The mandolin seems to have taken a new avatar in U. Shrinivas' hands and together with his kid brother U. Rajesh, they have given the western mandolin a totally new eastern and global dimension that audiences lap up within the country and outside. It is a classic case of music having no borders. Today, they will perform on their electric mandolin, at JTpac in the city. Fusion music, jugalbandis, albums with western musicians…so goes their musical route.
Now where does Carnatic music stand? “It's the basis. It is like the Sanskrit language, from which springs so many other languages. Carnatic music is here to stay with us and all other music that we play is based on that,” says the elder brother, age 41, and with a Padmashri among his clutch of recognitions. “But the biggest award for me is when people applaud, when we play. And I love playing for the Kochi audience, as they appreciate our music,” says Shrinivas.
Rajesh, who loves jazz and western music, played the mandolin in the John Mclaughlin album ‘Floating Point' which received a Grammy nomination in Best Contemporary Jazz Album Category in 2008. Other Indian musicians also featured in the Indo-Western jazz album. Both the brothers have collaborated with John Mclaughlin in other projects, more recently in the album, ‘Samjanitha' in which Zakir Hussain, Sivamani, George Brook, also played. “It had a global release and a five-star rating,” Rajesh adds happily.
Both the brothers are into composing music, but films? So far no, says Shrinivas, ‘not till I get a good project with full freedom', which is not easy, he remarks. Shrinivas Institute of World Music teaches the mandolin to students now but he has bigger plans of making it a world class school where all kinds of music are taught.
“Our concerts are usually unconventional and creativity comes from fusion music. Experiments always result in something new. That's our genre of music, Carnatic plus western,” feels Rajesh.
They have played with the Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra, with Dominque Di Piazza and closer home, with Stephen Devassy.
On the other hand, in the December music season, they play unalloyed Carnatic. That's how they keep evolving, yet honing their classical base.