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    A Neil Diamond Musical Is Coming to Broadway, After a Stop in Boston

    “A Beautiful Noise” will start at Emerson Colonial Theater in Boston next month and transfer to Broadway’s Broadhurst Theater in November.A new musical about the life and career of Neil Diamond is coming to Broadway late this year.“A Beautiful Noise, The Neil Diamond Musical” will start previews on Nov. 2 and open on Dec. 4 at the Broadhurst Theater, the show’s producers said Wednesday. The Broadway production will be preceded by a six-week run starting June 21 at the Emerson Colonial Theater in Boston.Diamond, an 81-year-old Brooklyn native who was one of the most successful songwriters of the rock era, retired from touring in 2018, citing a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease, and this year he sold his catalog to Universal Music Group. He wrote and performed “Sweet Caroline,” which has become a sports stadium favorite, especially at Fenway Park; won a Grammy for best original film score (“Jonathan Livingston Seagull”); and in 2011 was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.The stage musical will feature a score made up of Diamond’s songs, with a book by Anthony McCarten, the Oscar-nominated screenwriter behind “The Two Popes” and “The Theory of Everything.” The show is being directed by Michael Mayer, the Tony-winning director of “Spring Awakening” and a veteran of several adventurous jukebox musicals, including “Swept Away” (featuring songs from the Avett Brothers), “Head Over Heels” (the Go-Go’s) and “American Idiot” (Green Day). Steven Hoggett (“Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”) will choreograph.The lead producers are Ken Davenport, a Broadway veteran (his credits include the Tony-winning revival of “Once on This Island”) and Bob Gaudio, a musician who was the producer of several of Diamond’s albums. The musical is being capitalized for up to $20 million, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission; a spokesman said the producers are hoping to keep the budget to $19 million.The actor Will Swenson will star as Diamond in the Boston run of the show. Casting for Broadway has not yet been announced. More

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    How Gossip Is Remaking Online Hip-Hop Media

    Subscribe to Popcast!Apple Podcasts | Spotify | StitcherIn the latest iteration of online hip-hop media, actual music can often seem like an afterthought. The current wave is full of gossip-focused websites, Instagram accounts and podcasts that have lent the online conversation about rap stars (and even more often, those who are proximate to them) the air of tabloidism.This phenomenon isn’t solely happening in hip-hop media — it’s true across music media, and in other fields as well — but the scale and rate of growth of these platforms might be unmatched in this space. The changes have been rapid, the product of an ever thirstier internet and a genre that is broader and more successful than ever and has more eyeballs on it than before, too.On this week’s Popcast, a conversation about the seismic shifts that the internet has brought to the coverage of rap stars, how online clutter rewards sensationalism and the possible paths forward.Guests:Jerry Barrow, head of content at HipHopDXAndre Gee, staff writer at ComplexRob Markman, vice president of content strategy at GeniusConnect With Popcast. Become a part of the Popcast community: Join the show’s Facebook group and Discord channel. We want to hear from you! Tune in, and tell us what you think at popcast@nytimes.com. Follow our host, Jon Caramanica, on Twitter: @joncaramanica. More

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    Lil Keed, Up-and-Coming Atlanta Rapper, Dies at 24

    The musician, a protégé of Young Thug, died on Friday in Los Angeles, his label said.Lil Keed, a budding, melodic rapper from Atlanta with a delicate voice that he often stretched into a helium-high, Auto-Tuned falsetto, died on Friday in Los Angeles. He was 24.His death was confirmed on Saturday by a representative of his record label, 300 Entertainment, who did not specify a cause. Keed had been scheduled to perform at a music festival in Charlotte, N.C., on Saturday night.Born Raqhid Jevon Render on March 16, 1998, he hailed from the neighborhood known as Cleveland Avenue, for its main thoroughfare, where southwest Atlanta meets the suburb of East Point in Fulton County. He chronicled his turbulent upbringing there, surrounded by poverty, drugs and violence, in the three-part mixtape series “Trapped on Cleveland.” Its final installment was released in 2020.“I dig deep into my story and let everybody see what I went through, how I came up, and give them an insight on my life,” he said in an interview with Complex at the time.Lil Keed signed to 300 and Young Stoner Life Records, or YSL, in 2018, under the tutelage of his mentor, the melodic rapper Young Thug. Earlier this week, Young Thug and 27 others, including numerous rappers from the label, were charged in a major RICO indictment handed up by a grand jury in Fulton County. The indictment portrays YSL as a criminal street gang responsible for murders, robberies, drug dealing and more.Keed, who was not charged, responded in a graphic posted to social media that read: “YSL is a family, YSL is a label, YSL is a way of life, YSL is a lifestyle, YSL is not a gang.”In 2020, he was named to XXL magazine’s annual Freshman Class issue, a prominent launchpad for rappers, appearing on the cover alongside acts like Jack Harlow and Fivio Foreign. The year before, his breakout single, “Nameless,” a raunchy number with a singsong stickiness that became a regional radio hit and a streaming success, was certified gold.Keed, who released seven full-length projects in two years, worked widely with artists from his city and beyond, including Lil Yachty, Gunna, Future, Lil Uzi Vert and Roddy Ricch.His brother and frequent collaborator, the rapper Lil Gotit, reacted to his death Friday night on Instagram. “I did all my cries,” he wrote. “I know what u want me to do and that’s go hard for Mama Daddy Our Brothers.”Keed is also survived by his daughter, Naychur, and his girlfriend, known as Quana Bandz. “What am I supposed to tell Naychur?” she posted. “What am I gone tell our new baby?”Confident and winning, with a wide smile and an open-minded eagerness, Keed was frank about his ambition to grow beyond the often grim Southern street rap tales that first got him noticed. “I wanna be a megastar,” he said to XXL. “I don’t wanna be no superstar. I wanna be a megastar.”Through his unlikely friendship with the advertising executive and motivational guru Gary Vaynerchuk, whom Keed name-dropped in song, he nearly appeared in a 2019 Super Bowl commercial for Planters with Mr. Peanut and Alex Rodriguez. However, the role fell through. At a studio summit later that year, Mr. Vaynerchuk encouraged Keed to expand his presence on TikTok to reach new audiences.“I’mma do this,” Keed said, energized by the advice. “And I’ll be like, he told me.”His new music was starting to reflect that, Keed said. “Back then, I was talking about stuff like typical rappers: shooting, killing,” he told Complex of his beginnings, “because that’s what everybody wanted to hear.”He continued: “I was just talking about the stuff that happened in the streets and stuff around me. Now that I done grew from all that and I done moved myself out of that situation, I’m letting folks know why I was so trapped on Cleveland, as far as me going to the hood every day and all the shootouts. I just had to move myself out of the situation to better myself and my family.” More

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    Kendrick Lamar Is a Mortal Icon on ‘Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers'

    The Pulitzer Prize-winning social commentator rapper returns after five years with “Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers,” an album about what’s broken on the inside.Kendrick Lamar has long extracted maximum power from his blend of the interior and the global, making him a particular kind of generational superstar — one who shoulders the weight of others. In a few places on “Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers,” the rapper’s fifth studio album, he laments from the top of the mountain he’s spent the last decade climbing. These are depleted, lonely incantations: “I can’t please everybody,” “I choose me, I’m sorry.”Lamar, 34, is an astonishing technician, a keen observer of Black life, a proletarian superhero, an artist who reckons with moral weight in his work. But judging by “Mr. Morale,” which was released on Friday, he is also anguished, ravaged by his past and grappling with how to make tomorrow better, besieged by a collision of self-doubt and obstinacy. And fallible, too.Five years have passed since Lamar’s last album, the Pulitzer Prize-winning “DAMN.,” and even that gap has the air of the moral to it — Lamar as pop culture refusenik, a thinker who discourses at no one’s pace but his own.But maybe five years is just how long it takes to shake free of the long echoes of other people’s perceptions and expectations. The Lamar of “Mr. Morale” sounds lonely and tense, increasingly aware of the burdens placed upon him by his upbringing and potentially unsure about his capacities for overcoming them. He does these calculations over some of the most desolate production of his career. He is withdrawing in more ways than one.If “To Pimp a Butterfly” from 2015 was Lamar’s social polemical peak, and “DAMN.” from 2017 was his anxiety album — the product of realizing how his very private thoughts were becoming very public and scrutinized — then “Mr. Morale” is about retreating within and pondering your accountability to the person in the mirror, and to the handful of people you keep closest. (A recurrent voice on the album is that of Whitney Alford, Lamar’s longtime romantic partner, though perhaps no longer, depending how you read “Mother I Sober.”)The Return of Kendrick LamarThe five-year wait for a new album by the Pulitzer Prize-winning rapper is finally over.New Album: Kendrick Lamar’s fifth studio LP, “Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers,” is one of the most ardently anticipated albums in years.Review: “Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers” is an album about what’s broken on the inside, our music critic writes.Pulitzer Prize: In 2017, Lamar became the first rapper to receive the Pulitzer Prize for music, winning the award for his album “DAMN.”2014 Profile: Eight years ago, a young M.C. from Los Angeles was on a quest to become the best rapper in the world.This begins with family, and two of the most moving songs on the album deal with Lamar’s parents. On “Father Time” he details how his father raised him to be unforgiving of himself, and to bury his uncertainties: “Men should never show feelings, being sensitive never helped/His mama died, I asked him why he goin’ back to work so soon?/His first reply was, ‘Son, that’s life, the bills got no silver spoon.’”“Mother I Sober” — which features sagging vocals from Beth Gibbons of Portishead, a missed opportunity — traverses domestic abuse and Lamar’s frustration at his own childhood inaction, but then telescopes out to his own failings, in the form of infidelity. Hearing Lamar apparently confess to this kind of intimate disloyalty is part of an immolation of the ethical persona he’s cultivated for years (or perhaps had thrust upon him — “Like it when they pro-Black, but I’m more Kodak Black,” he raps on “Savior”).He goes even further on “We Cry Together,” an outlandish tit-for-tat about a profoundly broken relationship, with the role of his partner vividly speak-rapped by the actress Taylour Paige. The song pulses with a startlingly raw toxicity, even if construed as character work. It is also, perhaps perversely, one of the most musically successful songs on the album, a shuddering alignment of rhythm and sentiment.The opposite is true of “Auntie Diaries,” in which Lamar raps about two people close to him who came out as transgender. He does this in an earnest but clunky way — there is misgendering, and there is deadnaming. And in his retelling of his childhood ignorance, he invokes, and repeats, a homophobic slur several times. These are faux pas, and so is the airless, joyless production — it is as sonically uncommitted as it is apathetic.Lamar is the rare popular musician who receives almost universal acclaim, not only artistically, but often as a kind of paragon of virtue. But there are all sorts of complexities and heterodoxies that are suffocated by uncomplicated embrace. “Mr. Morale” appears to be a corrective for that — it is an album that aims to repel, or if not quite that, then at least is at peace with alienating some of its audience.It is also a reminder of how rare it is these days to encounter popular music with unstable politics, and a gut punch to the presumption that progressive art and ideas always go hand in hand.On two different songs, Lamar expresses a kind of sympathy for R. Kelly, who has been convicted of sex trafficking and racketeering. And one of the voices that appears throughout the album is that of the Florida rapper Kodak Black, who has in the past faced sexual assault charges. (He later pleaded guilty to lesser assault charges.) Opting to work with Kodak is both creative and political provocation — it suggests Lamar believes in redemption (or perhaps that everyone is flawed, some more publicly than others), but also feels like an implicit rebuke to those who don’t see poetry, pain or progress in the work of Kodak or his peers. (Indeed, it has plenty of all of that.)These are dares of a kind — in a way, they are the most public-minded decisions on this album, which often feels insular, lyrically and musically. “Mr. Morale” is probably Lamar’s least tonally consistent work. Unlike on “DAMN.,” where Lamar tried to smooth the edges of his songs and arrived at his most commercially appealing album, “Mr. Morale” — on which Lamar works with his frequent collaborators Sounwave and DJ Dahi, Beach Noise, Duval Timothy, and others — is rangy and structurally erratic, full of mid-song beat switches, sorrowful piano and a few moments of dead air.At his best, Lamar embodies the deep creative promise of the art form of rapping — he provides hope that there are ways of agglomerating syllables that haven’t yet been thought of, that word and cadence and meaning can still collide in unanticipated ways. His voice is squeaky and malleable, and it’s often most riveting when untethered from simple rhythms. But there is a difference between effort and achievement. And when Lamar is under-delivering — say, on “Crown” — the air fills with expectancy: Surely more is just around the corner?That said, one gift of the Lamar aura is the way he frees those around him to reach for transcendence. Ghostface Killah, a veteran so accepted as a lyrical hulk as to be taken for granted, appears on “Purple Hearts” with an astonishing, floating verse. Lamar’s cousin Baby Keem also shines on “Savior (Interlude),” as does Kodak Black on “Silent Hill.”Such is the enviable house Lamar has built over the last decade, one that demands more of everyone who visits. But “Mr. Morale” reveals him to be a titan who is a victim of idolatry. Lamar knows that in truth, no one is a hero, and maybe no one should be. He is just a man. Allow him that.Kendrick Lamar“Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers”(pgLang/Top Dawg Entertainment/Aftermath/Interscope) More

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    The ‘Hamlet’ Chord: A Composer’s Music of Indecision

    Brett Dean, whose adaptation of the classic play is at the Metropolitan Opera, discusses the four notes that embody Hamlet’s dilemma.One of the boldest things about Brett Dean and Matthew Jocelyn’s “Hamlet,” which runs at the Metropolitan Opera through June 9, is the way that it treats some of the most famous lines in English.Moments into the piece, we meet Hamlet (the tenor Allan Clayton at the Met), muttering a bare fragment of his monologue, “… or not to be. / … or not to be. / … or not to be.” When the time comes for the great soliloquy, though, it takes a strange form. Jocelyn, the librettist, uses text from the untraditional first quarto version of the play, and rather than “To be, or not to be,” Hamlet sings: “… or not to be. / … or not to be. / … or not to be. To be. Ay, there’s the point.”If the libretto mutes some of the prince of Denmark’s turbulent vacillation, the music restores it. High from the balcony boxes whisper tuned gongs, a pair of percussionists playing pianissimo and extremely delicately, one alternating from a B to an F and back, the other from an F sharp to a C sharp.Write the notes out as a single chord, and you draw a tower of fifths wavering over a tritone in the bass. It’s an awkward, dissonant and dark set of intervals that feels like it needs to move, like it must make a choice — though not necessarily urgently, and not in any certain direction.Meet the Hamlet chord, a musical embodiment of the title character’s dilemma. In an interview, Dean explained the dramatic function it plays and discussed his score more broadly. Here are edited excerpts from the conversation.There have been many settings of “Hamlet,” from full operas, to overtures, to incidental music. What did you think was most important to bring into your opera from the play?Of course this was all in collaboration with Matthew Jocelyn, who had the first and arguably the hardest job. Matthew said that the thing to remember is that there is no such thing as “Hamlet.” Any “Hamlet” you see has had a lot of decision-making that’s gone into working out the Hamlet story that it wishes to tell, from the three different versions that were published in his lifetime, one of which is very contentious, the first, “bad” quarto.So Matthew got us both to write down the six most important things that we thought had to be part of our Hamlet, and then a second set of six, and then we compared. One thing that was clear from the very start was that it was to be, or not to be — sorry — a domestic story, a family drama, not busying ourselves with geopolitical worlds.The tenor Allan Clayton, on the table, as Hamlet at the Metropolitan Opera.Sara Krulwich/The New York TimesThe score seems to be very explicitly atmospheric; it’s sometimes as if you can almost taste the weather around the castle.One thing that was very important to me was definitely a sense of atmosphere, but in creating an atmosphere it was important that the whole space of the theater resound — that it should feel like being inside Hamlet’s head.I managed that in a couple of ways. One was to have two groups of instruments up in the gods, a mirrored trio on either side of clarinet, trumpet and percussion, and the other was to have a group of singers, which I refer to as the semichorus, with the orchestra, creating a link between the sung world of the stage and the instrumental world of the pit. The musicians who are upstairs make all sorts of sounds with all sorts of things, including stones that are cracked together. There’s an earthiness about a lot of the sounds they make. There’s a primal aspect to the sound that takes you out of just being in an opera house.This sense of theater was important. Neil Armfield, the director, said that you have to take into account that in this piece where so much happens, where there’s so much intrigue and so much philosophy, it’s only when the players arrive that there’s truth — and, for Hamlet, genuine love — in the air. It’s only in theater that we come to the real McCoy, as it were.Within the orchestra, a lot is made of this one chord. Could you describe it to me?It’s only four notes, but you can do a lot with four notes. Wagner’s “Tristan” chord is only four notes as well, although it resolves to another chord of four notes. Although it wasn’t conscious, I swear to God, there are similarities between my so-called “Hamlet” chord and the “Tristan” chord, in that they both have the same augmented fourth — a tritone — at the base of it, F and B.My chord is based on a pair of open, perfect fifths going upward: B, F sharp, C sharp, which is this very open sound, not unknown in American music — it’s that vista music, Copland and so on. But as soon as you color it, destabilize it with the F and the tritone at the bottom, it becomes very different.The chord in “Dust”(Metropolitan Opera)via Brett DeanWhere did that idea come from?It was a passing moment in an earlier piece of mine called “Dispersal.” I heard a performance of it just prior to starting work on “Hamlet.” There was this moment with a big buildup that landed on that chord, set in brass, as a kind of fanfare, and it captivated me as a moment of highest tension.The thing about this chord is that it has that sense of needing to move somewhere else. I started playing around with it, and, indeed, the piece starts just with an open fifth, the B and the F sharp. B also is a prominent note in the score. It’s bang in the middle of Allan’s register; it’s bang in the middle of the treble stave; it’s called H in German.We last spoke for a story about the influence of Berg’s “Wozzeck” and, like that opera, your “Hamlet” has a big crescendo on a B as well.Yeah, there were these things emerging. So it starts with the first open fifth, which has this kind of Wagnerian, “Rheingold” feeling to it, setting up an open expanse, then, not long into it, the low F natural comes in against the F sharp above, which really disturbs it. The chorus sing “Dust, quintessence of dust” on that chord, even before Hamlet has sung his first opening lines.The chord building at the start of the opera(Metropolitan Opera)That’s how it started, and then I worked on ways it wants to expand. Wagner mapped out all his progressions almost to the word of where his motives went. For me, it was a lot more instinctive; there’s a lot of my process that is, well, “We’ll see where this goes.” It was, though, a place to return to.There’s another example where I add a low C natural and turn it into this breathless and restless ostinato: In Scene 6, after the performance of the play, when Claudius storms out and Hamlet realizes he’s caught his man, he sings, “Now could I drink hot blood.” Then it returns in the point in the final scene, where he sings “the point envenomed, too” and has decided that Claudius is going to meet his maker. There it’s this push that spurs him on.The chord as an ostinato(Metropolitan Opera)via Brett DeanCould you sum up its dramatic function as a whole?The thing about the chord is that because of its need to move — not necessarily to resolve in the “Tristan” chord way — it seemed to encapsulate that the situation demands action. But Hamlet is undecided what that action should be, which is somehow his tragedy. More

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    Bad Bunny Has the Biggest Week of 2022 on the Chart, for Now

    Future broke the record last week; Kendrick Lamar is poised to set a new bar next week. Blockbuster season on the Billboard album chart has finally arrived.The blockbuster stage of the year’s music release calendar has arrived, with big numbers for Bad Bunny’s latest album on this week’s Billboard chart, and even bigger sales expected for Kendrick Lamar’s long-awaited, just-released return to next week’s chart.“Un Verano Sin Ti,” the new album by Bad Bunny, the mega-streaming Puerto Rican superstar, opens at No. 1 with the equivalent of 274,000 sales in the United States, according to the tracking service Luminate. That is the biggest opening of any album so far this year — beating the record set last week by the rapper Future — and Bad Bunny’s second time at No. 1.Bad Bunny has been Spotify’s most-streamed artist for the last two years running, so it’s no surprise that “Un Verano Sin Ti” racked up a huge number of clicks: 357 million, more than any release so far this year, and the best streaming week for any Latin album ever.But what counts as a blockbuster these days? The numbers have been steadily declining, and what was once the universally recognized milestone of a megahit — one million sales in a single week — looks increasingly unlikely ever to be reached again.The streaming total for “Un Verano” — which accounted for about 95 percent of its consumption in the United States — was certainly big, but it was less than half that of Drake’s “Certified Lover Boy,” which opened with 744 million last September. As a digital album, “Un Verano” sold only 12,000 copies.Not so long ago, a common chart tactic was to bundle copies of albums, as downloads or CDs, with sales of concert tickets or merchandise. But after an industry uproar that such deals were distorting the picture of fan demand and skewing the charts, Billboard changed its rules two years ago to prevent most such deals from affecting chart positions.Even without the rule change, appetites for albums, purchased whole, have been declining for years. Adele’s latest, “30,” opened last year with 839,000 “equivalent sales units” — a measurement that incorporates both sales and streaming — of which 692,000 were for sales of complete albums; in 2015, her previous album, “25,” opened with 3.4 million. No new album has sold a million copies in a single week since Taylor Swift’s “Reputation” had 1.2 million in 2017.Among other notable new releases on this week’s chart, the rapper Jack Harlow opens at No. 3 with “Come Home the Kids Miss You,” which had the equivalent of 113,000 sales, including 137 million streams, and Arcade Fire’s “We” arrives at No. 6.Future’s “I Never Liked You,” last week’s chart-topper, falls to No. 2, while Morgan Wallen’s “Dangerous” is No. 4 and Olivia Rodrigo’s “Sour” is No. 5. More

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    Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma, Master of the Santoor, Dies at 84

    He single-handedly elevated a 100-string instrument little known outside Kashmir into a prominent component of Hindustani classical music.Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma, an Indian musician and composer who was the foremost exponent of the santoor, a 100-string instrument similar to the hammered dulcimer, died on Tuesday at his home in Mumbai. He was 84.Indian news reports said the cause was cardiac arrest.Over a career spanning nearly seven decades, Mr. Sharma became the first musician to propel the santoor onto the world stage, at concerts and recitals in India and elsewhere.Before Mr. Sharma started playing the santoor, it was little known outside Kashmir. Even there it was used only to play Sufiana Mausiqi, a genre of Kashmiri classical music with Persian, Central Asian and Indian roots.The santoor, a trapezoidal wooden instrument whose strings stretch over 25 wooden bridges, is played with slim wooden mallets. On the santoor, in contrast with the sitar, sarod or sarangi, the string instruments traditionally used in Hindustani classical music, it is difficult to sustain notes and perform the meends, or glides from one note to another, essential to the Hindustani musical tradition.That might be one reason it took Mr. Sharma so many years to be recognized for his artistry.At the beginning of his career, purists and critics derided the santoor’s staccato sound, and many urged Mr. Sharma to switch to another instrument. Instead he spent years redesigning the santoor to enable it to play more notes per octave, making it more suitable for the complex ragas, the melodic framework of Hindustani music.“My story is different from that of other classical musicians,” Mr. Sharma told The Times of India in 2002. “While they had to prove their mettle, their talent, their caliber, I had to prove the worth of my instrument. I had to fight for it.”He released several albums, beginning with “Call of the Valley” (1967), a collaboration with the acclaimed flutist Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia and the guitarist Brij Bhushan Kabra.Mr. Chaurasia and Mr. Sharma were close friends and frequent collaborators. Together they composed music for several successful Bollywood films in the 1980s and ’90s including “Silsila” (1981), “Chandni” (1989), “Lamhe” (1991) and “Darr” (1993). Mr. Sharma was one of the few Indian musicians who straddled the worlds of classical and popular music.In 1974, Mr. Sharma performed across North America with the sitar virtuoso Pandit Ravi Shankar as part of the former Beatle George Harrison’s 45-show “Dark Horse” concert tour, bringing Indian classical music to audiences beyond South Asia alongside some of the finest classical musicians from India — Alla Rakha on tabla, Sultan Khan on sarangi, L. Subramaniam on violin, T.V. Gopalakrishnan on mridangam and vocals, Mr. Chaurasia on flute, Gopal Krishan on vichitra veena and Lakshmi Shankar on vocals.Mr. Sharma, center, in red, in 2018 in Mumbai. He was awarded some of India’s highest honors for his contributions to Indian culture.Pratik Chorge/Hindustan Times via Getty ImagesMr. Sharma was awarded some of India’s highest honors, including the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1986, the Padma Shri in 1991 and the Padma Vibhushan in 2001.Shiv Kumar (sometimes rendered Shivkumar) Sharma was born on Jan. 13, 1938, in Jammu, India, to Pandit Uma Devi Sharma, a classical musician who belonged to the family of royal priests of the maharajah of Jammu and Kashmir, and Kesar Devi. He began singing and tabla lessons in with his father at the age of 5, showing great promise. In “Journey With a Hundred Strings” (2002), a biography of Mr. Sharma, Ina Puri wrote that he would spend hours immersed in music, practicing various instruments.“There was an obsessive element in my attitude to music even then,” she quoted him as saying. “It was the air I breathed, the reason I lived.”By age 12 he was an accomplished tabla player, regularly performing on Radio Jammu and accompanying leading musicians who visited the city. When he was 14, his father returned from Srinagar, where he had been working, with a present: a santoor. Mr. Sharma was not happy about learning a new, unfamiliar instrument. But his father was adamant. “Mark my words, son,” he recalled his father saying. “Shiv Kumar Sharma and the santoor will become synonymous in years to come. Have the courage to start something from scratch. You will be recognized as a pioneer.”In 1955, Mr. Sharma gave his first major public performance on the santoor, at the Haridas Sangeet Sammelan festival in Bombay (now Mumbai). The youngest participant at 17, he persuaded the organizers to allow him to play both the santoor and the tabla. He was reluctantly given 30 minutes to play the instrument of his choice, but on the day of the recital he played the santoor for a full hour — to rapturous applause. The organizers called him back for another recital the next day.He soon received offers to play and act in Hindi films, but after one film, the 1955 hit “Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baje,” he was determined to focus on classical music. He performed around the country in an effort to establish the santoor as a classical instrument.He moved to Bombay at 22; to make ends meet, he played the santoor on sessions for dozens of popular Hindi film songs while continuing to build his classical reputation.He is survived by his wife, Manorama; his sons, Rahul, a well-known santoor player and composer, and Rohit; and two grandchildren.After Mr. Sharma’s death, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was among those paying tribute. “Our cultural world is poorer with the demise of Pandit Shivkumar Sharma Ji,” he wrote on Twitter. “He popularized the santoor at a global level. His music will continue to enthrall the coming generations.” More

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    Review: After 36 Years, a Malcolm X Opera Sings to the Future

    Anthony Davis’s “X” has stretches of incantation that, in person, turn it into something like a sacred rite.DETROIT — “When a man is lost,” sings Betty Shabazz, Malcolm X’s wife, “does the sky bleed for him, or does the sunset ignore his tears?”The start of a smoldering aria, these words may be the most poetic and poignant in Anthony Davis’s opera “X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X.” Especially poignant because, for several decades, “X,” too, has been ignored.The work, with a libretto by Thulani Davis, the composer’s cousin, from a story by his brother, Christopher Davis, premiered in the mid-1980s, first in Philadelphia and, officially, at New York City Opera. And then … largely silence.For the past 36 years, it has been more talked about than heard. (An excellent studio recording from 1992 is now out of print.) And it was obvious, at the opening of a new production on Saturday at the Detroit Opera House, what “X” gains from being taken in live: Its stretches of incantation turn into something like a sacred rite.In these passages, over carpets of complex, repeating rhythms in the orchestra, the ensemble chants short lines — “Africa for Africans,” “Betrayal is on his lips,” “Freedom, justice, equality” — again and again, building and overlapping. The opera is at its best in these long swaths of music poised between churning intensity and stillness. Without copying the prayer practices of Malcolm’s Muslim faith, the work evokes them.Bringing “X” back to the stage is a coup for Detroit Opera, which has recently rebranded itself after 50 years as Michigan Opera Theater, inaugurating a new era under the artistic leadership of Yuval Sharon.Sharon came to prominence as the founder of the experimental Los Angeles company the Industry, and he is swiftly bringing ambitious, inventive programming to Detroit, like a “Götterdämmerung” in a parking garage and a “La Bohème” whose four acts are played in reverse. The field is noticing what he’s up to: As part of a widespread effort to belatedly present more works by Black composers and librettists, this “X” will travel to the Metropolitan Opera (in fall 2023), Lyric Opera of Chicago, Opera Omaha and Seattle Opera.In biopic style, the libretto sketches an outline of a short but eventful life: the murder of Malcolm’s father when Malcolm is a boy in Lansing, Mich.; his mother’s mental breakdown; his move to live with his half sister in Boston, where he falls in with a fast crowd and ends up in prison; his jailhouse conversion to the teachings of Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam; the success of his Black nationalist ministry; his rift with Muhammad over tactics; his pilgrimage to Mecca; and the glimmers of a more universalist ideology of peace and racial unity, which he barely gets a chance to expound before his assassination in 1965, at just 39.Clint Ramos’s set for Robert O’Hara’s production evokes the Audubon Ballroom in New York, where Malcolm was killed, while introducing an element of sci-fi Afrofuturism.Micah ShumakeAll this is conveyed in the heightened register of opera. Even the dialogue is pithy and exalted: “I come from a desert of pain and remorse.” The music is varied and resourceful; Davis won a Pulitzer Prize in 2020 for his most recent opera, “The Central Park Five,” but “X” is a deeper score.It begins in a mournful, noirish mood, the moments of anxiety flirting with blues and subtle swing. Guided sensitively by the conductor Kazem Abdullah, the music goes on to swerve from punchy modernism to lyrical lushness, from peaceful worship to nervous energy and stentorian forcefulness.An essay in the program describes how Davis’s original contract specified that “the word ‘jazz’ should not be used in any connection with this piece,” though an innovation here was to embed an improvising ensemble within a traditional orchestra. This works smoothly, as when a saxophone aptly depicts Malcolm’s new life in big-city Boston, or when a wailing, longing trumpet accompanies prayer in Mecca. The prisoners’ choral dirge is heated by squeals of brass, smoking underneath; along with Betty’s enigmatically tender aria, this is the most intriguing music of the opera.The new production, directed by Robert O’Hara (“Slave Play”), has a unit set, by Clint Ramos, that evokes the partly ruined Audubon Ballroom in Harlem, where Malcolm was killed. (The mountain pass mural painted on the back wall of the ballroom’s stage depicts an idyll that seems like it’s almost taunting the opera’s characters.)Above hover some big, swooping curves, used as a projection screen for textures, animated designs and a scrolling list of names of victims of white violence, before and after Malcolm. The staging is inspired by Afrofuturism, the attempt to conceive new — often fanciful, sometimes celestial — circumstances for a people suffering under crushing oppression.“Imagine a world where Marcus Garvey’s Black Star Line is a spaceship,” O’Hara writes in a program note, referring to the “Back to Africa” movement in which Malcolm’s parents participated. But it is when the curves take on the literal flashing lights of such a ship that things turn a bit risible, conjuring the vessel in “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” more than noble dreams of escape and revision.More effective is the introduction of four male dancers — their sinuous choreography is by Rickey Tripp — who snake through the production, sometimes as guardian angels looking over Young Malcolm (Charles Dennis), sometimes as squiggly punctuation to scenes. The spare flexibility that O’Hara introduces mostly works, even if the libretto’s specificity of place and situation gets sacrificed in this more abstract vision. Malcolm’s basic progress is still clear — less so the particulars of where he is and to whom, exactly, he’s speaking. The result, not unpleasantly, is more dream ballet than CNN.In the production, four dancers — their sinuous choreography by Rickey Tripp — snake through the production, sometimes as guardian angels looking over Young Malcolm (Charles Dennis), here with his mother (Whitney Morrison).Micah ShumakeMalcolm, though, still wears his distinctive browline glasses. He is played here with superb control by the bass-baritone Davóne Tines, steady, calm and committed in both his physical presence and grounded voice, with a fiery core that seethes in his main aria, “I would not tell you what I know,” at the end of Act I.As Malcolm’s mother and his wife, the soprano Whitney Morrison sings with mellow strength. Charming as Street, who spiffs up Malcolm in Boston, the tenor Victor Ryan Robertson largely handles Elijah Muhammad’s muscular high lines but strains to convey his magnetism.“X” sometimes hypnotizes but sometimes sags. Like Philip Glass’s “Satyagraha,” about Gandhi’s early years in South Africa, the opera is conceived as a steadily progressing account of a historical figure’s ideological evolution, dispensing with traditional dramatic tension. The main human conflict, between Malcolm and Elijah, is only lightly touched on; it’s not the plot.“Satyagraha,” though, fully gives itself over to stylization, its Sanskrit text detached from the action, its scenes pageantlike. The music and libretto of “X,” by contrast, keep promising crackling drama without quite delivering; there can be a sense of falling between the stools of trance-like repetition and standard storytelling.Scattered throughout are interludes that musically feel like vamping and that offer little obvious pretext for action. After so many years, the creators seem to have perceived the need to do something with these expanses — “We have added a few lines of singing in places that were musical interludes,” Thulani Davis writes in the program — but they remain, and sap the energy.Still “X,” for all its obvious admiration for its subject, is admirably resistant to mawkishness or melodrama, particularly in avoiding an operatic death scene: At the end, Malcolm takes the podium in the Audubon Ballroom and briefly greets his audience in Arabic. Then there’s a blackout as gunfire rings out.For all the talk of spaceships and a better tomorrow, it is an inescapably stark conclusion. There will always be gifted, visionary boys and men, the work seems to say in this new staging, but their futures are hardly assured.X: The Life and Times of Malcolm XThrough May 22 at the Detroit Opera House; detroitopera.org. More