Mandolin Srinivas is no more with us. CultureBowl pays tribute to the carnatic genius who changed the way people listened to the Mandolin.
U. Shrinivas was a genius of a musician who adapted the mandolin for the Carnatic genre.
Born February 28, 1969, Mandolin U. Shrinivas, who hailed from Palakol in Andhra Pradesh, was living in Chennai. As a child showed deep interest in his father Sathyanarayana’s mandolin at home. As a six-year-old boy, Mr Srinivas would play his father Satyanarayana’s mandolin. Seeing this , his father decided to teach him . While his father’s guru Rudraraju Subbaraju sang a song, he would simultaneously produce it on the mandolin. According to Srinivas, it was something pleasurable for him to discover the instrument day after day. He changed the strings and gradually switched to an electric mandolin.
A child prodigy, Srinivas grew into a master musician who took a Western musical instrument and married it successfully to the rigid world of Carnatic music that is steeped in discipline and tradition. His first public performance was way back in 1978 in Vijayawada, as a six-year-old. He was still below 10 years when he performed at the Madras Music season in 1981 for the Indian Fine Arts Society. Soon, he started touring the world. He was among the few Indian musicians to have performed at JazzFest in Berlin in 1983.
He not only popularised a Western instrument among Carnatic musicians but also experimented with fusion of Carnatic music with Western classical, folk and pop music. He performed with Western artists such as Michael Brook, John McLaughlin, Nigel Kennedy, Trey Gunn, Michael Nyman and others.
At a concert in the city, where he performed with flute maestro Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia, half way through, the veteran put down his flute to salute Shrinivas’ artistry. “Kamaal kar diya, bajao bajao,” he said. Late Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.G. Ramachandran (a film buff, Shrinivas loved watching MGR’s movies) once saw Shrinivas perform on TV and called the Doordarshan office for his telephone number. Since the musician had no phone connection then, he sent his secretary home. He wanted him to play at a government function. When Shrinivas apologised that he was already committed for a concert that day, the Chief Minister is said to have postponed the function to a suitable date. In 1990, when Shrinivas was playing in London, Beatle George Harrison came to listen to him. During the intermission, he went backstage and told Shrinivas how much he enjoyed his music
In 1988 , Srinivas was awarded the Padma Shri for his outstanding contribution to the world of carnatic music.