I first discovered the music of Pandit Shivkumar Sharma when I was studying in Class 8 in Srinagar, Kashmir. It was 1988. Though I had little understanding of classical music at the time, I went into a trance listening to it. Santoor and Kashmir were synonymous with each other. The sound of santoor evokes an image of waterfalls and mountains, lakes and springs, shepherds and sufis.
It was not until 1991 that Pandit Sharma’s music became so important to me that I gave up almost everything, including regular studies. We were living in Udhampur in those days, having been forced to leave Kashmir due to the eruption of armed insurgency the previous year. I took up music as if my whole life depended on it. I started learning Hindustani classical music under two illustrious teachers, Dr Bushan Lal Kaul (a renowned Sitarist) and Anil Raina (noted flautist and son of the legendary composer and musician, Shri Omkar Nath Raina).
Going to Jammu Just to Buy Cassettes
I used to go to Jammu for the sole purpose of buying audio cassettes of Pandit Shivkumar Sharma. I wanted to own all the cassettes that existed in the market. I spent all my money on them. Listening to Shivji’s santoor music not only gave me comfort but also helped me sail through the most difficult phase of my life.
By this time, I had started to appreciate the subtle intricacies of Shivji’s style and technique. I became so attached to his music that I listened to it almost all the time. Invariably, I would be transported back to my beloved homeland, Kashmir. Such was the power of his music.
I had at least 10 audio cassettes of Pandit Shivkumar Sharma’s music. That was all I could lay my hands on in Jammu and Delhi. But those 10 cassettes gave me company for seven years. Panditji’s music healed me. Even today, I go back to Panditji’s santoor every now and then.
At one point, I wanted to learn santoor. But I chose to learn flute instead. santoor was way too expensive for me.
'You Learn the Most When You Fail'
The world of Indian classical music has suffered loss after loss in the past two years. We lost Pandit Debu Choudhary, Pandit Rajan Mishra, Pandit Jasraj, Ustad Ghulam Mustafa Khan, T N Krishnan, Pandit Subhankar Banerjee, Lata Mangeshkar, and now, Pandit Shivkumar Sharma. But these legends leave behind music that will continue to enrich the lives of millions around the world, while also shaping the culture and values of the future generations.
I refuse to believe that evolved souls such as Pandit Shivkumar Sharma die. He might not be with us in flesh and blood today, but his music and teachings will always be an integral part of our daily lives. His rich music will continue to play a key role in our quest for peace, harmony and divinity.
I have learnt a lot from Pandit Shivkumar Sharma. Not only was he one of the finest teachers of Hindustani classical music, but he was also a guru, an innovator, a yogi, a seeker, and a philosopher. That is largely because his music is rooted in an ancient philosophical system and tradition.
“You learn the most when you fail,” said Panditji at a lecture organised by his close friend and fellow musician, Pandit Hari Prasad Chaurasia, in 2015.
“Disregard all praise that is showered upon you. This is what I learned from my father. Music is the reason the world is still livable. The concept of ‘Naad Brahma’ [Sound is God] is what the current generation should reflect on. Indian Music teaches us how to live…”
Kashmir, My Lost Home
Had it not been for Pandit Shivkumar Sharma’s music, I would not have become the person I am today. There are days I miss Kashmir – the Kashmir of my childhood, my lost home. On those days, I return to Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia, Brij Bhushan Kabra, and Pandit Shivkumar Sharma’s album titled ‘Call of the Valley’.
‘Home’ now is Shivji’s santoor music. If there is one word that defines his music, it is peace.
(Siddhartha Gigoo is a Commonwealth Prize-winning author. He tweets at @siddharthagigoo. This is a personal blog. The views expressed are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)