Pandit Shamboo Nath Sopori – ‘The Great Music Legend’

The Great Master Musician Pandit Shamboo Nath Sopori ji (1919 – 2016), popularly known as ‘Masterjee’, is hailed as the ‘Father of Classical Music’ in Jammu and Kashmir. He was a musician and musicologist with phenomenal energy, artistic qualities, devotion, dedication and perfection. A legendary name in the musical history of Jammu and Kashmir, he has been the Guru and Ustad of thousands of students and Hindustani classical music grew with him in the State. Sitar, Santoor and Classical vocal were his forte. He has been the most loved and respected musician of Jammu & Kashmir.

A large number of professionals, music performers and teachers have been his taught which include over 35,000 students. Some of the eminent performers and professors include Pandit Omkar Nath Raina, Smt. Nancy Dhar, Prof. Krishna Labroo, Dr. Usha Bagati, Prof. Rifet Jabeen, Dr. B.L Koul (Sitar), Shri Mohd. Ashraf (Music Composer), Prof. Jai Kishori Kaul, Prof. Hawa Bashir, Dr. Rajkumari Magazine, Smt. Rita Kaul, Prof. Sunaina Kaul (Vocal), Sh. Jawahar Kaul (Santoor), Sh. Sai Abdul Langoo (Tabla), Sh. Abdul Majeed (Rabab), Sh. Mohd. Ameen Nizami (Flute), Bollywood singer Smt. Neerja Pandit and the ‘Melody Queens’ of Jammu and Kashmir Smt. Shameem Azad and Prof. Kailash Mehra Sadhu. Even Late Maharani Yashoraj Laxmi ji of the Royal family of J&K State was his disciple. Panditji’s legacy is carried forward by his son, the legendary Santoor Virtuoso & Composer Pandit Bhajan Sopori and grandson maestro Abhay Rustum Sopori.

Pandit Shamboo Nath Sopori ji had been the pioneer in bringing the Classical music to the masses. He single handedly initiated the mass popularization of Indian Classical music and practically made Kashmir a new cultural centre with virtually every classical musician in the State as his taught. He introduced Hindustani classical music as a subject initially in S.P. Higher Secondary School for boys and later in the Girls College & Teachers Training College at Maulana Azad Road and this paved the way for the musicians to grow and make music a source of lively hood in Jammu and Kashmir. It’s due to the pioneering and dedicated efforts of Panditji that musicians got a prestigious status in J&K.


‘Sangeet Mahavidyalaya’, the music school purely for Indian Classical music and Indian Classical dance that Panditji started in the Valley, was the main institution for teaching and also holding Hindustani Classical music and dance concerts regularly in Kashmir which featured the recitals of luminaries like Ustad Amir Khan, Ustad Abdul Halim Jaffer Khan, Pt. Nikhil Banerjee, Ustad Naseer Aminuddin Khan Dagar, Dr. Parvatikar, Ustad Mushtaq Ali Khan Sahib, Ustad Rahimuddin Khan Dagar, Pt. V.G. Jog and others. The school even presented Carnatik instrumentalists and vocalists and Classical dance recitals before the students and the general public. The annual festivals were chaired by various eminent personalities like the then Prime Minister of the State Shri Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed, Sher-e-Kashmir Sheikh Mohd. Abdullah, Sadr-e-Riyasat Dr. Karan Singh, Sh. Ghulam Mohammed Sadiq, Dr. Farooq Abdullah, Gen. Thimayya, Lieutenant General Katoch and many other dignitaries which gradually created a lot of respect for the art and artists of the State of Jammu and Kashmir.

However, in spite of his busy schedule, as for the family sanskara and parampara, Pandit Shamboo Nath Sopori ji also lived in the company of Saints and Sufis and would regularly perform for them along with his youngest son Pt. Bhajan Sopori. Some of them were Swami Parmanand ji, Swami Nand Bub, Swami Laxman Joo, Swami Kral Bub, Soan Saeb Badasgom, Faqir Aahad Saib and many others.

Panditji had been the pioneer in putting some of the Muqams of Sufiana Mausiqi in the notations to ensure its preservation.

Panditji had been associated with Prayag Sangeet Samiti (Allahabad) for over 50 years and was acknowledged as one of the finest examiners for Master and Graduate course candidates and would travel to the centers of the Samiti all over India. He had been an exemplary examiner and his practical sessions were attended by a large number of professionals, teachers and students.

A mentor of countless, Panditji’s demonstrations were unique and students were very enthusiastic and eager to attend his lecture-demonstrations. His regular recitals and presentations in various institutions like Regional Engineering College, Medical College, Teachers Training College, Polytechnic College, etc. in Kashmir and outside were well attended by a large number of students, music connoisseurs and general public. His recitals from All India Radio were very popular and had a large listening.

Panditji with his command in Indian Classical and Sufiana music made his distinctive style combining both instrumental and vocal in his presentation. He was the only musician in the Hindustani classical music style to sing and play simultaneously throughout the concert. This style has been taken over by his grandson Abhay Rustum Sopori reviving the traditional family style of performance.

A versatile musician with a great command on languages like Persian, Sanskrit, Urdu, Hindi and Kashmiri, Panditji had a huge repertoire of compositions in all these languages which he would renders at ease. He has a collection of more than a dozen compositions in almost every raga in all genres like Dhrupad, Dhamar, Bada Khayal and Chota Khayal.  He also had a huge collection of Tirvath, Tarana, Chaturang, Thumri, Dadra, Ghazal, Bhajan, etc.

Music being in his blood and life itself, he would inspire people from all walks of life to sing and awaken them to nuances of melody and notes. He would ensure that every person who met him would render a line or a verse of a Raga, Ghazal or a Bhajan and it all started with the punch line & icebreaker – “Beta, Sur Lagaoo” (My child, sing a note). This practice gradually brought him to the pinnacle of popularity and people over a period of time gradually developed a yearning to learn music more and more. They found in him their affectionate and loving teacher and a fatherly figure whom with utmost regard and respect they called “Masterjee”.

Its had become a saying that who so ever sits with Masterjee for even a little while would come out learning at least one composition, be it Classical Bandish, Ghazal or devotional songs (Naat, Bhajan, Sufi) with few Sargam and Taan patterns.

He practically made the whole State of J&K especially the Kashmir Valley sing and play with him. He created such a cultural base and foundation that J&K, despite disturbance for so many decades, stood tall as a culturally vibrant region.