(The following is an interview that Pandit Shivkumar Sharma gave to Ina Puri, editor of the book “Shiv Kumar Sharma: The Man and his Music”, published by Niyogi Books.)
IP: So who do you play for?
SKS: I share that bliss with my audience. They can only share it when they connect with me. It is like sitting in meditation. What connects with me is not the knowledge of a classical raga or ‘taal’ (tempo). These are technicalities.
Recently I’ve been doing this experiment with students, particularly in colleges. When I play the ‘alap’ (cadence), I tell them, “Forget about me, Shivkumar Sharma, forget about the santoor, forget about the raga. Just close your eyes.” The moment you close your eyes, you start getting different ideas that are not connected with one another. The only effort you have to make is to bring back your thoughts towards that sound.
I don’t call it a raga, santoor, ‘taal’ or anything else. And I find extraordinary reactions from people. I’m surprised. So this is my way of thinking and presenting my music.
IP: But you don’t really present your music. You’re merely sharing your music.
SKS: That’s what I’m saying. I’m sharing it with my audience. What I’m sharing is the bliss that music is giving to me. However, they will have to walk that extra mile to experience it.
IP: When you say presentation, I have a problem with the word because you don’t present your music. You don’t even have a sequence in your mind. I have seen and I have heard from you that when you’re sitting on the stage, the creativity, the process of creation, happens on the spot. And you have often referred to yourself as a medium. So in that sense, there is no presentation.
IP: It’s a spontaneous flow.
SKS: Spirituality is not only in the context of music, it is in your life, in your behavior, in your activities, you live it. There are three words: ‘man’ (thought), ‘vachan’ (speech), ‘karam’ (action). I’ll elaborate on this. Now, this is besides music, because your music is what you are. Your personality is what your thinking is and your philosophy is what your emotions are. All these things come out in your music. This is what I’m trying to practice.
It is very hard, but I have been trying to practice it for many years. What I think, whatever my philosophy or my thoughts are, I should have the courage to speak that out. You know, sometimes we are thinking something else and not saying it because we are being politically correct. Our philosophy is something else, but we are presenting something else. So then ‘man’ and ‘vachan’ are not on the same wavelength.
Spirituality means that your thoughts, speech, and actions match. I’m experiencing it more and more and trying to follow it. So when your thinking is like that, the perspective of your music is bound to change; your behavior will also change. Suppose I deliver an interesting lecture about the philosophy of a certain kind, but I don’t follow it personally, then I’m just a professional speaker.
I inspire people; I have got that gift to impress people with my talk and inspire them. But I am myself not doing that. Once I finish that speech, I come home and do something else. ‘Man’, ‘vachan’, ‘karam’ have not connected. It is the same in music.
Honesty in your actions ultimately reaches the people who get connected with you or who experience your music or your thoughts. This is what I tell my students as well, but it’s not easy.
(Excerpted with the permission of the publisher from “Shiv Kumar Sharma: The Man and his Music”. Edited by Ina Puri. Published by Niyogi Books.)