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Friday, 19 September 2014

The Mandolin Magician

As an 8 year old, my initiation to any form of music was listening to a vinyl cassette, on top of whose cover was a young kid holding an instrument. As the music played in the newly arrived cassette player at our home, it brought out a magical sound, which was attributed to that instrument by my grandfather. He also told me that it was a mandolin being played and that the kid in the picture had been playing it with great mastery right from a very young age. 

I remember only keeping two things in mind from that listening experience and from that interaction with my grandfather. That the sound of a mandolin was great and a little kid like me plays it. I thought anyone could play music if a kid my age had already mastered it. I thought music was simple, although I never tried any instrument myself. I remember begging my uncle every time he was coming home from Bangalore or Mysore for cassettes of mandolin played by this kid. If he had brought some cassettes and if none of them were of his, I don't remember listening to any of them at all. For a long time, music for me began and ended with Mandolin of U Srinivas.

As I got to know more about music, I realized that the genre Srinivas played was Carnatic Music. Then I became receptive to other great exponents of Carnatic Music, like M. S. Subbulakshmi, D. K . Pattammal, Sikkil Sisters, R. K. Srikantan and more. But there was always a special place in the heart for Mandolin Srinivas. There always will be. He was also the one who introduced me to my favorite raga Charukeshi, through a Sai Bhajan.

Fittingly, the first live music concert I ever attended was of U. Srinivas and his brother U. Rajesh playing their mandolin with great reverence at the Rama Navami concert at Fort High School, Bangalore a few years ago. I was left stunned and was guided through a state of deep meditation by the geniuses in them. The Bhairavi, the Nasikabhushini, the Karnataka Devagandhari, the Sindhubhairavi and other ragas they played still reverberate in my ears to this day.

News of his untimely death today was a rude shock. How can someone so talented go so early? How much more could he have possibly achieved just boggles the mind. A kid sent from the heavens just to perform penance and shower utmost bhakti through his mandolin. That was the goal set for his life, may be. How blessed was he? "Jagadoddharana" in Raga Kapi has been orphaned. Indeed, it is possible to achieve moksha through music. Although many of his renditions are being played in my mind, I'll leave this with this masterful piece - "Gananayakam" - in Raga Purnashadja:


Anu Narasimhadevara said...

VP you made me cry - again! Today has been a day of tears. Listening to Purnashadja...

Prasanna said...

Not the intention Anu, but yes - music and Mandolin Srinivas were synonyms for me for years.

Sridhar Mandyam said...

Thanks for the beautiful tribute Prasanna. I am still unable to get over the loss of such a wonderful artist. As Anu said, it has been a day of tears.

Here is a link to one of his early concerts: