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Incomparable, irreplaceable

Mandolin Shrinivas. Photo: BHARGAVII MANI

Mandolin Shrinivas. Photo: BHARGAVII MANI

The galaxy of music has lost one of its most glittering stars in the death of Mandolin U. Shrinivas. That his remarkable achievements immortalised him even as a teenager is small consolation for the tragedy of losing him at the age of 45.

Every superlative offered to him seemed redundant in almost no time — such was his mastery over the art. From the time he stormed into the Carnatic field around age 10, his innate musicality, razor-sharp mind, his command over speed and range, the effortlessness of expression and freshness of musical and mathematical patterns challenged minds, while his charismatic presence on-stage and cartoon-loving simplicity off it stole hearts. His music transcended genres and frontiers — his admirers included Pandit Ravishankar, John McLaughlin and Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, not to mention Nobel laureates and heads of States.

Shrinivas’ talent was God-given but his success was not accidental. His work ethic, reverence towards achievers, faith in God, astute professional judgment, an ever-smiling face and his capacity to handle gruelling schedules of more than 30 concerts a month contributed enormously to his galactic rise in his early years.

Shrinivas was not merely someone I admired professionally. He was as close to my heart as anyone can truly be. I first heard him at a wedding concert in 1981. I was 14 but as a ‘senior’ prodigy, had been exposed to hundreds of children whose parents zealously believed them to be musical avatars. I still recall my ardent prayer as I entered the hall, ‘Dear God, let this at least be a genuine prodigy!’

Though our careers ran parallel for a few years, it never affected our friendship or mutual regard. We cherished our ‘politically-correct-yet-collars-down-style’ interactions at airports, hotels, film-shoots, cultural events or committee meetings. Shrinivas initiated a tradition of calling me on the dot at 12 am on my birthday (February 12) and I used to reciprocate a few days later on February 28. We were elated when we found a compatible pitch that enabled us to perform together last year, after over 30 years of feasibility study! I still recall the élan with which he grasped and reproduced every nuance of my Reetigowla varnam.

The two of us were to perform a series of fundraisers for musicians' welfare in the U.S. this October and when I informed him that a few people were keen that the show in San Jose, California be dedicated to Oottukkadu Venkata Kavi, he assented readily. But with characteristic unaffected humility, he requested that I send him a few masterpieces to learn from. He will not be there for those concerts now. I am going to miss him tremendously.

(N. Ravikiran is a composer and chitravina exponent)


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Printable version | Jun 24, 2022 1:20:25 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/Incomparable-irreplaceable/article60345177.ece