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Four Strings Attached

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Interview Sharat Chandra Srivastava

Violinist Sharat Chandra Srivastava doesn’t just make music, he creates magic! Purva Indulkar chats with him about the milestones he has achieved

He kicked off 2016 by winning the 100 Pipers True Legends award from CNBC TV18 for introducing the masses to world music. He performed at the prestigious Jaipur Literature Festival and the first-ever Udaipur Music Festival, which brought 100 musicians from 12 countries (and from different genres) under one roof. If there is any achievement in the music industry, violinist Sharat Chandra Srivastava has already snagged it. So, we spoke to him about his journey so far and what the future holds for this maestro.

In January this year, you were awarded the CNBC TV18 100 Pipers True Legends award for taking world music to the masses. How did winning this accolade feel?
I think that any recognition one receives has a very special emotion attached to it. I’m happy that my collaborations with noted global musicians are gaining popularity in India and in the West. It all started in the year 2012, when I was working with musicians across the globe. I started the Strings of the World music festival, where musicians from Scotland, Slovenia, Norway, Holland, China and Iran came together to bring different genres of music under one roof. The first year was a huge success. That motivated me to bring it back for another year. Then, we started taking these international musicians to the slums of India and started performing for children. It was a great experiment for us as these children were being exposed to beautiful classical instruments such as the violin, the cello and even the kora from Africa. Also, teaching the art to someone who does not have the resources encouraged us to take similar initiatives. I would like to dedicate this award to all my fellow musicians with whom I’ve been working for the last thirty years.

At the Udaipur World Music Festival, you collaborated with Serbian pianist and composer Aleksandar Simic and you have also previously performed alongside artist Sting. What are the biggest challenges when working with international artists?
Well, Sting is a pop music sensation and we did a short concert for the Channel V Music Awards. I auditioned and got selected to play the concert held at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium. I spent a few days with him and we played two songs together, Fields of Gold and Every Breath You Take. Sharing the stage with him was both and honour and a privilege. 

With Aleksandar, it was more like an orchestra, because it was more structured with written music. There were a few classical pieces he had written and I synchronized them with a touch of Indian violin music. The violin and piano make a great combination, and the show was a power-packed performance. But, again, the venue at Udaipur city by the lake was magical. The ambiance in itself was very powerful.

You play both Hindustani and rock music (with your band ‘Mrigya’). Is your riyaaz significantly different when rehearsing these two genres? You’ve also shared stage with maestros such as Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, Pt. Hari Prasad Chaurasia and Pt. Birju Maharaj. How has their music affected you?
Our band is a fusion band and we collaborate with various musicians across the globe who play different genres. This has provided me with opportunities to share the same stage with great maestros like Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, Pt. Birju Maharaj and many others. Whenever I collaborate, I try to infuse my string music to their genre, creating a whole new form of music. Thus, they don’t affect my playing style, but a new concept is born!

In 2015, you composed the music of and conducted the finale of the India Africa Summit. Considering that the event was held at Rashtrapati Bhavan with several dignitaries, what was the experience like?
It was challenging! When I was told that I have to compose and conduct the grand finale comprising of 250 musicians and dancers from India and Africa, I initially had a few sleepless nights. There was a lot of pressure with the preparations and timings, coupled with my desire to give a good performance. But, with the hard work of all the musicians and dancers, it turned out to be a great show.

Strings of the World is a unique musical event of which you are founder and festival director. What inspired you to start this initiative?
Since I’m a string player, I always had an inclination towards string instruments. The idea to start Strings of the World was to bring various string instruments under one roof. I also infuse Indian music into the music we play. We want to experiment like Indium, a kora player, playing with Ravan Hatta from Rajasthan, or a sarangi or sitar playing with harp or oud from the middle-east. I find these combinations very fascinating. The main goal of the festival is collaboration. Musicians come to India, meet new musicians, create new music and perform. So, the music that comes out is very unique.

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