Renowned Carnatic classical musician Uppalapu Shrinivas – popularly known as Mandolin Srinivas after the instrument he made famous in India – died at a private hospital in Chennai on Friday morning following liver complications. He was 45.
Regarded as a musical prodigy for his abilities on the mandolin, Srinivas made his first public performance at the age of six and collaborated with many accomplished musicians, including fusion guitarist John McLaughlin, violinist Nigel Kennedy and percussionist Ustad Zakir Hussain.
“Today mother India cries, today a part of Indian music died and we are orphaned. RIP my dear brother Mandolin Srinivas,” Hussain tweeted.
Srinivas was born in Palakollu, a small town in Andhra Pradesh’s West Godavari district, and picked up his father Satyanarayana’s mandolin when he was five. While he took a largely obscure Western folk instrument and turned it into an Indian classical one successfully, Shrinivas’s speciality was his ability to blend swift finger technique that dazzled audiences with sublime riffs that tugged at their heartstrings.
“We were in class X or XI in Chennai throwing paper bombs and chalks at each other, but he (Srinivas) was already a big star doing the rounds of The Music Academy though he was about five years younger. Even in death, he beat us to the mark,” said army officer V Ganapathy.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu were among the first to condole with the artiste’s family. Celebrated music composer AR Rahman and popular playback singer Shreya Ghoshal expressed shock at the young maestro’s death.
“He was a brother and a friend. Since we were part of (the fusion music group) Shakti, we have not only performed together, but also travelled and stayed together,” said famous vocalist and composer Shankar Mahadevan.
Noted flautist Ronu Majumdar recalled his meeting with the virtuosos who was admired equally by fans and peers.
“I think he personified the word ‘genius’. He used to play in the same way since the age of 12. We met at John McLaughlin’s birthday last year and had a great time with Zakir Hussain, Trilok Gurtu and others,” he said.
While firmly rooted in the Carnatic tradition, Srinivas emerged as a global player, joining both jazz and cutting-edge fusion musicians in collaborations that made him travel the world and get international acclaim. “Eddie van Halen, eat your heart out,” George Harrison reportedly said in 2001, having stumbled upon one of Srinivas’s albums.
At the 1983 West Berlin Jazz Festival, he performed alongside Miles Davis and his All Star Band. He received the Padma Shri in 1998 and the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 2010.