Pandit Shivkumar Sharma
Pandit Shivkumar Sharma Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

Legendary Hindustani musician and santoor maestro Pandit Shivkumar Sharma died in Mumbai on May 10. He was 84.

According to reports, he was suffering from kidney-related issues for the last six months and was on dialysis recently. He succumbed to cardiac arrest earlier today.

Sharma was born on January 13, 1938, in Jammu. He is credited with giving santoor an identity in the Hindustani classical music. He recorded his first solo in 1960 and went on to create great music with flautist Pandit Hari Prasad Chaurasia and guitarist Brij Bhushan Kabra.

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As soon as news broke, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed his condolences and wrote: "Our cultural world is poorer with the demise of Pandit Shivkumar Sharma Ji. He popularised the Santoor at a global level. His music will continue to enthral the coming generations. I fondly remember my interactions with him. Condolences to his family and admirers. Om Shanti."

Indian sarod maestro Amjad Ali Khan also paid tribute to Sharma. "The passing away of Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharmaji marks the end of an era. He was the pioneer of Santoor and his contribution is unparalleled. For me, it’s a personal loss and I will miss him no end. May his soul rest in peace. His music lives on forever! Om Shanti."

Sharma's legacy and where it all began

Pandit Shivkumar Sharma
Pandit Shivkumar Sharma Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

Shivkumar Sharma was born in Jammu to singer Uma Dutt Sharma and his father taught him vocals and tabla when he was just five. But it was the folk instrument santoor - that he began studying at 13 - which made him a musical icon. 

Sharma is credited with making santoor a part of the Indian classical instrument lexicon. Sharma, who was honoured with the Padma Vibhushan in 2001 (India's second highest civilian honour) and Padmashri (India's fourth highest civilian honour) in 1991, had famously collaborated with flautist Chaurasia and guitarist Kabra in 1967 to produce a concept album, 'Call of the Valley' (1967). This seminal album turned out to be one of Indian classical music's greatest hits.

He has also composed music for many Bollywood films with Chaurasia as part of the Shiv-Hari music team that was popular with later filmmaker Yash Chopra. In 1980, they composed music for Amitabh Bachchan’s ‘Silsila’ and later went on to compose tracks for the late Sridevi’s stirring romance, 'Chandini' and ‘Lamhe’ and Shah Rukh Khan-led stalker drama ‘Darr’.

He is survived by wife Manorama and two sons, one of whom, Rahul Sharma, is also an accomplished santoor player.