Uma Shankar

Domain: Hindustani Classical Sitar | Theatre Music Composer | Educator | LIVE Concert Performer | Fusion Music Performer

Genre: #IndianClassicalSitar #TheatreMusicComposer #Sitar #Author #Educator

Location: New Delhi, India



Shri Uma Shankar was born to parents who loved music and nurtured some form of performing arts, sometimes in theatres and in films, in Patna, Bihar. He would mingle in the company of great legends of India such as Pt. Kumar Lal Mishra, Sitara Devi Ji, Pt. Kishan Maharaj, Gudai Maharaj Pt. Samta Prasad Ji and others who were invited to his home. Gudai Maharaj would stay at his home for fifteen days, on many occasions, and young Uma Shankar grew up in rich cultural environment of music and musicians. He was the youngest child at home when his sister learned Kathak dance and two of his elder brothers learned tabla and hindustani classical vocal music. One fine day, an advocate friend of his father, who had a broken Sitar at home, urged him to take home the sitar and see if young Uma Shankar would like to play with it. So his father requested one of the popular Sitar makers of Patna, Shri Mohanlal Sharma, to repair the sitar, when young Uma Shankar was eleven or twelve years old and he started learning sitar from Shri Ashish Chatterjee.

Inspired by his elder siblings, parents and a learned teacher, Shri Uma Shankar went on to participate at national level competitions in music and started winning accolades from respectable platforms. He won a gold medal in junior’s category of national level competitions, won various scholarships, and even he received a tarafdar sitar from Shri L N Poddar, an industrialist, who’d encourage meritorious students in music, on the promise that Uma Shankar would continue his taalim with dedication and sincerity. By the time Uma Shankar was in standard VIII, in school, he secured the junior CCRT scholarship from the government of India.


Shri Uma Shankar completed his Masters in Sociology from Patna university, even though he was determined to pursue sitar playing as a profession. During this time, there was a theatre production conducted by Sangeet Natak Akademi, in Patna, and Uma Shankar got the opportunity to compose music for the production of that play. He composed a few songs for the Play and played sitar in them, as well. He also attended a workshop conducted by Bhaskar Chandavarkar, who was a sitar player, academician, film and theatre composer who worked with well-known directors of Indian cinema such as Mrinal Sen, Girish Karnad, Aparna Sen, K. G. George and Amol Palekar in various languages including Marathi, Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam, Bengali and Oriya and was known for his blending of Indian classical and western music.

In the meantime, Uma Shankar’s sister had told him about Pt. Debu Chaudhari, a great Guru of sitar. During one of his visits to Delhi university, Uma Shankar met with Pt. Prateek Chaudhari and recognized him immediately as Prateek Ji used to be a popular host of a television show. Prateek Ji shared his contact card with Uma Shankar and invited him home. When Uma Shankar called the phone number on that card, Pt. Debu Chaudhari had picked up the phone & Uma Shankar expressed his sincere wish to learn from Pandit Ji.


Pt. Debu Chaudhari agreed to teach Uma Shankar, in 2005, who had been playing 19 frets sitar, for ten years till that point in time. Now, he had to learn the Senia Gharana sitar with 17 frets, a challenge that he overcame with much fortitude, after a few years of dedicated training and mindful riyaz. This is because the Senia Gharana is characterized by its unmatched tradition and style of playing sitar with only 17 frets, which is a rare phenomenon, whereas all other Gharanas in India play sitar with 19 or 20 frets (parda). By 2009, he started getting multiple opportunities to compose music and play sitar with plays at National School of Drama, reputed Kathak dancers, and Ghazal singers. Gradually, he has also been performing as a solo sitar player.

Some of the special concerts that Uma Shankar performed in, are mentioned below:

  • Accompanied his guruji in a very special and prestigious concert celebrating the 60 years of the Indian parliament held in the central hall of parliament house, New Delhi, India.
  • Perform in front of former prime minister of India Shri Manmohan Singh, former president of India Smt. Pratibha Patil and former speaker of India Smt. Meera Kumar.
  • Regularly performed with Smt. Sharmishta Mukharjee, Kathak exponent (daughter of former president of India.)
  • Performed in front of Chinese president “Li Yuanchao” in China.
  • Perform almost in all the major cities of the country like Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Gujrat, Assam, Jharkhand, Tripura, West Bengal, Uttarakhand, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Rajasthan, Punjab, & Haryana.
  • Performed with double Grammy award winner Dana Leong for his group Tektonik, and he is a key member of this group.
  • Led a group of 250 musicians from all over India, conduct a folk orchestra organized by Doordarshan Kendra, New Delhi on the occasion of new year celebration
  • Presented a unique concert with Philippine drums and percussion in Philippines.
  • Experimented successfully concert with Rajasthani folk instruments like Khartaal, Nakkara, Dholak, Ilgoja & Matka, which was highly appreciated by audience.
  • Performed with Carnatic musicians in Kerala which also shows his imagination in another dimension in his musical career
  • Solo Sitar was accompanied by both Tabla and Mridangam, a highly successful and rare combination.
  • Presented duet concerts with Santoor, Sarangi, Flute and Violin with many reputed artists of the country.


Shri Uma Shankar, after completing his B.A. in Sociology from Patna University, Bihar, did his Diploma in Radio Management from Academy of Radio Management, New Delhi, received Sangeet Prabhakar, Senior and Junior Diploma in sitar from Prayag Sangeet Samiti, Allahabad, completed his Master of Music (Instrumental) from M.D.U. Rohtak, and received Gold Medal for his Master of Music. At present, he not only performs all over the world, but also teaches in different schools and colleges, thereby being a unique and rare combination of an eminent performer and teacher together in one.

Highlights of some of his awards and accolades are shared below:

  • Received Bismillah Khan Yuva Award by the government of Bihar, 2013.
  • Received a certificate from U.S. Department of state bureau of education and cultural affairs for promoting mutual understanding between India and the United States through the support of the NSLT program.
  • Awarded National Scholarship from H.R.D (Human Resource Department of India)
  • Awarded Sangeet Kala Nidhi Samman from Patna Institute of Music at Ustad Zakir Hussain Memorial Music Festival.
  • Awarded 2nd prize in National Youth Festival, 2004.
  • Awarded scholarship from C.C.R.T, Govt. of India.
  • 10 successive gold medals for the Department of Posts, Bihar circle at national cultural meet since 1994.
  • 1st prize in World Music Day in Patna.
  • 1st prize in Poddar Tiles Sanskritik wings in Patna.
  • 1st prize in Maatri Udbodhan Ashram.

Shri Uma Shankar has successfully shaped himself in a niche domain of sitar playing, with his command over sitar music composition for theatres and plays. As an expert in this domain of performance, he explores his imagination in theatre music. He has composed and orchestrated background music for 200+ plays with different renowned theatre directors of India.

  • Composed music for a plays Dilli ki Diwaar and Suraj ka Satwa Ghoda, directed by Mr. Suman Kumar.
  • Composed music for the play Swarg Lok mein Democracy, directed by Mr. Suman Kumar.
  • Directed and composed music for the play Assi Bahri Alang.
  • Directed and composed music for a dance drama Balcharit of Mahakavi Bhas.
  • Played background music on Sitar for a play Chaya Shakuntalam Directed by Mr. K.N. Panikkar.
  • Played background music on sitar for a Parsi play Veer Abhimanyu directed & produced by Mrs. Hema Singh, National School of Drama (NSD).
  • Played background music for the play Bhagwata Achutam directed by Mr. Ramji Bali, NSD
  • Directed and composed music for plays Mahadev, Mahamahim directed by Mr. Suman Kumar, NSD
  • Composed music for the play Sangeet Shakuntala, Banaras Ki Subha Se Awadh Ki Shaam Tak, Bhediya, Nugra Ka Tamasha, Ram ki Shakti Puja, Kanupriya, Saudagar, GharaurBahar

He has also been teaching theatre music of sitar. He has toured extensively throughout the world as a solo artiste as well as accompanist. These include countries like United States of America, Canada, England, Germany, Austria, Belgium, China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Taiwan, Singapore, Denmark, Saudi Arabia, Iceland, Thailand, Europe, Philippines, just to name a few.


As a composer, Shri Uma Shankar received rave reviews after he explored and experimented successfully with fusion concerts, world and crossover music, and jugalbandi (duet) concerts in India and abroad, as shared below:

  • Sitar with Chelo: performed in a concert with double Grammy award winner Dana Leong from USA
  • Sitar with opera music: performed with Austrian opera group from Austria.
  • Sitar with Pipa Aarhu, Kucchi (Chinese instruments) in China.
  • Sitar with Tibatian Flute and Vocals in Bhutan.

It is noteworthy to know about the unique creations of Shri Uma Shankar, the ones that have received accolades and honours from reputed artists of the country:

Sangeet Shakuntala: The drama “SHAKUNTALAM” is the most unique and creative identification of great poet Kalidas. The drama is known for its poem, beauty, craft and acting. Shri Uma Shankar has presented it in a very special way accompanied by his fellow mates to give totally new musical experience to all the music lovers. This drama not only contains visual content but it also provides a beautiful combination of musical narration. For the very first time in India, the audience experienced a unique experiment in drama.

Indian Ekayan: India is the best example of unity in diversity. The true meaning of “Vasudev Kutumb” can only be heard and witnessed in India. The variety with unity can only be witnessed in the rich heritage of Indian Music. If we pay attention, we shall notice that unity is the key ingredient for melody. This musical group has been successful in preserving the folk and traditional music which is a symbol of unity in India. The members of this group believe that the objective of music is to keep its audience connected forever. Music can do wonders which can keep the humanity live and active in every individual. The audience of this musical unit believe that the tune of the compositions and presentations of this group give a tour of unity and integrity. By listening to its music, the audience can easily relate to the perfect diversity of folk music and this is the reason why this group has a style very different from every other musical group. The only thing that makes this group unique is its creative idea of composing and presenting music with the message of unity and equality which is the priority for this group.

Tribhikshu: Tribhikshu connotation is derived from the era of yore when Buddha was preaching Satya Ahimsa and Mahavira was emphasizing on austerity as a choice of life. Tribhikshu is an assemblage of musicians who convey their core spirit through their unique sounds which absorbs the listener’s soul and activate it to the enlightenments. These sounds create an atmosphere where souls are fed with the sense of epiphany. The instruments have been picked through experiments on our response to different sounds. Tribhikshu takes you to a surreal tour of natural and preaches you about “PANCH TATWAS” of the human body and their significance.

In a very short span of time, young & energetic members of Tribhikshu have carved their niche in the Musical fraternity and have earned fame across the globe. The band has a unique capability of blending the mood with the situation, place & the audience which helps them in captivating the mood of listeners & showing them different nuances of music.

After the sad demise of his Guru Pandit Debu Chaudhari and his son Pandit Prateek Chaudhari, Shri Uma Shankar has been learning sitar with the GIMA awardee and Mirchi Music awardee sitar player and composer Niladri Kumar. Shri Uma Shankar continues to pursue a life of creating and teaching sitar music, while his students also make notable progress in their journey of becoming sitar musicians. It is a great honour for us to publish the brand story of Shri Uma Shankar and we wish him all the best in his endeavours and collaborations.  

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