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MUSIC & DANCE

Music festivals bridge gap between audiences and classical music: Rahul Sharma

Life&More March 13, 2019
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Saurabh Tankha

Born to legendary santoor player Padma Vibhushan Pt Shivkumar Sharma, Rahul Sharma was just 13 when he picked up the instrument his father had been associated with since his teenage days too. An Economics graduate, Rahul will be performing at the 72nd edition of Shriram Shankarlal Music Festival in the National Capital tomorrow, March 14, 2019 at 1830 hours. We had a quick chat with the santoor maestro…

We all know about your illustrious father but not much about your mother, wife and son. Please share something about them…
My mom, Manorama Sharma, has been instrumental in making me pursue education and she is the reason that I graduated in economics. My wife Barkha is a constant source of inspiration for me with her creative ideas. She is a dancer and a designer with her own menswear label — Barkha‘n’Sonzal. Her video, Yug O Vision, which released last year was a yoga-dance anthem to promote wellness of yoga. My son, Abhinav, will soon turn five.
Your relation with Pt Shiv Kumar Sharma, the father and Pt Shiv Kumar Sharma, the guru.
He’s always been more a father than a guru and I feel lucky and fortunate to have him in both the roles and am comfortable with both the avatars.
Would you want to play the same role (of a guru) to your son as your father was with you?
Of course. But first he should learn from his grandfather and then later, I shall take over.
How difficult is to step out of an illustrious father’s shadow and make a place for yourself?
Well, it has been 23 years of performing on stage for me in which I have probably done 60 albums concerts across the globe. I have worked and collaborated with some of the greatest musicians of our times. I agree it does time in the beginning to find your own path but then having the right guru always helps.
Was picking up the santoor out of choice or were you made to carry the family tradition forward?
Out of choice.
If not a santoor player, what would you have wanted to take up as a career?
An artist. I love caricatures and sketches.
You have played santoor with the maestros of music world. Share an interesting onstage incident with one (apart from your father) of them?
I am fortunate to have been the only Indian musician to have collaborated with Grammy winners such as KennyG, the American saxophonist on a full-fledged album Namaste India which reached the no. 1 spot on US Jazz Billboards and done concerts with him. I also did two albums with the highest selling pianist Richard Clayderman and collaborated with French Grammy-winning Electronika group Deep Forest on an album. I remember playing with KennyG in a museum in Italy where, apart from our songs, we improvised and enjoyed the spontaneity.

In your opinion, do events like Shriram Shankarlal Music Festival help people get closer to our country’s oldest forms of music?
Festivals like Shriram Shankarlal always help bridge the gap between audiences and traditional classical music. When I perform at such festivals, it is a responsibility to represent Indian classical music in the finest and most authentic manner.
If you were to rate music lovers of cities in terms of understanding music during a show, which will be the top three cities in the world and why?
Kolkata, Pune and perhaps, New York. If parents in certain cultures feel it is their responsibility to pass on our cultural music and dance forms to the future generation then that longevity I find in Pune and Kolkata but also New York which accepts of all genres just like Mumbai and even Cape Town.
Acceptability of Indian music abroad
Popular in music festivals all over the world.
Success to you is…
Satisfaction and pride to be a torchbearer of our cultural music yet bring new sensibilities to it through collaborations. 
Who has been the most inspirational person in your life?
There are so many but as a child, a boy always looks up to his father. Apart from that, the musical influence of world over play an absolute role in shaping my musical styles. Musicians like Sting, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Vangelis and Enya.
A day in the life of Rahul Sharma…
If I am not travelling for concerts, my day begins with a workout which is followed by practice/composing for three-four hours after which I spend time playing football or other games with my son and spending time with my wife Barkha and catching a movie on TV.
What is Rahul Sharma doing when he is not playing the santoor?
When I am not playing santoor, I am discussing everything else under the sun with my friends who are not from the music world which is refreshing as I don’t like to talk about music all the time and yes, taking vacations with my family is high on the list.

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