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Rahul records at George Lucas’ studio

Santoor player Rahul Sharma has collaborated with Afghani rubab player, Homayun Sakhi, on an American world music label. Read on for details.

music Updated: Jun 10, 2010 19:12 IST
Nikhil Taneja

Just back from a five-concert tour of Japan with his father, santoor maestro Pt Shivkumar Sharma, Rahul Sharma is gearing up for the release of another major collaboration. The santoor player, who has collaborated with the likes of renowned pianist, Richard Clayderman, and oud player, Georges Kazazian, has recently had a release on Smithsonian Folkways, a leading world music record label, based in the USA.

On the album called, In The Footsteps of Babur, Sharma has collaborated with Afghani rubab player, Homayun Sakhi, and the duo’s effort has already reached the top of the charts on Songlines, and opened to great reviews across the world.

Mughal music
Says Sharma, “I was approached by Smithsonian Folkways to record an album which would have music with a Central Asian theme, and in a way, help recreate the music legacy of the Mughals.”

“We recorded the album at George Lucas’ studio, Skywalker, in California, where many Grammy award winners have recorded in the past,” he reveals. “It was a treat to record there.”

Although the music is a collaboration, most of the compositions are Sharma’s. “Afghanis love Indian classical music, and Homayun was quite familiar with our ragas,” Sharma says. “We met three-four days before the recording session. I composed something and he was more than happy to record with me. We’re now looking to do a concert tour across the world, and we’ll hopefully get him down here, since he’s not been to India.”

Rhythm of Love
While Sharma looks for the right record label to release the album in India, he’s currently enjoying the success of his previous album, Rhythm Of Love, which released in India last month. The live album, which featured a concert recording of Sharma with tabla maestro, Zakir Hussain, has been generating a great response from all over.

“In a studio you get ample chances of doing a retake, but you have to be bang on in a live concert,” he says. “Being a live album, the CD has worked for quite a few people, and has garnered great sales. I guess, people find a new energy in it.”

Though Sharma has played with Hussain in many concerts, and the duo has worked on Pt Shivkumar Sharma’s albums together, this is the first time that the two classical musicians have done an album solely with each other. It was during a concert tour of USA that the duo recorded their music.

“Zakir keeps busy throughout the year, so even though we have toured together in India, we never got around to creating a fresh album,” Sharma says. “But this time, we decided to record the concerts, since the raga that we played, Raag Charukeshi, is very rare on the santoor. A particular concert in San Francisco turned out well, so we thought of putting it on an album.”

Supersonic Zakir
Sharma discloses that the duo would never decide upon what music they would perform on stage, until the sound check. “For example, I would only have in mind that I’d play Raag Charukeshi, which is a beautiful, hypnotic raga but Zakir would only ask me just before the concert what we would play today. And then, we’d take it from there.”

A concert with the ustad of cool, Hussain, is like a ‘supersonic flight’, Sharma laughs. “You could either glide, or you can go by a supersonic flight. Playing with Zakir is like the latter — an extremely creative and spontaneous process. He is so inspirational that your music ability gets heightened while playing with him.”

“I still remember the first time I played with my father and him in a concert, 15 years ago,” he smiles. “I had played a difficult taal, so he came up and gave me a $100 bill. I was just going for my first US tour, so that was very special. He is an amazing musician — my first exposure to fusion music was when I saw Shakti.”