He was a child prodigy who remained childlike with a candid smile and words that seem to come straight from the heart.
At age six, he first picked up the western mandolin and soon made it his own by bringing to its electric strings an unheard of melodic flexibility, microtonal variations and astonishing delicacy in the upper registers. He constructed a nuanced, multi-layered repertoire, whether it was for a Carnatic cutcheri or a cross-genre ensemble. Over the years, without venturing into compulsive experimentation, he kept broadening the dimensions of his music.
As a young boy, when he performed in sabhas, senior musicians initially apprehensive of accompanying him and sceptical of his ‘much-talked’ about talent, later collectively hailed him as the ‘promise of tomorrow’.
At a concert in the city, where he performed with flute maestro Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia, half way through, the veteran put down his flute to salute Shrinivas’ artistry. “Kamaal kar diya, bajao bajao,” he said.
In 1990, when Shrinivas was playing in London, Beatle George Harrison came to listen to him. During the intermission, he went backstage and told Shrinivas how much he enjoyed his music.
Iconic tabla player Zakir Hussain, whom Shrinivas would refer to as ‘the East-West bridge’, and with whom he performed across the globe, would shout into the mike at concerts, ‘ladies and gentleman that’s the mandolin wizard, a big hand for U. Shrinivas’.
And Shrinivas in a spotless kurta-pyjama, nervously running his fingers through his hair, with the gleaming mandolin in his hand, would immediately get up to acknowledge the ustad and the thunderous applause.
Applause he well deserved, not only for his music, but also for the man he was.
A fine musician who could make people feel the presence of God through his divine music has merged with divine …….. Indian classical music will always remember his contributions ……. love all.