I went for the music programme by Shiv Kumar Sharma. He plays the Santoor. This was the first time I have heard him live. And it was a great experience. Sitting just three rows away I had a clear view of the instrument and how it was being played. He kept us entertained by his music and his remarks and generally gave the audience a lot of insight to the music he was playing .
The instrument originally comprised of 100 strings, but the present one that he plays has been modified to 87. He uses two curved mallets of walnut wood and with his eyes closed most times he twirled them around these 87 strings to produce great music. Since we just had a downpour in the city he stuck to the Megh Malhar raga and used the instrument to bring alive the sounds of rain and water by just varying the pressure on the strings.
My own understanding of classical music is limited. And strangely I appreciate classical music best when I watch the artiste perform. Off late I have attended Western, Hindustani and Carnatic music and have enjoyed them all.
Shiv Kumar Sharma spoke about the beauty of Indian classical music. The performances can never be rehearsed. He said that most times only the ragas that might be played or sung would be decided in advance. The accompanying artistes come to the stage with just this information. On stage the musician improvises the raga keeping to the fundamentals as it flows to him. No two performances of the same raga would ever be identical. It is therefore to the credit of the accompanying artistes that they need to be alert to what is being played and give the necessary support lending to the melody.
While the Hindustani artiste creates an aura about their art it is time for the Carnatic musicians to keep in tune to the changing times. Their performances are in no way inferior but they do not seem to get the reception the other musicians command. It is time they added some glamour to their show. It is time for the carnatic musicians to move on. If they had noticed, even M S Subbalakshmi , the grand lady of Carnatic music had her own style - the flawless make up and the beautiful kanjeevaram sarees were glamourous to her time. The musicians should take a note from the Hindustani counterparts. Change to more contemporary style of dressing ( Shiv Kumar Sharma wore this bold rust kurta with beautiful embroidery, and the stones on the rings sparkled as he waved his hands). Introduce the music to the audience. Speak about the raga. Add some humour. Keep the audience involved. And in the process keep classical music alive for untrained ears like mine.