Fans of U SRINIVAS’s mandolin now have an album of new material to savour more of the melodic richness of Southern Indian classical music. As anyone who heard his previous CD Mandolin Magic (Dunya FY 8032) can testify U SRINIVAS is without doubt one of the finest modern interpreters of this thousand year old tradition. Here again we find him at the helm of a quartet, comprising A. Kanyakumari on violin, Srimushnam V Rajarao on mridangam (a cylindrical drum beaten at both ends, which like the tabla can be tuned) and M. Subramaniam on ghatam (a terracotta vase from which its virtuoso players are able to extract amazing sounds). The quartet formation provides the ideal showcase for SRINIVAS’s talents, both as an ensemble player and on the odd occasions he decides to sweep the listener into the whirlpool of his amazing improvisations.
Born in 1970 in the state of Andra Pradesh, from his infancy U SRINIVAS showed pronounced artistic leanings, which he then honed and developed over long years of intensive study in the city of Madras. His chosen instrument obviously derives from the Western tradition and only began to be used in Indian music during the 19th century. The one SRINIVAS uses is a four string instrument to which is attached a contact mike, giving it a sound and feel similar to that of a miniature electric guitar.
Among the pieces included on Mandolin Melodies are three ragas by Thyagaraja (1767-1847), probably the most important composer to have come out of Southern India and one of SRINIVAS’s favourite authors. In his majestic interpretations of these pieces he manages to be emotionally involving while at the same time respecting their profound spirituality. It’s this delicate balancing act between respect for his Indian heritage and forays into Western music traditions with which he shows a deep affinity (as evinced by past collaborations with figures such as Michael Brook and John McLaughlin) that is the key to understanding SRINIVAS’s art.
Particularly remarkable on this new album is the braiding of SRINIVAS’s mandolin with the violin of Kanyakumari, with both musicians continually switching roles during their improvisations and in the formidable variations they perform on the pieces’ melodic lines in a role-play that conjures up atmospheres both refined and bewitching, accessible to even the most untutored ear.
SRINIVAS U from Felmay Shop