Grammy Award-Winning Violinist L Shankar Talks About His Upcoming Concert In Mumbai

Grammy Award-Winning Violinist L Shankar Talks About His Upcoming Concert In Mumbai

He is set to perform in Mumbai with his 10 string stereophonic double violin on June 16 at NCPA as part of the Aditya Birla — Masters of Music

Verus FerreiraUpdated: Saturday, June 08, 2024, 11:39 PM IST
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World Music and Grammy Award-winning violinist, L Shankar, is set to perform in Mumbai with his 10 string stereophonic double violin on June 16 at NCPA as part of the Aditya Birla — Masters of Music.

In attendance will also be Vikku Vinayakram, V. Selvaganesh alongside Ustad Fazal Qureshi and Swaminathan Selvaganesh, who come together for an exhilarating performance of carnatic music and fusion from Shakti.

Shankar is widely regarded as a musical genius and a pioneer in world music. He also has collaborated with famous international artistes like George Harrison, Michael Jackson, Dave Stewart, John Lydon, Frank Zappa, Madonna, Bruce Springton, Sting and others.

He also co- founded the path-breaking fusion group Shakti along with Ustad Zakir Husain and others and co-wrote all their original compositions with guitarist John McLaughlin.

In an interaction with The Free Press Journal, the musician talks about his concert, the band, and his special invention – a 10 string double violin, which is built by Ken Parker.

Excerpts from the interview:

What is on your playlist for the concert at the Jamshed Bhabha?

I will be playing my own Complex Pallavi and other songs. A major part of the show will cover hit songs from the first three Shakti albums. We all meet in Mumbai a day earlier and decide what makes the final cut. There will be a lot of improvisations and spell-binding percussion solos. I can't wait for the show for it's going to be out of this world. We will take you all to a whole new place you have never been before.

Many musicians of your caliber relocate to the West from India. Why did you decide to relocate to Goa?

Goa is a beautiful place and is one of my headquarters in India, others being Malaysia, Paris, Rome, and Los Angeles. Most of the time, I'm travelling around the world for shows and recordings. Besides my usual many hours of practice and recording, I've been conducting advance master classes for both local and foreign professional musicians. These include vocal, violin, multi-instrumental, composing, self-discipline, motivational courses.

Although you are one of the founders of Shakti, you eventually departed from the band. How do you feel about the lineup as it is right now?

I did not depart from the group, it was John McLaughlin and Zakir Hussain spreading rumours that I could not be reached and that I didn't want to be part of the group, which is not true. I was hurt that I was not even informed or invited for the 50th Shakti reunion since I was one of the original founding members and co-wrote all the music from the very start of the group for the first three albums which was pivotal in establishing the Shakti brand and sound worldwide that was instrumental in popularising a whole new genre which came to be known as world music.

Despite friction between Shakti, you dedicated the ‘Who’s to Know’ (1980) to John McLaughlin.

Yes I dedicated the record to John, that time. I still like him as a friend, but the unhappiness of how things turned out with Shakti was due to the lack of professionalism, commitment and the passion that was lost compared to the initial days of Shakti.

You made a 10-string, stereophonic, double-necked electric violin which became known as LSD (L. Shankar's Double violin). Could you briefly describe the violin and how you created such an instrument back in 1980?

Necessity is the mother of invention. When I was in the studio in London recording my first solo album for Zappa Records produced by Frank Zappa, I over-dubbed my vocals, violin, viola, cello, bass. I used to have different violins for my different genres of music, like classical, for Shakti and other Rock projects and collaborations. It was difficult to carry many instruments. I wanted to create one instrument for all genres so I get to play on the same instrument. Hence I designed the LSD (L. Shankar's Double violin). I worked on it for two years on the prototype to get the angle and the distance between the two necks right. It has the whole range of an orchestra violin, viola, cello, double bass, and is able to make many other instruments sounds such as flute, guitar and synthesizer. I can play on one neck and the other neck creates a sympathetic sound. It's been such an amazing instrument for decades. I have the fourth edition of it now.

Have you ever thought that a violin of this kind can be sold commercially and have you patented it?

I patented it, but the process was expensive to be done worldwide. The first time it was used was on my solo album for ECM Records Who's to Know (1980) and on Phil Collins' Face Value (1981) album. Since then, I've been using it on all my albums and collaboration albums and many soundtracks including Martin Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ, Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, and many more.

How did the collaboration with Phil Collins happen?

I used to live in England in the early 80s and Phil and I used to collaborate a lot then. I used to go to his place to work on his album, and he worked on my song, getting ideas together. It was always exciting to work with Phil. He's such a spontaneous musician. We continued working as long as I was living in England.

You are a musician, composer, violinist, singer. Out of these, which do you consider your greatest strengths?

All are required to be a complete musician and they are all my equal strengths.

A recent interview mentioned that you weren’t happy with how things were in Shakti, despite all that, you were part of the One Truth band. What motivated you to continue playing with a similar lineup there?

The One Truth Band was not the same as Shakti. It was a different genre of music. It had talented musicians such as Tony Smith on drums, Fernando Saunders on bass, Stu Goldberg on keyboards and Alyrio Lima on percussion who have all worked with me on my solo projects.

Rapid Fire:

Favorite Food: Indian and Italian

Favorite International Destination: The stage is my favourite location any part of the world

Favorite Book: Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse

Favorite Film: Godfather 1

Favorite Singer: My father and mother

Favorite Pastime: Watching birds

Favorite Performance Venue: Madison Square Garden

Favorite Indian Destination: Dharamsala

Favorite Music: All good music

Are you a Pet lover: Yes certainly, I've lived with birds, rabbits, dogs, cats and cows. They are great companions.

Details:

Event:  Aditya Birla - Masters of Music

Date: Sunday 16th June, 8 pm 

Venue: Jamshed Bhabha Theatre, NCPA

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