Continued from page 1

“He was growing old and he wanted to experiment and change the instrument” so he could continue playing, Sharma says.

Sharma, a large, balding man, created what he calls the “studio sitar,” a smaller version of the instrument. But holding it was still difficult. So Sharma went to a Home Depot near Shankar’s San Diego, California-area home and bought some supplies to build a detachable stand.

The musician was thrilled. Sharma says Shankar told him, “Your father was a brilliant sitar maker, but you are a genius.”

Shankar was performing in public until a month before his death. Despite ill health, he appeared re-energized by the music, Sharma said.

Now, as Sharma mourns the giant of Indian music, he also worries about the future of the art itself. He sees traditional Indian instruments gradually losing their place in their own country to zippy, electronic Bollywood music.

“We are losing the originality and the core of our Indian music,” says Shankar, himself a trained Hindustani classical musician who plays the sitar and tabla, the Indian pair-drums.

At the same time, Shankar’s work as a global ambassador of music has borne fruit, Sharma says: “Because the music has gone to the West, we’re getting lots of new musical aspirants from the Western countries.”

When jazz artist Herbie Hancock was in New Delhi a few years ago, he stopped by Sharma’s shop to buy a sitar.

And in one of the shop’s display windows gleams a newly crafted sitar made of teak.

“That,” Sharma said, “is for Bill Gates.”