In a packed auditorium of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum in Lexington MA,the most sought-after santoor player in the world gave an enchanting performance onSeptember 16 th . Rahul Sharma, son of legendary santoor player Shivkumar Sharma performed at an event organized by Shadaj, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting Indian classical music in the Greater Boston area. The concert was in association with the India Society of Worcester and supported by Lexington Community
Education and Mass Cultural Council and was part of the annual community outreach event.
Rahul Sharma took the stage accompanied by Aditya Kalyanpur on tabla as the audience settled in hushed anticipation. Rahulji briefly explained the origin of santoor in Sufi music as an accompanying instrument. He also mentioned that his father and Guru Pandit Shivkumar Sharma brought santoor to prominence in classical music. Panditji’s enormous contribution to Indian classical music is simply undeniable. The concert began with the slow and meditative aalaps of raag Bhoopali. The tranquil notes of the raag filled the auditorium. He unfolded the raag slowly before starting a vilambit gat in the 9-beat cycle of Matta taal followed by a composition in
Teentaal and Ektaal. The rich and resonant sound of santoor is ideal for harmony-based music. However, Pandit Shivkumar Sharma introduced innovative techniques and styles of santoor that expanded the expressive potential of the instrument. He adapted and modified the instrument expanding its range and making it suitable for the complexities of Indian classical music. He showed a journey from harmony to melody with the santoor, thus validating it as a classical instrument. The next generation of santoor players use these techniques to show specific ornamentations of notes as demanded by various raags. In raag Bhoopali, Rahulji used gliding techniques to create an illusion of meend from sa-dha and pa-ga with slurring sparkle of notes. The intricate and exquisite layakari patterns and small patterns of tihai, which Rahulji is known for,were executed precisely with complementary tabla accompaniment. The dynamic presentation in drut gat continued to build the energy and was thoroughly enjoyed by the audience.
After an intermission, Rahulji presented a lighter variety in raag Mishra Khamaj.The pleasing melody of Khamaj was enhanced by endless varieties of melodic patterns.
The sprinkling of various other raags seamlessly blended and enhanced the lyrical and emotive potential of Mishra Khamaj. The expressiveness of the presentation showed Rahulji’s sense of beauty and creativity. The dazzling interplay of rhythm and melody building towards the final release was greatly appreciated by the audience.
Aditya Kalyanpur’s accompaniment on tabla was impeccable. He is known for his technical virtuosity and a restrained yet complimentary accompanying style. The thought process and rhythm patterns of Rahulji’s music were appropriately enhanced by Adityaji. A dialogue between tabla and santoor was a delight to watch. The combined effect of their mutual understanding was nothing less than captivating. Rahulji gave plenty of opportunity to Adityaji to showcase his art, and Adityaji received an ovation from the audience multiple times.
Music is an extension of one’s personality. Although Shivji’s influence is undeniable, one can see that Rahulji has developed his own style. He uses playing methods that expand the sonic possibilities of santoor, and its use in layakari is quite pleasing. He is a versatile musician. Recognizing that this instrument is better suited for harmony-based music, he took it on the world stage. He has shown a different dimension of santoor with his collaborations with Jazz and Western classical musicians.
The audience will have to find other opportunities to get that cross-cultural experience, however.The enormous effort of Shadaj team is always evident at these events. All aspects of the concert were handled with due diligence by Shadaj volunteers. This concert will leave melodious memories for the audience to take home with the expectation of more high-quality Indian classical events from Shadaj.
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