A great classical musician of Jammu

Rajeshwar Singh ‘Raju’
It is said that, “Music is the universal language of mankind. Where words fail, music speaks. Music is the language of spirit.”
These words reflect the soul of music and if the connection of music to soul is to be witnessed then Indian Classical Music is the best option. You close your eyes and listen to classical music; you are in some other world where there is peace and peace only which heals you from within.
Indian Classical Music is very rich. But it is a matter of grave concern that it has been threatened by Western Culture to such an extent that it has been over shadowed by western music and the young generation is madly in love with imported content.
It is not unfair to add here that Indian classical music has suffered a lot because of casual approach of musicians towards their own roots. But there had been some great personalities in the past who have played a significant role in keeping classical music alive through their tireless efforts. Our own Jammu region has the privilege of having many great musicians dedicated to Indian classical music in the past. One of them is Pandit Uma Dutt Sharma.
Pt. Uma Dutt Sharma was born in the month of April in Jammu in 1900 in a Brahmin family. His father Pt. Sant Ram and mother were very religious in nature. His father used to offer prayers at the family temple of Pratap Singh, the then Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir. In this way right from his childhood, he also started going to the temple with his father and developed keen interest towards devotional music. During those days, Maharaja Hari Singh was ruling Jammu and Kashmir.
Pt. Uma Dutt Sharma’s interest towards music reached to the extent of passion and he made up his mind to make new experiments in this field. During his childhood, when he used to accompany his father to the court of Maharaja Hari Singh, he also got an opportunity to meet the prominent singers and musicians from all over India. Apart from the famous local singer Mallika Pukhraj, well established singers and musicians like Najakat and Salamat also used to visit Jammu quite often. The musicians were patronized by the kings who often used to decorate the music festivals in the their courts.
Sardar Harnam Singh hailing from Punjab, a well known Tabla and Pakhawaj player served in court of Maharaja of Jammu & Kashmir. Pt. Uma Dutt Sharma learned tabla from him. After that he went to Banaras to seek higher training in music under the guidance of Bade Ram Das, a great musician and classical singer of his time. He devoted entirely to Indian Classical Music and practiced intensely for about 10 years. Thereafter he returned to his home town and started promoting Indian classical music here in Jammu.
Pt. Uma Dutt Sharma was a great musician who started a tradition of classical music in the temple city, due to which Jammu gained name and fame all over the country. He started teaching his students in music with great diligence. Some of his prominent disciples in this field include Santoor player Pandit Shiv kumar Sharma, Krishna Lal Verma, Om Prakash Dogra in Tabla, Chandu Lal, Kewal Krishna, Narendra Gupta, Vindra Bano, Mangal Singh and Dr Karan Singh, Hansraj and Laxmikant Joshi in classical singing.
It is worth mentioning that Pt. Uma Dutt Sharma is one of those rare artists who used to perform in vocal music from Radio Station Lahore before the infamous partition of India in 1947. He also served as a Music Supervisor at Radio Kashmir Jammu. During those days , he not only arranged performances of great musicians coming from different parts of the country, but Jammu also got an opportunity to listen to great personalities of Indian Classic Music. It was as if music was in his veins.
When Pt. Uma Dutt Sharma went to Srinagar during his job, he was greatly influenced by the Santoor, a folk instrument from Kashmir. He decided that by bringing suitable changes in the santoor, he would take this instrument to the heights that this instrument really deserves. It is a matter of content that his dream was realized by his own son Pt. Shiv Kumar Sharma. Pt. Uma Dutt Sharma inspired him to adopt the Santoor as a musical instrument and make creative changes in it so as to make it one of the prominent musical instruments of Indian Classic Music.
The tradition of Indian classical music is very old in Jammu and Kashmir, especially in Jammu. In the royal court here, classical singers and musicians used to come from different corners of India to show their talent and captivate the music lovers with their charismatic performances. It is a matter of pride that the pious land of Jammu has also given birth to such musicians who have brought laurels not only to nation but this part of world also with their performances within the country and even abroad. These great musicians include prominent Tabla players Alla Rakha Khan, Zakir Hussain, Santoor player Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma and singer Mallika Pukhraj etc. But if it is said that Pt. Uma Dutt Sharma has contributed a lot in running this tradition and inspiring others to join the movement, it will be justified.
Pt. Uma Dutt Sharma is an inspiration for every artist. His passion for music was to such an extent that he wanted classical music to remain at its heights for which it needs to be promoted and disseminated with constant efforts. Many classical singers and musicians got inspiration from him. He did a noble job of carrying forward the tradition.
In 1973, Pt. Uma Dutt Sharma may have left this materialistic world for eternal abode, but the legacy he has left behind is a tradition that needs to be preserved and extended as well. Such great personalities should not remain in the layers of the past. For this, the music lovers especially should have to keep the torch lit, which by becoming a source of inspiration will always inspire the art seekers.
Let us be practical and contribute for preserving our own Indian Classical Music in whatever capacity we may, because by ignoring it we have been playing with our own identity. Before it is too late let us seek inspiration from great musician Pt. Uma Dutt Sharma, that what dedication and devotion stands for in real terms.