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c73682454122b161f0392b971b9547e7-4A pioneer of Karnatik music on the mandolin, U. Shrinivas, plays with his brother U. Rajesh in Hayward this month. “A genius like Shrinivas is a rare gem and his music has universal appeal,” says presenter Subhendu Banerjee of Harmoni Ventures, which promotes world-class performing artists.

Shrinivas’s keen ear for music was discovered early when his father found the young boy strumming the mandolin at age 6. Music lessons and performances in his village in Andhra Pradesh followed. At age 11 the wiz kid arrived in Madras and bowled over sabha after sabha with his prodigious music. Recognition came early in the form of awards like Sangeetha Choodamani from the Krishna Gana Sabha, and later the Padmashri from the president of India.

At first people thought that Shrinivas had made the wrong choice of instrument—a veena would be more suited for playing South Indian classical ragas. But the young musician was quite certain that the mandolin was what he wanted to play.

The Italian acoustic mandolin indeed does not have a sufficient tonal range to fully develop Karnatik ragas. Shrinivas modified the instrument by using thicker strings, and adding a fifth string so that it gives him four octaves of freedom to improvise. Today no one says that the mandolin is not suited for Karnatik music, and Shrinivas’s name has become synonymous with that of his instrument.

c73682454122b161f0392b971b9547e7-3Despite all the fame and adulation, Shrinivas remains a humble person. “It is the grace of the Almighty,” he says about his genius in a telephonic interview with India Currents.

He and his troupe will soon embark on their North American concert tour. “I look forward to my trips abroad,” he says. “The audience is eager. The response is warm and sincere; it brings out the best in me.”

Shrinivas has also trained his brother Rajesh to play the mandolin. Rajesh performs as a solo artist and also with his illustrious brother. “With two independent brains working, my performances with Rajesh give a unique flavor to my concerts,” says Shrinivas. “It is one of the best synergies.”

This mandolin duet promises to be a rare treat. The brothers will be accompanied by Muruga Boopathy on the mridangam and S. Venkata Ramani on the ghatam. —Deepa Mahadevan


Sunday, May 21, 6:30 p.m. Chabot College Performing Arts Center, 25555 Hesperian Blvd., Hayward. $15, $22, $35, $45, $55.

(925) 828-6127.


Saturday, May 20, 6 p.m. Wilson High School Auditorium, 4400 E. 10th St., Long Beach.

(626) 794-0695, (626) 358-8638.

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