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Meet Alankode Haridas Who Keeps Pandit Shivkumar’s Santoor Alive in the South

Santoor artiste Alankode Haridas brought the legacy of Pt. Shivkumar Sharma alive in South India.

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Meet Alankode Haridas Who Keeps Pandit Shivkumar’s Santoor Alive in the South
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Santoor is not a commonly used instrument in musical concerts in the south of India. Taking this instrument that is inspired by Sufi traditions from Kashmir to Kerala is Haridas Alankode, the only Malayali disciple of santoor maestro Pandit Shivkumar Sharma.

Santoor virtuoso Pt Shivkumar Sharma, who took the stringed instrument to the global stage and successfully straddled the worlds of classical and film music, passed away following a heart attack on 10 May. Haridas told The Quint that his tribute to his guru is to keep the art alive.

Sharma single-handedly lifted the Sufi instrument of the Kashmir Valley and positioned it on par with oft played stringed instruments. Santoor in India is now synonymous with Pt Shivkumar Sharma, he said.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Haridas who has performed on around 1,000 stages in Kerala said that meeting Pandit Shivkumar Sharma changed his life.</p></div>

Haridas who has performed on around 1,000 stages in Kerala said that meeting Pandit Shivkumar Sharma changed his life.

(Photo: Accessed by The Quint)

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The First Meet That Changed Haridas’ Life

Haridas, who was drawn to Hindustani music from a young age, learnt to play the violin for 13 years from Pt. Bhargavan in Malabar, when providence brought him to hear the magical music of Pt. Shivkumar Sharma at a concert in Kottakal in Malappuram district.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Sharma taught him the basics as well as an advanced composition in Hindustani and Haridas was asked to practice the same composition for two years.</p></div>

Sharma taught him the basics as well as an advanced composition in Hindustani and Haridas was asked to practice the same composition for two years.

(Photo: Accessed by The Quint)

Haridas who has performed on around 1,000 stages in Kerala said that if one doesn't prove their mettle the first time Sharma meets them, he may not take them under his wing.

“I met guruji for the first time on 3 April 1995 and he was so excited that someone from Kerala was playing an instrument from Kashmir. His first test was to check if I knew how to tune the santoor to the right sruti. He was making sure I was taking the art seriously,” he said.

The very next day, he got his first lesson in santoor, after which he went to Mumbai to learn further from him.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Haridas at his   first performance with the maestro in Kerala.</p></div>

Haridas at his first performance with the maestro in Kerala.

(Photo: Accessed by The Quint)

“Guruji was such a colossal figure but I didn’t have any money to give as guru dakshina (an offering to the teacher) to pay my respects. So I went to Mookambika temple, prayed for his good health, and offered the temple prasadam (blessed temple offering) to him," Haridas said, adding, "After all he was God to me."

Sharma just asked Haridas to surrender himself as guru dakshina. "That's when I knew that my life was going to change and the path towards achieving my dreams became more clear,” Haridas said.

'With Great Talent Comes Great Responsibility'

Recollecting the first time he performed in front on Sharma, Haridas said, “He came to Kerala and celebrated his 72nd birthday in Palakkad. I played the santoor and he said it was excellent and that he was proud of me. There was no appreciation higher than that and I felt like I accomplished something.”

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Haridas and his family with his guruji.</p></div>

Haridas and his family with his guruji.

(Photo: Accessed by The Quint)

“That day taught me to not just be proud but be responsible for the art that I am associated with.”
Alankode Haridas

Sharma taught him the basics as well as an advanced composition in Hindustani and Haridas was asked to practice the same composition for two years.

“Some say that if you analyse something too much then it loses its beauty. But he would always say that the deeper you analyse, the more beauty you find. The first album copy he gave me to practice was that of Keeravani raga. I have lost count of the number of times that I've heard this. But even today when I listen to it I hear unique elements that I hadn't stumbled upon earlier,” he said.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Sharma always told his musicians to push boundaries and that is what made Haridas present fusion concerts where he played Santoor along with Kerala’s traditional instruments.</p></div>

Sharma always told his musicians to push boundaries and that is what made Haridas present fusion concerts where he played Santoor along with Kerala’s traditional instruments.

(Photo: Accessed by The Quint)

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Annual Meet for Disciples That Led to Blending of Raagas

Hailing him as a man with immense patience, Haridas talked about how for ten years before the pandemic struck, the maestro would conduct an annual session with his disciples at a gurukul – Chinmaya Naada Bindu – in Pune.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Pt Shivkumar Sharma and his disciples at Chinmaya Naada Bindu in August 2015.</p></div>

Pt Shivkumar Sharma and his disciples at Chinmaya Naada Bindu in August 2015.

(Photo: Accessed by The Quint)

“When guruji told us to perform individually, everyone was hesitant to be the first one to play. I was very nervous and so volunteered to play first. He kindly said, 'Look at Haridas from Kerala playing an instrument from Kashmir. This is the true meaning of national integration.' And since then I was the opening batsman of sorts at every annual meeting.”
Alankode Haridas

Sharma always told his musicians to push boundaries and that is what made Haridas present fusion concerts where he played Santoor along with veena, violin, flute, mohana veena, tabla, and Kerala’s traditional instruments like Edakka and Ghatam.

He experimented by blending classical music traditions of south India with the Hindustani lessons and the folk music of Kerala. He has also scripted a unique combination of Santoor music and dance that he has named ‘Ragamadhavam’.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Pt Shivkumar Sharma and Haridas at Chinmaya Naada Bindu in 2013.</p></div>

Pt Shivkumar Sharma and Haridas at Chinmaya Naada Bindu in 2013.

(Photo: Accessed by The Quint)

In the past few years, Haridas has been performing with his son Sreerag, who is also a disciple of Pt. Shivkumar.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Haridas has been performing with his son Sreerag, who is also a disciple of Pt. Shivkumar.</p></div>

Haridas has been performing with his son Sreerag, who is also a disciple of Pt. Shivkumar.

(Photo: Accessed by The Quint)

Advice for Life: ‘Music Has Magic That Never Dies'

Sharma regularly held private concerts with musicians every year but when the pandemic struck the interactions reduced to phone conversations, Haridas said.

Haridas told The Quint that on Sharma's 84th birthday in January, he arranged for a Google Meet where all his disciples joined and shared fond memories.

“That was my last interaction with him and it was magical. He enquired about my son and when he learned that my son has moved to London, he told me to seek guidance from his senior most disciple Harvinder Pal,” he said.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Pt Shivkumar Sharma's disciples on a Google chat on the maestro's 84th birthday.&nbsp;</p></div>

Pt Shivkumar Sharma's disciples on a Google chat on the maestro's 84th birthday. 

(Photo: Accessed by The Quint)

Looking back, Haridas said that the advice of Sharma that he holds very dear to his heart is:

“Music is beyond entertainment. It should make you look within and find a dormant raga. You have to bring that out and experience it completely because only then will others be able to enjoy it. Music has magic that never extinguishes.”

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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