Like father, like son

Like father, like son
Santoor (ancient Indian string musical instrument) player Rahul Sharma.

After 17 years on the concert circuit, santoor player Rahul Sharma (right) is still most often called his father's son.

As the offspring of the illustrious Pandit Shivkumar Sharma, widely regarded as a "living legend" among santoor players, the junior Sharma has always had the bar set high for him.

Yet he felt no pressure growing up, he tells Life! in an e-mail interview, adding that his father was "a very patient guru" who never pushed him into music. "He simply made me realise it was where I could excel."

As a child, he started tuning into the music by listening to what his father was teaching students. "I would sit and listen but had no idea that the santoor would eventually be my true calling and career."

The santoor is a 100-stringed ancient Kashmiri folk instrument, which his father brought out of Kashmir and introduced to the world. It is known for the dulcet strains that an accomplished player can produce on it.

The Mumbai-based Sharma will be headlining the Singapore Indian Fine Arts Society's annual Festival of Music and Dance this year. His performance, Naadagatha - Sound Of Harmony, is one of five ticketed Esplanade concerts at the event, which is now in its 12th edition and also features 50 free concerts at the society's auditorium in Starlight Road. The festival runs from Friday to April 13.

Of his show, Sharma says: "I will be presenting a pure classical concert in Singapore, with a focus on the many ragas (Indian melodic scales) in classical Indian music. It is difficult to say which ragas I will be playing but the audience can expect a range. In addition, I will be offering a glimpse of folk tunes from the northern Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, where we are from. These tunes signify beauty, romance and happiness."

Sharma is not new to Singapore. He performed with his father in 2007 at the same festival, which he calls "a great initiative to give Singaporeans a taste of India's rich and diverse classical music and dance styles".

Two years ago, he performed at the Esplanade with best-selling French pianist Richard Clayderman, a collaboration which emerged from his experiments with various music genres after releasing his first album in 1996. He and Clayderman worked on two albums, Confluence (2002) and Confluence Volume II (2008). Confluence went on to become one of India's best-selling instrumental albums.

Another successful collaboration saw him working with Grammy-winning saxophonist Kenny G. Their 2012 album, Namaste India, nabbed the No. 1 spot on the US Billboard Jazz chart.

Through the years, he has also composed music for Bollywood movies such as Mujhse Dosti Karoge (Will You Be My Friend, 2002), starring Hrithik Roshan.

"All these things happened fairly early in my career and it was reassuring to be able to find my place, to find my own voice in music. It would not have been possible without my father's encouragement, direction and guidance but I did need to experiment with my own sound," says Sharma, who has worked on more than 60 albums.

The 40-year-old musician, who is married to dancer and designer Barkha, is looking forward to being back in Singapore. "I love walking around the city. I find there is a great positive vibe there and the energy rubs off on visitors."

Book it

Naadagatha - Sound of Harmony, A Santoor Recital by Rahul Sharma

Where: Esplanade Concert Hall

When: Sunday, 7.30pm

Admission: $25 and $40 from Sistic (go to or call 6348-5555)

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