Tributes: Legendary Santoor Maestro Pt. Shiv Kumar Sharma And Cricketer Andrew Symonds!

I did indeed have some regrets though as I couldn’t pay my homage to the legendary Santoor maestro Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma on time, and as an aftereffect failed to write about the Australian cricketer Andrew Symonds. Pt. Shiv Kumar Sharma passed away in a Mumbai hospital on 10th May 2022 after a prolonged period of kidney ailments and dialysis, at the age of 84. The glowing and flowing tributes paid to him from the music world, particularly the field of Indian Classical Music, and from all other fields which are still continuing show what a music stalwart he had been since the fifties. Panditji had introduced a folk string instrument called Santoor that used to be played in Kashmir and had Persian origins to Indian Classical Music and popularized it immensely with his learning, concerts and fusion all over the globe and through an invaluable collection of albums. At his very initiation to this instrument by his vocalist father Uma Dutt Sharma young Shiv Kumar observed the playing styles of the instrument that integrated Sufi notes with traditional Kashmiri folk music.


Born on 13th January 1938 in the Jammu region of Jammu and Kashmir, then a princely state, Shiv Kumar was taught vocals and tabla from the early age of just five by his father. Later his father introduced him to Santoor and a legend was born.


Pt. Shiv Kumar Sharma released his first solo Santoor album in 1960 and started performing all over the country. In the process he collaborated with the legendary flautist Hariprasad Chaurasia and legendary tabla maestro Ustad Zakir Hussain in many of his fusion concerts or jugalbandis and in various instrumental music albums. Before getting deeper and deeper into classical music he was open to composing film music too, and as early as in 1955 he scored a piece of background music for V Shantaram’s classic film Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baje. Settled in Mumbai he actively collaborated with Hariprasad Chaurasia that created the famous music director duo known as Shiv-Hari. They composed music for several of Yash Chopra’s superhit movies: Silsila (1981); Faasle (1985); Chandni (1989); Lamhe (1991); and Darr (1993). However, as we indicated earlier, he started delving into the depths of classical music, and famously said later, “Classical music is not for entertainment. It is to take you on a meditative journey”, which resulted into his moving away from composing Bollywood movie music. Pt. Shiv Kumar Sharma has been showered with numerous national and international awards including the Sangeet Natak Akademy Award in 1986 and Padma Vibhushan in 2001.  


Personally speaking, I knew Panditji as a music director of the Shiv-Hari duo since the early eighties and saw Zakir Hussain as an young boy with long hair playing tabla like a magician on various Doordarshan clips. I didn’t know much about classical music those days. Only after my marriage to Ragini, a Hindustani Classical Vocalist herself, in the late eighties I began my guided initiation into classical music, both Hindustani and Carnatic, and started enjoying immensely. Thus began our musical journey in the musically enriched Mumbai environs, attending and listening to various recitations in various popular auditoriums in various localities of the city of dreams. We watched the classical legends perform live. The concerts of Pt. Shiv Kumar Sharm with Zakir Hussain were unforgettable and we never missed an event when the duo was to perform. In the meantime, Ragini too started her vocal recitations on various famous Mumbai stages and I got immersed into the depths of classical music, now understanding why Panditji referred to classical music as a meditative experience; although primarily for the performers it’s for the sincere listeners too.


A globally famous musician, but a very humble and modest human being, and with striking good looks and a tall astute figure. Being a disciple of Padma Vibhushan Dr. Prabha Atre, Ragini had several opportunities to meet and interact with the legend during music conferences and concerts, and she says till today what a great musician he has been; what a modest soft-spoken gentleman he has been; an imposingly handsome person, but with striking simplicity. Pt. Shiv Kumar Sharma leaves behind his wife and his two sons, the first son Rahul is already an established Santoor performer. We salute the Santoor legend.


Cricket Australia has been hit again with the third tragedy in the last few weeks as one of its most lively cricketers Andrew Symonds died in a single car crash on 14th May 2022, at the young age of 46. This comes after Rodney Marsh and Shane Warne passed away within twenty-four hours of each other. We remember Andrew Symonds as a feared Aussie cricketer as India fans, thanks to his ferocious hitting with the bat and effective attack with the ball—both pace and spin—and of course, and a fielder of extraordinary abilities and reflexes; former Aussie captain Ricky Ponting described him as the best fielder he had ever seen. During his active cricket career from 1998 to 2008 for Australia he played in all three formats, however, made his impact mostly in the one-day internationals, at a time when the Aussies were invincible. He had been a part of Australia’s ICC World Cup triumphs of 2003 and 2007. Symonds, unfortunately, had had his share of controversies mainly due to his alcoholic habits and the infamous ‘monkey gate scandal’ involving India spinner Harbhajan Singh during India’s tour of Australia in 2008. It is really tragic that still in the prime of his cricket career Andrew Symonds had to finally retire in 2012 and his life ended now by another fatal tragedy. We mourn his demise and pay our tributes to a great cricketer.

(With some inputs and photos from Wikipedia) 


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