UK’s Asian underground music has a new name to boast of — Shri. The drum ‘n’ bass, dubstep and breakbeat artiste is a trained Hindustani classical instrumentalist who had a stint with slap bass and jazz before arriving at his signature style. Since 1993, Shrikanth Sriram, better known in the world music circles as Shri, has been touring and performing across the world with musicians like Talvin Singh, Nitin Sawhney and desi DJ Badmarsh. Shri’s USP is not just his treatment of the tabla and bass guitar, but also his innovation. For one, the ingenious percussionist has devised his own fretless bass guitar that can be played with the bow of a violin.
“That guitar is more famous than I am. When I go touring at music festivals, people don’t recognise me. But when they see me carrying my bass, people instantly point at me and say ‘hey it’s that guy who plays mad bow bass’,” laughs Shri, who confesses to using his ‘bow bass’ in all his compositions. He’s created three such guitars and the first one was created more for utilitarian purposes than for seeking originality. “In 1991 I didn’t have money to buy a bass guitar, so I thought I’d make one for myself. I needed one for a show,” says Shri who was part of a jazz band Asia Hades in college.
“I actually grew up playing tabla when I was four. In college, I wanted to be a rockstar. Every musician goes through that phase. Artistes like Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden roused my interest in bass. That’s when I formed this band,” says Shri, who was mentored by UK jazz producer Simon Dove. “He took me to UK in 1993 and that’s when I met Talvin, Nitin Sawhney and DJ Badmarsh,” says Shri, who has toured with all these artistes. With DJ Badmarsh, he even formed a drum ‘n’ bass, dubstep and hip-hop collective.
Shri’s wide musical repertoire, he says, is akin to a traveller who picks up culture from each place he moves to. “I’ve learnt a little from everyone I’ve played with. After five albums and numerous collaborations, I am still a nomad traveller,” he says.