This father-son duo has taken the santoor to new heights. Apart from sharing a familial bond, Pt Shivkumar Sharma and Rahul Sharma also have a guru-shishya relationship. On Father’s Day (June 19), Pt Sharma explains why he never wanted Rahul to be his replica, and calls himself a proud father. Rahul talks about his legendary father and the qualities he has inherited from him.
Pt Sharma, what qualities have you passed on to your son?
As a father and his guru, I never wanted Rahul to be my Xerox copy. Every individual is born with some special qualities. As a father and a guru, you should encourage your son and disciple, not force them to follow what you do. As far as music is concerned, I taught him that. But, at the same time, I let Rahul grow on his own as an artiste. In the past, classical music gurus were stringent about their ideologies being carried forward. They wanted their students to follow what they played and practised. I don’t believe in that. I think you should share your knowledge of music and have an open thinking.
Rahul, what qualities have you inherited from your father?
I am different from my dad. While growing up, like any other child, my father was my role model. But, as I grew older, I realised what my identity is, and I figured out what I wanted to do. There are certain characteristics such as his patience, calm demeanour and his connection with music that I have imbibed from him. But my music is not exactly like his. I attempted different things (Rahul is known for his fusion music) that were probably not associated with the santoor earlier. At certain points, you tend to imitate your guru. That happened early in my career, from 1996 to 2000. I did exactly what he did. After that, I thought on my own and moved away from that.
Pt Sharma, can you recall a specific moment when you felt proud of Rahul?
There have been many occasions (smiles). When we played duets, we’d travel all over the world for concerts. We never did pre-event riyaaz (rehearsals), in which one decided everything about the performance beforehand and replicated it on the stage. So, during the concerts, I was surprised by his innovations. Those moments are unforgettable. But his collaboration with Kenny G in 2011 (saxophonist) was a matter of pride for me. Ten years before he did that, I got an offer to play a duet with a popular Norwegian saxophonist at one of his concerts. I refused because I thought the santoor and saxophone won’t go together. When I heard Rahul’s Namaste India (album), I had to change my opinion. I was proud of him. Rahul is a born composer.
Rahul, have you ever felt proud to be Pt Sharma’s son?
When dad was working on the music of Silsila (1981), they had a sitting at Yashji’s (Chopra; late film-maker) house. We (Rahul and his elder brother, Rohit) were kids, and present there. As a child growing up in the late ’70s and ’80s, Amitabh Bachchan was a [household] favourite. When he walked in, he said, “Arey yahaan to poori baccha party yahoo par hai (The kids are having a fun time here).” We kept looking at him. He had come for a discussion on ‘Rang barse’ (Bachchan sang the song in Silsila). We were enamoured by him, and my dad was explaining the song to him. This is one of the many moments etched in my memory.
It has been a while since you performed together. Are there plans for a collaboration?
Sharma: We rarely perform together these days. We come together only for special events.
Rahul: There are no plans because both of us keep travelling for concerts. Something might happen in the future.
Apart from the santoor, has any other instrument interested either of you?
Rahul: I play the keyboard; it’s my second instrument. I compose music for films on the keyboard. Apart from that, I have learnt to play the harmonium and tabla. I also to sing a bit.
Sharma: The santoor has always been my first love, but, I also learnt the tabla and vocals.
Rahul, what is your Father’s Day message for your dad?
(Laughs) I want him to stay healthy. I wish that he continues his musical and spiritual journeys, enlightening the people he meets.