World Music Institute's Festival of India series continues with a program featuring two legends of Indian music who have collaborated together since the 1980s: Pandit Shivkumar Sharma and Zakir Hussain. Sharma has enraptured audiences for over 50 years with his mastery of the santur, a hammered dulcimer known for its lush, shimmering sound. A pioneering musician, he was responsible for developing the santur, traditionally used in Kashmiri folk music, into an important instrument in the North Indian classical repertoire. He will be joined by the inimitable Zakir Hussain, the leading tabla player of his generation. Son and disciple of the late Ustad Allarakha, Hussain is the favorite accompanist to India's greatest classical musicians and dancers.
Pandit Shivkumar Sharma, one of India's most popular and revered classical musicians, is India's greatest living santur player. Born in 1938 in Jammu, Kashmir, he studied vocals, tabla and santur with his father, the late Pandit Uma Dutt Sharma, a prominent exponent of Indian classical music. His instrument, the santur, was known in India as the “Shata Tanri Veena” or the hundred-stringed lute. Unlike other string instruments that are usually plucked, the santur is played by striking the strings with two curved hammers made of walnut. In order to achieve the subtleties of Indian classical music, Shivji, early in his career, made important modifications to his instrument: he refined the santur to 86 strings, increased the range to cover a full three octaves, and created a new technique to masterfully sustain notes and maintain sound continuity.
Since presenting the santur on the classical stage for the first time in 1955 when he was 17, he has traveled throughout the world and garnered many prestigious awards and titles, including Padma Vibhushan (2001), the Ustad Hafiz Ali Khan Award (1998), Padmashree (1991), an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Jammu (1991) and the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award (1986). He has made popular and innovative recordings, including Call of the Valley, Feelings and Mountains, and made the sound of the santur indispensable to Indian film music, composing music for such films as Silsila, Lamhe, Chandni, and Darr. He is also a dedicated teacher, imparting his knowledge in the Guru Shishya tradition to the next generation of musicians (including his son Rahul Sharma) and training students from all over the world.
Zakir Hussain, one of India's most renowned cultural ambassadors, is the favorite accompanist for the leading classical artists of India. He has also been a chief architect of the world music movement with his prodigious collaborations, including Shakti, Remember Shakti, The Diga Rhythm Band, Planet Drum and Masters Planet Drum and Masters of Percussion. The foremost disciple of his father, the legendary Ustad Allarakha, Zakir was a child prodigy who began his professional career at the age of 12 and toured internationally with great success by the age of 18. He has been the recipient of many awards and titles, including Padma Bhushan (2002); Padma Shri (1988); the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award (1991); Kalidas Samman (2006); the 1999 National Heritage Fellowship, this country's highest honor for achievement in the traditional arts; the Bay Area Isadora Duncan Award (1998-99); and a Grammy in 1991 for Best World Music Album for Planet Drum. As a composer, he wrote and directed music for many film scores (Little Buddha, In Custody, Mr. and Mrs. Iyer, Mystic Masseur, Saaz, Apocalypse Now,) and was commissioned to write scores for Yo-Yo Ma's Silk Road project with Mark Morris, Alonzo King's Lines Ballet and the opening ceremony of the 1996 summer Olympics in Atlanta. He recently collaborated on composing and performing the Triple Concerto for Banjo, Double Bass and Tabla for the gala opening of the Schermerhorn Symphony Hall in Nashville, and received a 2006 Grammy nomination for the album with A