The Music Festival owes its inception to an All Night Musical Soirée organised by the Kendra’s Founder Smt. Sumitra Charat Ram on the Country’s independence eve on 15th August 1947. Most of the greatest names of Indian Classical Music of that time such as Ustad Allauddin Khan, Ustad Hafiz Ali Khan, Pt. Ravi Shankar, Ustad Vilayat Khan , Ustad Mushtaq Hussain Khan ,Pt. Samta Prasad , Pt. Pannalal Ghosh participated in that event and enthralled the audience till the wee hours of the morning.
The grand success of this event resulted in the formation of the Jhankar Music circle, which went on to organise monthly music concerts as well as an annual festival. The presentations of the Circle were held at the Constitution Club, the only venue available in those days. It would not be wrong to state that the activities of the Circle played an important role in reviving interest in traditional Indian Music.
Sir Shankarlal who was the brother of Sir Shri Ram, Father in Law of Smt. Sumitra Charat Ram, was a great patron of the Arts. After the formation of Bharatiya Kala Kendra in 1952 the Sir Shankarlal Foundation, an entity set up in his memory, took upon itself the task of supporting the annual `Music Festival. The Festival thus became known as the Shankarlal Music Festival and went on to become one of the most prestigious annual events of the Country.
In 1993 the Shankarlal Foundation felt that it could no longer assist in organising the Festival and requested the Kendra to independently take on the activity. The Festival thereafter continued to be staged by the Kendra as the Shriram Shankarlal Music Festival and has retained its position as a landmark event in the cultural calendar of the National Capital.
One of the oldest festivals of Classical Music in modern India, the Shriram Shankarlal Music Festival has featured, over the years, almost all the stalwarts of Hindustani Classical Music, both Vocal and Instrumental. It is a mark of honour and prestige for artistes to be invited to this festival. Besides presenting senior musicians at the peak of their careers, the festival has also launched the careers of many outstanding new talents who subsequently rose to greater heights.
While the list of artistes who have participated in the Shriram Shankarlal Music Festival since its inception is very long, some of the names are Bhimsen Joshi, Gangubhai Hangal, Bade Gulam Ali Khan, Amir Khan, Dagar Brothers, Mallikarjun Mansur, Ram Chatur Malik, Sharafat Hussain Khan, Pandit Jasraj, Begum Akhtar, Girija Devi, Kishori Amonkar, Rashid Khan, Rajan Sajan Mishra, Ajoy Chakraborty, Ulhas Kashalkar among the vocalists and Bismillah Khan, Ali Akbar Khan, Nikhil Banerjee, Radhika Mohan Moitra, Amjad Ali Khan, Sharan Rani, Hari Prasad Chaurasia, Shiv Kumar Sharma, Zakir Hussain, Sutan Khan, Ram Narayan, L Subraminiyam, N. Rajan, Shahid Parvez, Vishwa Mohan Bhatt among the instrumentalists.
The festival is normally presented during the spring months (February / March) every year in the Kamani Auditorium or in Open Air Lawns of the Kendra in New Delhi.