Rahul Sharma acquired the fundamentals of Hindustani classical ragas first on a harmonium. It was only after he turned 13 that he was allowed to switch to the 100-stringed santoor (Indian hammered dulcimer). He imbibed the best from his father and built upon it to create his own style. Today, he
performs to acclaim all over the world, bringing fresh perspectives to his instrument through
collaborations and his own creativity and imagination. As his father, Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma, puts it affectionately, “Rahul was bitten by the composer’s bug a long time ago” – a happenstance that lent him
the impetus to become a successful composer apart from a fine classical performer.
In this concert from 2009, he is accompanied by Pandit Subhankar Banerjee (1966-2021), a tabla
phenomenon whom the world lost too soon to COVID. A musician of expansive imagination, Pandit Banerjee lends a thoughtful and exciting support to this recital. Connecting with Sharma’s music at all
levels, he enriches the presentation with a varied palette of sounds with his thekas (beats) emerging in tender intensity, imposing permutations and combinations, fluttery and airborne crispness and a few
virtuous solos in between.
Sharma performs three movements in Raag Bhoopal Todi, a morning melody. He introduces the raga with an alap (rhythmless introduction), builds momentum with the jod (melodic expansion with a slight,
linear pulse) and raises the energies with a jhalla (crescendo performed with rapid, striking in a fast tempo in linear pulse). He rounds up this part with three compositions – the first one is set to a medium
tempo (madhyalay) in Matta Taal, a 9-beat cycle. This is followed by another composition in Adhya – a 16-beat variant of Teental that progresses with a distinctive lilt. The third and concluding composition of
this part is set to Teental in a very fast tempo (ati drut).
He brings his recital to an end with an enticing miniature – a light ‘dhun’ in Mishra Bhairavi. Sharma follows a high-spirited, methodical approach, creating an uplifting melodic realm teeming with harmonies. He taps into the inner potential of his instrument by combining eloquence and
expressiveness with fine technique to achieve rich interpretations. With a cracking delivery of the rhythm-centric segments, he consummately stitches euphony with virtuosity, laying bare the enduring magic of the santoor. The chimes emanate a gentle glow and flow on a gossamer weave of microtones where the sentimental, soft tonal textures interlace with energetic moments to unfurl the ragas in evocative narratives.
Pandit Banerjee’s mighty and entrancing solos are woven in complex and intricate patterns. Combining maturity with wit, he also elevates the soft strains of the santoor with flawless coordination.
Rahul Sharma (santoor)
Pandit Subhankar Banerjee (tabla)
Raag Bhoopal Todi, Thaat: Bhairavi, Samay: Morning