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Santoor Maestro Shivkumar Sharma Passes Away at 84

The legendary Indian classical artist reportedly suffered a cardiac arrest

Rolling Stone India May 10, 2022

Shivkumar Sharma. Photo: Suyash Dwivedi/CC BY-SA 4.0/WikimediaCommons

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Pandit Shivkumar Sharma, arguably the most popular santoor exponent in Indian classical music, has died following a cardiac arrest at the age of 84. The news was confirmed on social media by Sharma’s biographer, Ina Puri.

Sharma was reportedly undergoing treatment for kidney-related issues and was on dialysis for the past six months. Tributes for the music legend have been pouring in from all corners.

He is best known for exploring the range of the santoor as an instrument like few others in the country, striking away at the strings to mirror moods both gentle and urgent. Born in Jammu in 1938, Sharma originally began learning vocals and tabla at the age of five from his father, Uma Dutt Sharma. When he was 13, he began learning the santoor and went on to change the perception of the instrument over the last six decades.

Between fusion projects, classical albums with peers such as flautist Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia and tabla legend Zakir Hussain, Sharma toured around the world and India to captivate audiences with the sound of his chosen instrument. With Chaurasia, he formed the composing duo Shiv-Hari, who provided music for Bollywood films such as Silsila (1980), Lamhe (1991) and Darr (1993). In 2001, he was invited to be part of jazz-fusion group Remember Shakti, recording Saturday Night In Bombay with guitarist John McLaughlin, mandolin artist U. Srinivas and legendary percussionist Vikku Vinayakram.

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The legend also trained his son, Rahul Sharma, when the latter was 13 years old and he, too, went on to represent Indian classical music playing the santoor on several world stages and racking up fusion collaborations.

Tributes for Sharma have been coming in from all corners. His peer and sarod maestro Amjad Ali Khan wrote on Twitter, “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.”

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