What has 86 strings, is played with curved walnut sticks, and has grown from Kashmiri folk music roots into a classical, Hindustani instrument? The Santoor. Originally called "Shata Tantra Veena," which -- when translated -- literally means "the hundred-stringed instrument," the Santoor was initially played by nomadic gypsies. One among many hammered chordophones found around the globe, the Santoor's global cousins include the Kanoon of Turkey, the Santoori of Greece, and the zither of Germany. The person most responsible for the Santoor's refined development and introduction into the world of the concert hall is the esteemed Pandit Shivkumar Sharma. Trained by his father, Pandit Umadutt Sharma, Pandit Shivkumar Sharma began studying tabla and vocals before dedicating himself to learning the Santoor. This solid musical grounding has given Pandit Shivkumar Sharma what many describe as a "Tabla-player's knowledge of rhythm." On the CD Shivkumar Sharma, Santoor, Sharma teams up with a musician who has been central to the development of the tabla-player's knowledge of rhythm: Zakir Hussain. With this collaboration, recorded live in a Calcutta auditorium in January of 1992, Sharma and Hussain pilot an aural journey through the undulating terrain of "Rag Rageshri." A composition intended for the evening, "Rag Rageshri" is characterized by its ascending pentatonic (five-note) scale and descending hexatonic (six-note) scale. Pandit Shivkumar Sharma begins "Rag Rageshri" with an "Alap-Jor-Jhal," in which he slowly introduces the theme of piece. Once the theme is established, Zakir Hussain joins the Santoor master in affirming, and then elaborating upon, the piece's ten-beat rhythmic cycle known as Jhaptal. From there the expert duo continues to develop and play with "Rag Rageshri"'s form and content. Pandit Shivkumar Sharma, Santoor is a beautiful CD. The performance it presents is replete with consummate musicianship, punctuated with sophisticated rhythmic interplay, and drenched with the shimmering sounds of the Santoor. It's a must-have for any Hindustani music buff.
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