Sharda Sahai was born in
Benares in 1935, a direct descendent of Pandit Ram Sahai, the founder of the
Benares style ("gharana") of tabla playing. With the inherent gift in his blood
of the finest traits of the Benares baj, he began at an early age to learn tabla
from his father, the late Pandit Bhagvati Sahai.
Pandit Sharda Sahai is one of the leading musicians of India and a tireless ambassador for Indian culture wherever he goes.
Sharda-jee's life began in humble circumstances in Kabir Chaura, the musician's quarter of Benares (Uttar Pradesh, India). His early years were marred by one tragedy after another. He lost his father at the age of 7, and then his eldest brother died a year later, and finally he lost 6 members of his family when his house collapsed the following year.
It was the stories that his teacher Kanthe Maharaj told him of his illustrious ancestors that fired him with the determination and resolve to live up to his family name and become India's great Tabla players.
With the loss of so many members of his family, Sharda-jee had to start earning a living. So it was from the age of nine he started to make a living through performing, tuition and accompaniment.
He teamed up with Gopi Krishna, the renowned Kathak dancer who was 11 at the time and they began performing professionally. Along with Gopi Krishna he was part of a team of young dancers and musicians who toured extensively giving performances. This troupe was led by Gopi Krishna's grandfather and Guru, Sukhdeo Maharaj.At the age of 14 Sharda-jee made his mark in his debut concert with Ali Akbar Khan at the Italee Music Conference in Delhi. When he was 20 he decided to devote two years to perfecting his technique and expanding his expanding his repertoire of traditional pieces. This was to be a great sacrifice as his family was struggling to make ends meet, but his family supported him throughout.
When he returned to the stage it was not long before he was performing almost every day
of the year. His fame spread and he was in great demand as an accompanist of instrumental, vocal and dance.
Shardajee's contribution to Indian music is phenomenal both in terms of the length of time and the contributed to the spread of Indian culture. With a career that began at the age of 14 his music is still as fresh as ever. He operates in two main areas - performance and training.
He has provided audiences in India, the America, Canada, Australia, and Europe with traditional solos lasting up to two and a half hours. He has taught everyone who has actively sought his help with sincerity and great skill. His motto is - "Teachig every student as if they are going to stay a lifetime with tabla, even if in reality the student will give up very soon or does not have the talent to become a great tabla player". He never tires of placing the hand of a new student on the tabla. The freshness of his approach to teaching hooks his students in whatever their age.
Sharda-jee is a perfectionist. His skill on the tabla has been honed over years of practice and thoughtfulness. His DHERE DHERE's (a tabla stroke) flows effortlessly across the tabla.
Sharda-jee is acclaimed as one of the great performers and teachers in living memory.
Sharda-jee is a complete entertainer on stage. To see him in concert one is trated to a performance full of humour and anecdotes regarding his improvisations and compositions. The time seems to flow effortlessly as the audience becomes caught up in his musical mastery.
Sharda-jee draws power and ceaseless inspiration from the tradition that he has been taught, with the memory of his ancestors never far from mind. He continues to be true to his traditional Benares style through which he is able to build bridges with musicians of all ages from across the world.
Sharda-jee's contribution to the preservation of tabla and the dissemination of Indian Classical music and culture in India and abroad is immeasurable.
In the West his extended tabla solos have become legendary for his dynamism and virtuosity. He has represented India all over the world with his music at major events such as the Commonwealth Games, Winter Olmpics, world expo and numerous music festivals.
As an educator he has been highly sought after his skills in communication and teaching which has seem him hold senior lecture posts at Wesleyan, Brown and Berkeley School of Music (USA) and Dartington College of Arts (UK).
He has been tireless in his commitment to every aspect of tabla and for this he has truly earned the respect of his peers and love and devotion of his students.