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String theories with Shenkar

This Sunday, Mumbai will be treated to Grammy Award-winning violinist Shenkar and his 10-string stereophonic double violin. Joining him will be guitarist Mike Albert and other gifted musicians. In a freewheeling email interview, he shares his musical journey with Dhara Vora

Q. You have been working at merging sounds from the East and West for years. How much has the scene for collaborations changed?
A. It has come a long way. Hard work pays. I have been fortunate to be part of international tours, and have performed at great venues and festivals for years. When people like your music, they look up your background and previous records of solo works as well as collaborations. Nowadays, it’s easier with social media. My role has been to educate audiences everywhere, including in India, to have an open mind and not be afraid of unknown sounds. I use my song lyrics to get the message across to diverse audiences.

Shenkar in full flow with the double violin
Shenkar in full flow with the double violin

Q. Very few Classical musicians are open to working with non-Classical genres, especially Electronic Dance Music (EDM). What made you incorporate it in your earlier two albums?
A. For centuries, Dance music has been huge in North and Classical South Indian culture. So has Electronic Dance Music been in the West. I’ve worked for over 15 years on EDM, with many European DJs since it has been huge over there for many years. It became huge in America in the last three years. That’s when my last three EDM albums were released by collaborating with many talented DJs in the US. These DJs are fans of my vocal work and I am theirs too. I also have a band with the DJ Baba G — Vedazen — who is known for his Goa Trance. I have performed at many major EDM festivals around the world, with some of the top DJs like Skrillex. It’s easier to travel without a huge band where countless rehearsals take place, and a budget has to be maintained. This gives me lots of room to sing and play the violin.

Q. How did you and Mike Albert collaborate on this project?
A. Nine years ago, guitarist Mike Albert, who has worked with Megadeth, Santana, Frank Zappa and I were with the same record company Big Deal Records, which released both our solo albums. I was also the producer for the record company where I advised artistes and helped them with their ventures to realise their dreams. I was asked to help Mike with his visions, so I started working with him. His versatility means that he embraces different genres equally. So, I invited him to perform with me in my band. Since then, we’ve done many shows and recordings. It’s always a joy to perform with him. I am glad that Indians will finally get to hear such a master.

Q. You’ve worked with the likes of Madonna, U2 and George Harrison. What has the experience been like?
A. These artistes opened my mind, body and spirits to the sky. I learned to embrace the unknown, the known, darkness and light, equally. I have also had the pleasure to collaborate with superstar musicians like Frank Zappa, Phil Collins, Peter Gabriel, Michael Jackson, Jonathan Davis (Korn), Robert Trujillo (Metallica), Stephen Perkins (Jane’s Addiction), The Pretenders, Bruce Springsteen and Sting as well as many DJs.

At the mumbai gig
The show will present genres like Rock, Pop, EDM, World Music, Classical and soundtracks. Besides Shenkar on vocal and double violin, look out for the legendary guitarist Mike Albert, violin virtuosos LN Sisters, M Lalitha and M Nandini as well as the talented Maynard Grant on drums, Anbu on creative percussion, Manikandan on special Tavil with Prasshanth on keyboards.

On: Sunday, November 9, 7 pm onwards
At: Shri Shanmukhananda Chandrasekarendra Saraswathi Auditorium, Sion (E).
Tickets: www.bookmyshow.com, Rhythm House and at the venue

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