Shakti’s violinist Ganesh Rajagopalan on being part of a Grammy-winning band

Shakti’s violinist Ganesh Rajagopalan talks about the joys of being part of a Grammy winning Indian band

February 28, 2024 06:56 pm | Updated 06:56 pm IST

Vocalist Shankar Mahadevan, violinist Ganesh Rajagopalan, Ustad Zakir Hussain and  percussionist V Selvaganesh of Shakti pose for photos with the award for best global music album for ‘This Moment’ during the 66th annual Grammy Awards, in Los Angeles, USA, Sunday, Feb. 4, 2024. (PTI Photo)

Vocalist Shankar Mahadevan, violinist Ganesh Rajagopalan, Ustad Zakir Hussain and percussionist V Selvaganesh of Shakti pose for photos with the award for best global music album for ‘This Moment’ during the 66th annual Grammy Awards, in Los Angeles, USA, Sunday, Feb. 4, 2024. (PTI Photo)

It’s been just over a couple of weeks since jazz-fusion group Shakti’s This Moment won a Grammy in the Best Global Music Album category. The win came on the back of not just being the first album released under the Shakti name in over four decades, but also after a rigorous campaign for the 66th Recording Academy Awards.

Over a video call from Seattle, Shakti’s violinist Ganesh Rajagopalan, known for his solo work as well as being one half of the sibling Carnatic duo Ganesh-Kumaresh, says it was a really big surprise when news of the nomination came last year. He says, “I did not expect that we would get nominated, but we did. Somehow from that point on, I was sure we would win it. I don’t know why, but I really thought that it was ours. That trophy is ours, and we got it. It was a premonition of sorts, but a good premonition.”

At the Grammys, Rajagopalan, Shankar Mahadevan and V Selvaganesh were on stage representing Shakti, while Zakir Hussain was backstage as he had just received his own Grammy, and the band’s founder John McLaughlin did not travel to Los Angeles for the ceremony.

The violinist says he was missing both the members who were not on stage to collect the award, but they soon all got on a joint call to revel in the win. “We celebrated like it was the last day of our lives,” Rajagopalan says with a laugh.

Although Rajagopalan has arguably been the latest entrant to a legendary band such as Shakti, his association with the likes of Hussain and McLaughlin go back nearly 25 years. The violinist recalls that his first brush with Shakti’s musical style was in 1999, when he, McLaughlin, Hussain and Selvaganesh played a small set at the Cannes Film Festival.

“They felt that instance was good enough for me to be part of the band and that’s where I feel fortunate enough,” Rajagopalan says.

Ganesh Rajagopalan, Shankar Mahadevan and V Selvaganesh with their Grammy medals

Ganesh Rajagopalan, Shankar Mahadevan and V Selvaganesh with their Grammy medals | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

In another interview, McLaughlin had spoken about bringing in the violinist, “We could not imagine another mandolin player after Srinivas. The violin was there at the birth of Shakti. It was my mother’s instrument. So it was natural in a way that we look for a violinist. Ganeshji fit in perfectly.”

At the time of becoming part of Shakti, Rajagopalan says he was very aware of the responsibility it took and that he was “sitting in the place of great masters who have been there before.” He adds, “You just sit there and play, and it’s up to the people to accept it and people in the band to accept me as one of them.” The intent that he wanted to bring to the band was that it moves forward, carrying on its 50-year legacy.

Rajagopalan says lineup comparisons and past members may have been brought up by fans in the light of this Grammy win, but he says he has not seen any negative comments. On the road, when Shakti embarked on a world tour (including India) before and after the launch of This Moment, the violinist recalls that everyone was happy to see the band back in action. “I feel that I was somehow able to pass muster was because both John and Zakir were happy and other members of the band were encouraging me,” he says.

A file photo of violinists Vidwan Ganesh Rajagopalan and Vidwan Kumaresh Rajagopalan during their visit to Mangaluru in January 2024.

A file photo of violinists Vidwan Ganesh Rajagopalan and Vidwan Kumaresh Rajagopalan during their visit to Mangaluru in January 2024. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Rajagopalan, as part of Ganesh Kumaresh, performed two concerts in Karnataka last month — at Town Hall in Mangalore on January 15 and at Ramagovinda Ranga Mandira in Mysore on January 16.

The Grammy win also comes a year after Ganesh-Kumaresh completed 50 years of making and performing music together, which was another tour that Rajagopalan had to balance with Shakti commitments. He says the global recognition that comes from winning a Grammy is good for his work with his brother as part of the duo.

From film, appearances and contributions to soundtracks to Carnatic music and fusion, Rajagopalan credits his father TS Rajagopalan as being an influential figure in terms of shaping his and his brother Kumaresh’s understanding of the power of music right from childhood. “For example, when we acted in movies, a lot of people were against it, but my father said, ‘No, it’s very important for you to show yourself what you are, in the public eye. So you should always be ready to embrace things when you get an opportunity like that.’”

Now, Rajagopalan’s plate is full — there is more music and touring coming up in the US in May, followed by other concerts in India. “We are also waiting for John to do a Shakti tour so we can celebrate our Grammy success,” he adds with a laugh.

Ganesh Rajagopalan

Ganesh Rajagopalan | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in

Comments

Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.