My Guru, My Santoor & Me

Debarati Palit Singh@
Friday, 24 November 2017

Kiranpal Singh talks about his guru Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma, and how he agrees that santoor is truly a new-age meditative instrument.
Those who have keen interest in classical music would know the contribution of UK-based santoor player Kiranpal Singh to Indian classical music. One of the senior disciples of santoor legend Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma, Singh has performed across the world including UK, Canada and South Africa. Recently, he performed in Pune at Gunijan Baithak along with tabla player Ajinkya Joshi. Pune-based vocalist Ruchira Kedar also performed at the concert. We chatted up Singh to know more about his performance and journey:

“I feel blessed to be Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma’s shishya” – Kiranpal Singh

Gunijan Baithak
I performed in India after many years, and this was my first performance in Pune. I presented my art which I have learnt from my guru, Padma Vibhushan Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharmaji. Satishji (Pandit Satish Vyas), Harjinder Singhji and I are the senior most disciples of guruji and we have been taught in the guru-shishya parampara. Thus we have imbibed his taleem but we also have our own thought. Our guruji always insisted on having our own entity instead of being a clone. I perform with a good balance of sur and taal, and stick to the grammar of raag.

Gunijan Baithak, which promotes Indian classical music across the country, is a great initiative by Satish Vyasji and his family. Baithaks mean intimate form of concerts, which were popular before. I have a long standing bond and some fond memories with the Vyas family, when I was living in India for 10 years.

The perfect ‘jugal bandi’
A good tabla player is one who listens to the main artist carefully, instead of showing his virtuosity as a solo performer. Indian classical music is about improvisation, as our honourable guruji taught us — that performance should be 80 per cent spontaneous and 20 per cent planned. Nowadays, it’s quite the reverse. The performance is usually in the dhrupad style with alaap, jod, and jhala.

Santoor is a ‘new-age meditative instrument’
I completely agree with what Rahul Sharmaji had once said that santoor is a new-age meditative instrument. I once remember playing at a concert for Shri Nirmala Mataji in Cambridge with Ustad Fazal Qureshiji on the tabla. I remember the audience there went into a trance and much later after the concert was over they met and thanked us. So the instrument has the capacity to put you into a meditative state.

Growing interest in classical music globally
The interest is growing and a lot of credit goes to our legends. Like Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharmaji has been a pioneer in taking santoor on the world stage, or Ustad Bismillah Khan bringing shennai to the fore or Pandit Pannalal Ghosh ji and later Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia ji to introduce flute on the global level.

Fusion music
I think it is fantastic and should be encouraged. This kind of music brings together artists from different ethnicities, promoting peace and harmony.

Guruji and his teachings
The contribution has been phenomenal. Guruji has taught us to live with a clean state of mind. He always tells that while climbing a mountain if you keep your head and chin up, you will not be able to climb. Likewise, you have to stay humble to climb great heights. I feel blessed to be his shishya.