Live in Houston


Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma and Ust Zakir Hussain performed in the Wotham Center (Houston) last night. They always bring the best out in each other and tonight was no exception! Guruji began with Raga Bhimplasi and was definitely in the mood. While tuning, his Santoor effortless and precisely fell  in tune, filling the hall with the microtones of the scale of Bhimplasi. This was just a glimpse of the sublime sur that we were going to be enveloped by tonight. The Alap Jor was unraveled with such peaceful energy, his delicately soft touch heightening the beauty of each phrase. As the Alap changed into the Jor, the speed increased and the exquisit expression of each passage remained; such was the innovation of the improvisations within the pulse that the need of the ending Jhalla section became obsolete and wasn’t even played and wasn’t missed!

The first Gat was in Madhya Laya Jhatptal (medium tempo, 10 beat cycle). The ease at which both musicians wove in and out of the rhythm with intricate chands, rhythmical themes and tihai’s was a marvel for the mind and the ears. The interaction between these old friends is always wonderful to see and each of Guruji’s elegantly crafted sections of improvisations was matched with great verve and respect by Ustji. During the second Gat in Drut Teental (fast tempo, 16 beat cycle) and Jhalla section (fast crescendo) their years of performing together showed through their crisp timing, balanced support and parallel beginning and ending of improvisations which almost always was award with applause from the audience.

The last piece was a light composition with a folk feel which Guruji made on the spot in Dadra (6 beat cycle). His amazing skill at seamlessly combining a multitude of different Ragas within the base Raga to create and steep moments and flourishes that shouldn’t work always come through in these pieces. It was the perfect end to a awe inspiring evening.

The following day Jas and I were privileged enough to spend the afternoon with Guruji in his hotel room. We listened to his stories from his life, of touring with Pt Hariprasad Chaurasia, his days in Jammu and playing on the radio station there, the secret to becoming a good musician (HARDWORK!, and lots of it!) 😉 and the secret to getting into a musicians good books (Good Food!). Besides having lessons with our Guruji’s, this precious time spent with them, relaxing, listening and discussing helps not only in our music but in life.  We  learn from their experiences, both good and bad, which will shape us as good musicians and good people. These two amazing days will stay with us both for a while!