‘Music in the soul can be heard by the universe’- Lao Tzu The world was indeed lucky enough to hear the beautiful music of Mandolin Srinivas, a prodigy whose time here although brief, left a profound effect on those who knew him whether personally or through his music. His talent is indescribable, there are no adequate words to express it; his intricate movements, the emotions it evokes, the pace and dexterity; you are transported to another place listening to his playing.
We remember asking Srinivas Sir the question, ‘Have you ever tried to play another instrument?’ He replied, ‘No’. He said that if he adapted his fingers to play on the frets of other instruments, he could not excel at any one instrument. He was brave to bring a Western instrument into the Carnatic world, and master it in such a way that his name is now synonymous with the mandolin. With the mandolin Srinivas Sir brought a new world of sound to Carnatic music. This is the mark of his pioneering genius.
We know that he was and remains, very dear to both Sivanesan Uncle and Sivasakthy Aunty. We are eternally grateful to Sivasakthy Aunty for introducing us to his music through concerts and music workshops conducted by him. Many people see Srinivas Sir as a musician foremost but to us, he was also a teacher and helped guide us on our musical path. We were privileged to have had Srinivas Sir as the chief guest for our arangetram and even had the rare opportunity to perform ‘Sangamam’, one of his compositions, in front of him. This was a true blessing.
He gave a speech at our arangetram in which he spoke with the softness and humility that defines him; addressing the senior musicians in the audience first, whom he said it was a privilege to be in front of, before praising the efforts of our guru, parents, support artists and sound technician. He had only good words to say about everyone, and everything, even acknowledging the delayed start of the arangetram as fortuitous because it meant the concert started after the end of the inauspicious Rahu Kaalam. His talent is formidable yet he remained a polite and humble person, always smiling and calm. His humility, devoutness and purity was evident in every word he spoke and every action he made.
Each time you listen to Srinivas Sir play, it is an intangible experience. We are lucky that we were able to see him perform live several times, the first being in 2004 where he played together with his brother U Rajesh, and the latest being the Remember Shakthi concert last year where he mesmerised us with his energised playing alongside John Mclaughlinji, Zakir Hussainji, V Selvaganesh Sir, and Shankar Mahadevan Sir reminding us of his talent and prowess not only in Indian music, but World music.
Srinivas Sir is like a shooting star; despite the brevity of his life, he shone so bright and made an everlasting impression on all who knew him. We still cannot quite believe that he has parted from this world but for certain, his musical legacy will live on forever.
Veena students of Sivasakthy Aunty