Music is a divine gift. Whatever you play, it should touch the Soul. How does it come?, If you enjoy what you play, then you can make others enjoy.
Uppalapu Shrinivas, well known as Mandolin Shrinivas, was a virtuoso Indian mandolin maestro and composer who belonged to the classical Carnatic musical tradition. Shrinivas was one of the most globally beloved Indian musicians, who is regarded as the Mozart of classical Indian music. He toured across the world, and collaborated with western musicians like John McLaughlin, Michael Nyman, and Michael Brook. He was awarded the Padma Shri in 1998 and the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 2009.
U Shrinivas was born on 28 February 1969, in Palakollu, West Godavari district in the state of Andhra Pradesh, India. From early childhood, his father U. Satyanarayana, who had studied classical music, would take him to music concerts. At the age of five, he developed a passion for the mandolin. His father started to teach him. In 1976, when he was seven, Guitarist Vasu Rao, introduced him to western music. Later, Rudraraju Subbaraju, who had also taught Shrinivas’s father and Vasu Rao, started teaching him.
Soon Shrinivas started playing the mandolin in the rigorous and difficult Carnatic style, which had never been done earlier. Later his family moved to Chennai, which is considered the mecca of Carnatic music. His first solo performance made him to be compared with the world’s greatest prodigies.
In 1978, during the Thyagaraja Aradhana festival at Gudivada in Andhra Pradesh, U Shrinivas made his debut public Carnatic concert performance. In 1981, at the age of 11, he gave his first public concert in Chennai at the Indian Fine Arts Society during the December Music Season. He never looked back. Connoisseurs and patrons of music loved his music and wanted more of his music. A star was born, who was both revered and adored.
He had started with playing the acoustic mandolin, and later switched to the electric mandolin as he found it more convenient and appropriate for his music. He was the first Carnatic musician to use the electric mandolin. He modified it using five single strings instead of the traditional four doubled strings to suit the Carnatic music. After initial reluctance, he found wide acceptance and critical acclaim.
From 1982, he began performing regularly during the December season of the prestigious Madras Music Academy, and the date 23rd slot was reserved for him. Shrinivas stormed the world music scene at the Berlin Jazz Festival, when he was just thirteen. He enthralled the audience and got a standing ovation. In 1992, he played at the Olympic Arts Festival, Barcelona and in 1995 recorded a successful fusion album with Michael Brook.
U Shrinivas started a music school called the Shrinivas Institute of World Music (SIOWM) in Chennai and hundreds of students worldwide.
In 1997, John McLaughlin revived his group and renamed it Remember Shakti. U Shrinivas joined the group and toured the world along with other celebrated Indian musicians like Zakir Hussain, Shankar Mahadevan, and V. Selvaganesh. He played in Australia, Southeast Asia, Southwest Asia, and extensively and frequently across the United States and Canada. He received thunderous applause and appreciation wherever he performed.
Soon, the mandolin became synonymous with U Shrinivas and he was being called Mandolin Shrinivas. His gifted younger brother, U. Rajesh, is also an accomplished mandolin player, who has often accompanied him at concerts over the last twenty years.
Over the years, U Shrinivas recorded over 137 albums, in diverse genres from Carnatic music solos to jugalbandis with Hindustani musicians, and world music. He performed with Western musicians like John McLaughlin, Michael Brook, Trey Gunn etc. and Indian artists such as Hariprasad Chaurasia and Zakir Hussain.
U Shrinivas stands as a trailblazer and pioneer, who introduced and adapted an unlikely western instrument, the mandolin, for performing in the rigorous Carnatic style of music.
Shrinivas' first mandolin belonged to his father, a clarinetist. That instrument was a 'standard' Western mandolin; however, he made modifications to suit his playing style over the course of his musical career. Shrinivas started out on the acoustic mandolin, but neither the size nor plucking required of the acoustic mandolin was suited for long, sustained notes. He then switched to the electric mandolin, which was better suited for sustained notes and musical ornamentations. Unlike a typical mandolin's eight strings, tuned to GG-DD-AA-EE, Shrinivas generally used only five strings tuned to CGCGC. Copies of this style of mandolin are available in India, and several other Indian mandolin players have used instruments just like it (including Suresh Kumar, Raghavendra, and his brother, U.Rajesh).
1. Padma Shri in 1998
2. Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 2010
3. Sanatan Sangeet Puraskar from Sangeet Sanskriti
4. National Citizen’s Award by the President of India in 1991
5. Rajiv Gandhi National Integration Award
6. Madhya Pradesh Government Award in 2004
7. Lifetime Achievement Award 2014 by Mahindra Finance on January 17, 2015