Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma is a household name in India. His influence has transcended the classical audience and contributed to a greater popularity of Indian classical music. He has single-handedly lifted the santoor, a folk instrument previously found only in the Valley of Kashmir, to full acceptance within the classical repertoire. Shiv Kumar Sharma gave his first public performance in Mumbay (Bombay) in 1955, recorded his first solo album in 1960 and has not looked back since.
The santoor, a trapezoid-shaped instrument of the dulcimer family, has 116 strings, which are hammered with a pair of carved wooden sticks. Its original Sanskrit name was shatatantri vina (lute of a hundred strings). Similar instruments are found throughout Europe, the Middle East, and as far east as China. In Kashmir, santoor accompanied the regional music Sufiana Mausiqi, of Sufi origins.
Shiv Kumar Sharma was born in Jammu, in the state of Kashmir, on January 13, 1938. Training as a vocalist from age 5, followed by further training in percussion on tabla, led to other instruments – the sarod, violin, and harmonium – under the tutelage of his father and guru, Pandit Uma Dutt Sharma. Shiv Kumar took up the santoor at the age of 14, encouraged by his father, who had researched the instrument and recognized its potential as a classical instrument. Shiv Kumar started modifying the santoor to make it more suitable for his individual playing technique. By increasing the number of bridges to get a wider range of octaves and a smoother meend (the gliding action between two musical notes), Shiv Kumar successfully altered the structural configuration of the strings to make intonation more precise, elevating the santoor to an instrument of classical sophistication.
In the past three decades, Shiv Kumar Sharma has established a lineage of disciples, including his son, Rahul, who plays jugalbandi (duet) with his father. Together, father and son are helping to widen the popularity and further enhance the accessibility of this melodious instrument.
Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma released his memoirs, Journey with a Hundred Strings: My Life in Music, published in India.
Santoor & Guitar, with Brij Bhushan Kabra (1964)
Shivkumar Sharma (1967) – (re-released 2005 as “First LP Record of Pandit Shivkumar Sharma”)
Call of the Valley, with Brij Bhushan Kabra and Hariprasad Chaurasia (1967)
…When Time Stood Still!, with Zakir Hussain (Live in Bombay) (1982)
Rag Madhuvanti & Rag Misra Tilang, with Zakir Hussain (1987)
Hypnotic Santoor (1988)
Maestro’s Choice, Series One (1991)
A Sublime Trance (1991)
The Glory of Strings (1991)
Raga Purya Kalyan, with Zakir Hussain (1991)
Rag Rageshri, with Zakir Hussain (1993)
Raga Bhopali, vol. I (1993)
Raga Kedari, vol. II (1993)
Varsha – A Homage to the Rain Gods (1993)
Sound Scapes, Music of the Mountains (1994)
Hundred Strings of Santoor (1994)
The Pioneer of Santoor (1994)
Raag Bilaskhani Todi (1994)
A Morning Raga Gurjari Todi (1994)
The Valley Recalls – In Search of Peace, Love & Harmony, with Hariprasad Chaurasia (1996)
The Valley Recalls – Raga Bhoopali, with Hariprasad Chaurasia (1996)
Yugal Bandi, with Hariprasad Chaurasia (1996)
Maestro’s Choice, Series Two (1999)
Sampradaya (Real World, 1999)
Rasdhara, with Hariprasad Chaurasia (Navras, 1999)
Ananda Bliss, with Zakir Hussain (2002)
The Flow of Time, with Zakir Hussain (2002)
Sangeet Sartaj (2002)
Vibrant Music for Reiki (2003)
Sympatico (Charukeshi – Santoor)(2004)
The Inner Path (Kirvani – Santoor) (2004)
Essential Evening Chants, with Hariprasad Chaurasia (2007)
The Last Word in Santoor (Music Today, 2011)
Generations (A Melange of Classical and Contemporary Music Styles), with Rahul Sharma (Times Music)