Grammy winner L Shenkar performs in Mumbai today

Grammy award winner and violinist L Shenkar will perform in the city today. He speaks about his music and what the audience can look forward to

His parents wanted him to become an engineer but violinist and Grammy award winner L Shenkar went on to learn ethnomusicology. And the music world has a lot to thank him for the decision. The musician has worked in genres as diverse as Indian classical, jazz, rock and so on. Besides working on pop albums that went on to become chartbusters, Shenkar has also worked on the music of films and TV series such as The Last Temptation of Christ and Heroes. In an interview with sunday mid-day, Shenkar talks about working with international musicians and the possibility of reviving his barrier breaking band, Shakti.

L Shenkar
L Shenkar

Q. In a past interview, you have said that it is important to you that people understand your background in classical music. Why is it so?
A. There is a general feeling that if you do one thing well you can’t do the other. I have a strong foundation in many musical cultures — be it classical, world music, pop, rock or EDM and others. Each genre has helped me understand the other genre better, which has made me a creative musician.

Q. Your association with John McLaughlin, with whom you went on to form the band Shakti in 1975 is well-known. Any plans to revive the band?
A. Shakti was a great group. Initially John and I used to spend a lot of time writing the material for the group in the early ’70s. We had extensive rehearsal sessions with Zakir (Hussain, who was on the tabla) and Vikku (T H Vinayakram, on ghatam) and toured the world. As far as reviving it is concerned, it’s up to everyone. I am open to it.

Q. What prompted you to invent your own music instrument, the 10-string, stereophonic double violin?
A. In the late ’70s when Frank Zappa produced my album Touch Me There for his label, I overdubbed bass, cello, viola, violin and other instruments on this album. While on tour it was impossible to carry all these instruments so I worked on the possibility of designing an instrument, which has a whole orchestral range and more. The result was the first original 10 String Stereophonic Double Violin designed by me and built by Ken Parker. This was first used on my solo album Who’s to Know in 1981 and my friend Phil Collins’ debut solo album Face Value.

Q. You have worked with legendary singers such as Eric Clapton and Phil Collins, to name a few. How was the experience of working with them? Also, how well do Americans know Indian music?
A. I get to work with many awesome singers and I have helped to strengthen their vocal performance. Great international artistes, such as Peter Gabriel, Michael Jackson, Madonna and so on, had one thing in common. They gave it their all in whatever they believed in. Americans have come to embrace Indian music a lot more now, as compared
to before.

Q. What can we look forward to in your concert today?
A. The show will include different genres such as rock, pop, EDM, world music, classical and so on under one umbrella. There will also be talented musicians such as guitarist Mike Albert (from Megadeth, Santana, Frank Zappa), violin virtuosos L N Sisters M Lalitha and M Nandini and so on.

The concert will be held at Sri Shanmukhananda Auditorium, Sion East, today, at 7pm

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