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Updated: January 3, 2012 14:08 IST

Clarinet calls

Anusha Parthasarathy
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ON A DIFFERENT NOTE Shankar Tucker
ON A DIFFERENT NOTE Shankar Tucker

Raagam and thaalam brings American Shankar Tucker to India

Everything about this young American screams fusion beginning with his name — Shankar Tucker. He's been playing the clarinet for 14 years, but thinks in ragas instead of chords. And, not surprisingly, his YouTube channel, TheShrutiBox, has gone viral — his music videos (original compositions and covers) have amassed over eight lakh views in just two months.

The 23-year-old American's first name has had many curious. “My family visits Amritanandamayi every time she's in the U.S. She gave me the name ‘Shankar' when I was very young, and I have gone by it ever since, both in the U.S. and in India,” he says.

Shankar graduated from New England Conservatory in Boston last year, where he studied orchestral clarinet performance. As his intrigue for Indian classical music grew, he obtained a scholarship to study with flute maestro Hariprasad Chaurasia in Mumbai.

“It wasn't until high school that I got involved with Indian classical music and started playing it on my own. Then, I was fascinated by improvisation. I made a resolution to learn Indian classical music after I graduated from college. I took lessons from Peter Row, a sitar player. He introduced me to the concepts of raagam and thaalam, and started teaching me the basics of Indian classical performance. With his help, I received the scholarship,” he says.

Apart from the clarinet, Shankar also plays the piano, bass, kanjira, tabla and other percussion instruments. And a couple of months ago, he launched TheShrutiBox. “I started the YouTube channel because I had a few new compositions I wanted to share with people. I didn't have any concert opportunities, so I thought I would record the parts myself, make it into a video and post it online. I have done eight videos on YouTube so far. At this point I see it as a way to share my music, but I'm hoping I will soon be able to turn it into a profession. The response has been overwhelmingly positive and encouraging.”

His tryst with India since September has now made him think in terms of sargams and ragas, he reveals. “My stay here has been nothing short of life-changing. It is not just an adjustment of living in India versus the West, but my musical standpoint has completely shifted. Instead of thinking Western notation and chords or counting to eight or 16, I think teentaal or aadhi taalam. Although my scholarship is only for one year, I am planning to stay on in India for longer, to continue studying, absorbing the culture, and making music,” he explains.

Did he face any challenges in infusing Indian classical music into the clarinet? “When I first started, I was frustrated by the technical challenges of trying to bend the notes to create gamakam,” he says. “But I did not want to move to a new instrument because I loved the sound of the clarinet, and leave behind my previous years of practising.”

Shankar's future plans revolve around music. “I'm planning to start production on a series of mini-albums that will only be available online. There are going to be projects with the Iyer sisters, Nirali Kartik, and a few other musicians. I'm also getting a band together for live shows in the upcoming concert season. The group will be a combination of musicians from Chennai and Mumbai, and we will be exploring some exciting new fusion sounds.”

For more about Shankar, visit www.ShankarTucker.com; watch his videos at www.youtube.com/TheShrutiBox.

very nice work god wish him god will

from:  sakthi
Posted on: Nov 28, 2011 at 16:54 IST

Absolutely awe inspiring talent. Hope this inspires the next generation
of Indians to explore the length and breadth of the wide platform which
is Indian classical music and help it evolve.

from:  Mayurdeep Baruah
Posted on: Nov 7, 2011 at 06:03 IST

he is really great !!!! and expecting him from lot to our traditional songs in his own way !!!

from:  Rama Nethaji
Posted on: Oct 26, 2011 at 10:14 IST

Am so happy that your journal deals with said maestro known to be a prodigy like John Higgins. I am able to appreciate more after retirement and settled in USA last 15 years. South Indian Music Academy in Los Angeles are doing immense carnatic music concerts in which am greatly associated.

from:  Mala Satyamurthy
Posted on: Oct 7, 2011 at 04:22 IST

His music is for soul!!
Waiting for his concert in India!!

from:  VIKAS KUMAR
Posted on: Sep 26, 2011 at 11:31 IST

Shankar is awesome! A pleasure to play music with him.

from:  Anu Chechi
Posted on: Sep 1, 2011 at 03:37 IST
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