Over the past 16 weeks, this column has concentrated on vocal and instrumental interpretations of the raag Yaman and Yaman Kalyan. To many, this would seem like an inordinately long period to focus on the evening raag and its variant.

But musicians trained in the age-old guru-shishya parampara, (master-disciple tradition) would, in fact, regard this as a relatively short stint, as their initiation to vocal or instrumental music often began in the company of this raag and stretched up to a year and more. Raag Yaman was thus used as a medium to acquaint the student with technique, methods of elaboration, presentation, and repertoire.

We end this series with raag Yaman played at a concert by santoor maestro Shivkumar Sharma. The renowned tabla player Zakir Hussain accompanies him.


Sharma plays an aalaap through three broad sections, followed by a gat, or instrumental composition set to Char taal ki sawari, a rhythmic cycle of 11 matras or time units. Taking advantage of the percussive quality of the santoor, Sharma explores myriad challenging cross-rhythmic patterns, inviting a similar response from the tabla.

Not only do both performers demonstrate an extraordinary ease with the rhythmic aspect, but they also share the aesthetic approach of the performance.

The next composition is a medium-paced Addha taal, a 16-matra cycle also called Sitarkhani. The taans or swift melodic passages running up and down the gamut have a cascading effect.

The last composition in drut or fast Teentaal begins from the last matra of the cycle, adding an element of surprise each time musical ideas are resolved here and not on the sum/sam or the first matra, as is usually done. Accelerating the speed, Sharma plays a section where he dampens one part of the strings with his palm as he strikes the other part with the striker called the kalam. The tabla joins in by anticipating the phrases.

The recital ends with the jhala, a section with repetitive percussive strokes played at great speed.