Friday, May 11, 2012

Carnatic Bluegrass: U Srinivas

Uppalapu Srinivas

Like the Australians who have yet to find a sport they are afraid of and don’t do well in (we’ve won Olympic Gold in speed skating and ski jumping for goodness sake!), the Indians appear not to have discovered a western instrument  that they can’t tune to their own scales. Violins, pianos, trumpets, saxophones and guitars are all now part of the Indian orchestra. As is the mandolin, that classic stringed lute most famous these days for its starring role in bluegrass and country bands from Kentucky to Bakersfield.

The mandolin has been played in Indian film music since the early 1940s but its real rise to prominence is the work of one man, U (Uppalapu) Srinivas. Born in the West Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh in 1969, Srinivas’s father dabbled in music and had a mandolin lying around the house.  Uppalapu was what they call a ‘normal’ kid, which means that he didn’t display any particular talent for anything other than being a young human being. But when he was 6 his parents returned home on day to find their son plucking out some tunes on the mandolin. 

A teacher was lined up to see if the boy had real talent but finding anyone who knew what to do with a mandolin was impossible. Eventually, Rudraraju Subbaraju, a classical singer, agreed to help. As he sang, Srinivas followed him on the mandolin. In 1983, when he was 14 years old, he played his first public performance and over the years has won a mass of Indian and international music and cultural awards.  He’s recorded with John McLaughlin, Michael Brooks and many others and continues to maintain a heavy touring schedule as well as manage the Shrinivas Institute of World Music in Chennai.

I picked this CD up at a small shop in the T Nagar area of Chennai several years ago. 

         Track Listing:

01 Chinna Nadeena-Kalanidhi-Adi
02 Janaki Ramana-Suddha Seemanadhi-Adi
03 O Rangasayee-Kamboji-Adi
04 Sri Gananatham-Kanagangi-Adi
05 Alakalallaladaga-Madhyamavathi-Rupakam
06 Paramathmudu-Vagadeeswari-Adi
07 Annapoorne-Sama-Adi

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