is played with a pair of curved sticks made of walnut, the itinerant gypsies used to carry around and today different parts of the world finds its counterparts like in the kanoon of the Turkey, the zither of Germany and the Santoori of Greece etc.
Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma is one of the most honored, popular and revered Hindustani Classical musicians of today. He is certainly greatest living Santoor player. He is a living legend who by redesigning and redefining the instrument brought revolution in the history and development of the instrument. With his dedication and genius work he has done the instrument does not need any introduction today as he has brought this little known Kashmiri folk instrument to the classical concert halls of India and the world. Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma is also a composer and a collaborator and he is indeed one of India’s most celebrated contemporary musicians and a true pioneer. He has received from the government of India the title of “Padma Shri” and Award from the Sangeet Nataka Academy.
Let’s know little bit about tabla maestro Zakir Hussain, who is appreciated not only in the field of percussion but also in the music world as an International phenomenon. With his consistently brilliant and exciting performances he has established himself as a national treasure in his own country India and earned fame all over the world. He is the favorite accompanist for many famous and greatest classical musicians like, Pandit Ravi Shankar world renowned Sitar player, Hariprasad Chaurasia famous classical flute player, Pandit Jasraj, classical Vocal musician, and many Kathak dancers, and accompanied when all kinds of Classical dances of Indian dancers like, Bharatnatyam, Kuchipudi, Odissi, Manipuri etc. performed together on one stage.
A child prodigy and the son of legend Ustad Alla Rakha was touring since he was 12years of age. He collaborated with different instrumentalists and percussionists in the world and did wonders. In 1992, his album “Planet Drum,” co-created and produced with Mickey Hart, received a Grammy award for Best World Music Album. Widely considered a chief architect of the contemporary world music movement, Hussain has collaborated with many leading musicians and ensembles including Shakti, which he founded with John McLaughlin and L. Shankar, the Diga Rhythm Band, Making Music, Planet Drum, and Mickey Hart. He has also recorded and performed with artists and ensembles such as George Harrison, Joe Henderson, Van Morrison, Jack Bruce, Tito Puente, Pharoah Sanders, Billy Cobham, the Hong Kong Symphony, and the New Orleans Symphony. In 1992, Hussain founded Moment! Records which features original collaborations in the field of contemporary world music, as well as live concert performances by great masters of the classical music of India. Zakir Hussain’s playing is marked by uncanny intuition and masterful improvisational dexterity, founded in formidable knowledge and study. He received the title of “Padma Shri” from the government of India in 1988 and the Sangeet Natak Academy Award in 1991.
Now I want to talk about the musical experience I had at the concert of duo Zakir Hussain and Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma. We attended the concert on 24th of April, ’09 at Wilmington, Delaware. The moment they entered the stage people gave them the standing ovation. The famous musicians whom we watch on T.V and listen to their music were standing on the stage greeting people with their hands folded in ‘Namaste’. We automatically got up from our seats and a feeling of watching great masters of music brought tears of happiness to me and can’t find the proper words to express what my mind and heart felt at that time. It can be great respect, admiration, not able to believe that I’m going to watch their concert; it’s a kind of joy hard to explain.
Before starting the program Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma explained little bit about what they were going to do in the program that day. He started with Alaap in which there was no percussion. Most musicians start with it. It’s kind of warming up and slowly taking the audience in the music world. Then he moved to Raag Rageshwari, I think it’s his favorite Raaga and he was accompanied by Zakir Hussain on Tabla, the percussion. As they were performing watching their expressions shows how totally they were immersed in the music, Santoor music, its sound, the way he was playing it just took me into a totally different world. I could hear the music visualizing the beautiful nature like birds flying, waterfalls running down with so much energy, the rainbows, streams, beautiful mountains etc. I could see the beautiful pictures of Kashmir, with beautiful houseboats filled up with flowers and the Kashmiri women dressed up beautifully are rowing the boats taking those flowers to the other side of the lake. I felt like this maybe because he is from Kashmir and the instrument is from Kashmir. When the excitement part of the music came when both of them were playing with the same tempo and rhythm the grand opera house burst with applause. By that time I totally forgot my surroundings and was just watching the artists, how their hands are playing and I could see the extreme happiness of entertaining so many people on the artists’ faces and taking us with them into pure music world.
After the break they played in which there was improvisation between both of them. When Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma was playing taking a Raaga and he can play with it by doing his own improvisations on the spot without any rehearsals and practices and Zakir Hussain is supposed to pick up that and play the same thing with Panditji. I have seen this kind of improvisation among Guitar and Chitraveena that is combination of Hindustani and Carnatic Classical music which was so interesting and audience get involved in the happiness of the musicians along with them equally. When it was Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma’s turn to do the improvisation and Zakir Hussain listening carefully playing with him slowly and when he is done the appreciation words which comes from heart “Kya -Bat Hai”, (it means what a wonderful work!) and then they play together. As Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma, also a master of Tabla he knows how to enjoy when his companion is playing.
Finally by the end of the concert I looked at myself, I was totally drenched by music. When they got up to take a bow and leave the stage everybody stood up and couldn’t stop the applause. We were applauding until they left the stage. I was like in a trance. I know I’ll be like that for few days even when I am doing other things I’ll be thinking of their music as if it entered in every vein in my body to heal my exhausted body and soul. Lot of Psychologists and psychiatrists suggest to their patients who suffer from depression, too much stress in their lives, chronic patients’ suffering with different kinds of illnesses etc. to listen to the music regularly as Relaxation Therapy. Lot of hospitals, doctors’ offices, has the music. There are lots of researches that show music helps people who are sick. The patients who listen to music regularly do much better both physically and mentally than who do not listen to the music at all. It’s my personal experience that when I was very sick and going through treatment it’s the music that kept me away from thinking negatively.
Only music has that power to entertain, to make people happy, to drench them in the music, to heal the stressed out minds and bodies and take them into a pure music world where there is no place for hatred, just love of music. If people can figure out the connection between the music and the nature they’ll definitely enter the paradise and I doubt there will be anything beautiful than this paradise.