Rahul Sharma

Rahul Sharma

Music of the Himalayas

Real World

A better title for this album would be “music of Jammu and Kashmir,” since it focuses almost exclusively on the traditional folk and Sufyana musics of that region at the crossroads of the Middle East and South Asia. The santoor, a stringed instrument played with curved wooden sticks, has a sound akin to that of the hammered dulcimer, and like the dulcimer was long thought of as mainly a folk instrument. But Rahul’s father, Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma, almost single-handedly achieved acceptance for the santoor in Hindustani (North Indian) classical music through his brilliant playing. Now Rahul is becoming an acknowledged master of the santoor, which has become one of the most important instruments in Kashmiri music. For this live recording from a festival in Italy, Rahul is joined by Ustad Shafat Ahmed Khan on tabla and Pandit Bhawani Shankar on various folk percussion instruments.

Although the santoor has many similarities to a dulcimer — both combine strings and percussion, for instance, marrying elements of melody and rhythm in the same instrument — the santoor’s range is much wider (Rahul’s santoor has 89 strings), and its sound sweeter. On “Maqam-e-Navaa,” which draws on Sufi-inspired folk melodies, Rahul’s santoor sends notes swirling upward like incense and rushing down like crystal streams into pristine mountain valleys. The feeling of this track is bright and pure, the essence of nature and spirit expressed in musical form. Unfolding at its own easy pace, refreshingly unhurried, “Melody Of Kashmir” paints a joyous vision of green fields, blue skies, gentle breezes, warm sun, shining eyes, and laughter. The santoor’s notes cascade and shimmer, opening out into a very funky jam with tabla and other percussion later on, like a dancer spinning with their head thrown back, clothes whirling all around, pure ecstasy in music and motion.

The last two tracks, “Melody of Jammu and Kashmir” and “Melody of Kashmir in Contemporary Music,” were both composed by Rahul himself. The latter is a 35-minute showcase for the santoor, as well as for Rahul’s accompanists; occasionally it feels a bit self-indulgent, like the long solos taken by jazz or rock musicians at the end of a live show, but is still quite enjoyable — especially the thundering drums and the second, more introspective, section for the santoor, which feels like the slow, soothing approach of eventide. “Melody of Jammu and Kashmir” moved me deeply, from its slow and simple beginning, like the first tentative caresses of a lover, to the frequent conversational exchanges between santoor and drums, at times hushed, then surging with passion, just like love itself.

Real World Records: http://www.realworldusa.com • Rahul Sharma: http://rahulsharma.santoor.com

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Recently on Ink 19...

  • Alonso Ruizpalacios
    Alonso Ruizpalacios

    Generoso speaks with director Alonso Ruizpalacios, whose dynamic new feature, A Cop Movie, utilizes a unique and effective hybrid documentary style to examine police corruption in and around Mexico City. A Cop Movie was the winner of the Silver Bear for Outstanding Artistic Contribution at the 2021 Berlin Film Festival.

  • Sarah McQuaid
    Sarah McQuaid

    The St. Buryan Sessions (Shovel and a Spade Records). Review by Bob Pomeroy.

  • Hearty Har
    Hearty Har

    Radio Astro (BMG). Review by Julius C. Lacking.

  • Junkwraith

    A young woman abandons a promising skating career only to be chased by her inner demons.

  • The Slackers / Sic & Mad
    The Slackers / Sic & Mad

    Love I Bring /Cat Prozac (Split 7 inch single on). Review by Bob Pomeroy.

  • The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
    The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

    An adaptation of a classic horror story safe for little eyes.

  • Nosferatu

    A classic horror tale ends up some place weird.

  • Self Taught
    Self Taught

    Over a ten-year period, punk guitar legend Tim Kerr and his wife Beth used thrift store cameras to document self-taught artists environments. Combined with portraits of the creators, Self Taught is a celebration of artistic spirit.

  • New Music Now 002
    New Music Now 002

    In NMN Episode Two, Ink 19’s Pat Greene picks the soothing, balm-like brain of old friend Matt Gorney (The Civic Minded Five, Jazz in the Bible Belt on WPRK, 91.5 FM, Winter Park, Florida) as the two discuss the album Promises, from Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders, and the London Symphony Orchestra.

  • Fun Home
    Fun Home

    A small town funeral director hides a not-so-big secret.

From the Archives