Born into a humble family in Palakollu, Andhra Pradesh, U Shrinivas displayed an inexplicable connection with music from the age of 5. His talent – like a hidden gem waiting to be discovered – soon caught the attention of the discerning ears.
Guided by his father and renowned guru, U Satyanarayana, young Shrinivas embarked on an exploration of the mandolin which was previously unknown in India. He breathed life into the strings of the mandolin, forging a distinct and captivating style that would forever redefine the boundaries of the instrument. By the age of 30, he was a beacon of innovation, blending the rhythmic intricacies of Carnatic music with the tonal charm of the mandolin.
Ranjit Barot (Left) and Vijay Prakash (Right) | FPJ
“U Shrinivas ji had the ability to transform himself into the ultimate representative of the music he was a part of. He became the music. This is such a rare quality for any musician to possess, and he inspired everyone around him in a way that upped your performance to somewhat try and match his. He is unforgettable,” says Ranjit Barot, percussion wizard and the maestro's collaborator on the power trio Chingari (featuring Cameroonian bassist Etienne Mbappe).
Together, the trio explored an unprecedented synthesis of international traditions on their audacious album 'Bombay Makossa'. The tracks fused the rhythmic intricacy and improvisational fervour of Carnatic music with the infectious buoyancy of Cameroonian sounds, bridged by a shared love of jazz, second-line funk, and the shimmering textures and grooves of modern pop.
Barot is bringing to the Royal Opera House Mumbai stage that same incredible sound of Chingari in partnership with Avid Learning tomorrow evening, June 2. The improvisational nature of jazz and the emotive power of Indian classical music combine to create a sound that is both captivating and inspiring. The compositions were originally arranged, produced and composed by Barot for Chingari.
Chingari performers | FPJ
The renowned percussionist will pay tribute to the late U Shrinivas ji, with a premier line-up comprising Carnatic vocalist Vijay Prakash on Vocals, top bassist Mohini Dey, keyboardist Arka Chakraborty, guitarist Abhay Nayampally, vocalist Chandana Bala and Sridhar Parthasarthy on vocals and mridangam. “We’re playing the music I wrote for him on our group 'Chingari', as well as some songs from his groundbreaking album 'Samjanitha,'” Barot told FPJ.
The late maestro released the masterpiece 'Samjanitha' in 2008. It features stalwarts Debashish Bhattacharya on Lap Steel Guitar, John McLaughlin, Zakir Hussain, Sivamani, Vikku Vinaykram, Dominique Piazza Michael Brook, U Rajesh. Most of them were his bandmates on the supergroup Shakti. His collaborations with maestros from diverse musical traditions showcased the universal language of music.
One of India's top bassists, Dey has featured in many of Barot's concerts. “Mohini Dey is someone I have nurtured since she was 12 years old. She has since then gone on to become one of the premier bass players today. I am extremely proud of who she has become and how hard she has worked to get here. I have a great time playing with her on stage,” he says.
Dey is heavily inspired by late Shrinivasji, “I think he is always going to live through us and in our hearts. His take on traditional South Indian music reached the West and made waves which was a new sound that no one had ever heard. His music was unique and had a great effect worldwide.”
This is the second time that Barot and popular vocalist and playback singer Vijay Prakash are performing at the Royal Opera House together. The first time was in February 2020, just before the pandemic hit, with Mbappé and keyboardist Christophe Cravero. They brought to the stage a spontaneous combustion of jazz, world, funk, pop and rock music. They collaborated with the rousing voices of renowned singers Hariharan and Vijay Prakash.
Prakash's work spans devotional, classical, films, and pop. Born to a family of musicians, composers, and singers of Carnatic classical music, the award-winning singer has sung close to 1000 film songs in Hindi, Kannada, Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam and Marathi.
But it is in the realm of Indian classical music that Vijay Prakash's artistry truly blossoms. His renditions of traditional Carnatic compositions are marked by an effortless command over intricate ragas and complex talas, effortlessly traversing the octaves with a depth of emotion that is nothing short of mesmerizing.
Whether it is the soul-stirring bhava of a devotional piece or the exuberance of a thillana, Prakash's renditions transport listeners to a realm where time stands still, and the music becomes the very essence of existence.
The concert begins at 7 pm. Tickets on Insider.