Shivkumar Sharma is one of the truly great visionaries in the Hindustani classical music firmament. His popularity has created a knotty problem for his admirers. Popularity has led to a demand for recordings by him, to a degree that having a Shivkumar Sharma album acts like a kind of validation for a label. Consequently the market is flooded with his recordings. His playing is consummate, therefore he is unlikely to produce a piece of work that is below par, which makes selecting a shortlist even more difficult.
Sharma's story is one of dedication. He was born in January 1938 in Jammu Kashmir. His father Uma Dutt Sharma asked him to pursue the development of the Kashmiri santoor. Being a dutiful son he obeyed and persevered despite private reservations. Though its Persian relative, the santur, had associations with Persian and Iranian classical music, elevating the Indian instrument to the classical concert platform was widely viewed as folly in conservative quarters. But Shivkumar Sharma persisted, experimented, restrung and reconfigured his instrument. His first major santoor recital took place in Bombay in February 1955, but it took, he reckons, until the 1970s to finally silence the querulous, "the die-hard connoisseurs of the music, musicologists and purists." Parallel with his development of the santoor he worked as a tabla player (he accompanied acts as diverse as the renowned Punjabi folksinger Surinder Kaur and sitar maestro Ravi Shankar), and his understanding of tabla playing and rhythm has immeasurably enhanced his performance style and stagecraft. ~ Ken Hunt