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Lakshminarayana Shankar (born 26 April 1950), also known as L. Shankar and Shenkar, is an Indian violinist, singer, and composer. In the 1970s he formed the band Shakti with British guitarist John McLaughlin. His style combines jazz and Indian classical music, though he also worked in pop and rock, as with Peter Gabriel. Shenkar (aka Shankar, L.Shankar) is widely considered a living legend, a pioneer and a musical genius by his peers who hold him in the highest esteem. Shenkar has enthralled audiences and critics alike all over the world. A child prodigy who is a virtuoso violinist, vocalist (with 5 1/2 octaves range), composer and record producer who has sold over 50 million albums through his solo projects and collaborations with other artists throughout the world.Shenkar was born in Madras, India and grew up in Jaffna, Sri Lanka where his father V. Lakshminarayana Iyer was a professor at the Jaffna College of Music. He was exposed to Carnatic music and other styles from an early age.He started studying the vocal at the age of two then violin at five then mrdangam at seven. His father was an esteemed violinist, vocalist, his mother L Seethalakshmi played the veena and all his five older siblings were also proficient in music. At the age of seven, Shenkar gave his first public concert,at a Ceylonese temple, Nallur Kandaswarmy. He gained considerable reputation performing and recording with some of the most eminent names in Carnatic music, playing all through India, such as Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, Chembai Vaithyanatha Baghavatar, Palghat Mani Iyer, Alathur Srinivasa Iyer and many other leading musicians besides his own solo concerts which he performed with the great Palghat Mani Iyer all over India and USA.

L. Shankar
L Shankar.jpg
Shankar in One Truth Band with John McLaughlin, Jazz Bilzen, 1978
Background information
Birth nameLakshminarayana Shankar
Born (1950-04-26) 26 April 1950 (age 69)
Madras, Madras State, India
GenresJazz, pop, rock, Indian classical, world fusion
Occupation(s)Musician, composer, conductor, teacher
Years active1972–present
Associated actsShakti

Early years and educationEdit

Shankar was born in Madras, Tamil Nadu, India, to a musical family. His father, V. Lakshminarayana, was a violinist, as were his brothers, L. Subramaniam and L. Vaidyanathan. Two of his uncles were musicians and teachers of Indian music at Wesleyan University. Shankar started playing violin when he was five years old. At the age of seven, he performed in public for the first time in Sri Lanka.[1][2]

As Archana Dongre of Hinduism Today notes, "He gained considerable reputation in his early youth as an accompanist to some of the most eminent names in Carnatic music, playing all through India,"[3] names such as Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, Chembai Vaithyanatha Baghavatar, Palghat Mani Iyer, and Alathur Srinivasa Iyer. Following the riots and pogroms in Sri Lanka in the early 1950s, his family escaped to India. Shankar cites his family and Tyāgarāja as inspirations.[3]

He received a degree in physics in India, then moved to the U.S. to study at Wesleyan, where he got a doctorate in ethnomusicology.[1][3][4]


Shankar created and designed the 10 string stereophonic Double Violin, built by Ken Parker. The Double Violin covers the entire range of the orchestra. He formed the groundbreaking band Shakti with the British guitarist John Mclaughlin, Zakir Hussain and Vikku Vinayakram and toured the world. He also performed extensively his Indian classical tours with Zakir Hussain and Vinayakram. He recorded 8 world music albums for the reputed German label ECM and toured extensively featuring the renowned Sax Player Jan Garbarek, Kenny Wheeler, Don Cherry, Ed Blackwell, Trilok Gurtu in many Jazz and world music festivals organised by his label ECM featuring other ECM artists such as Keith Jarrett, Jack DeJohnette etc.

Shankar's range of work has been wide. Besides his classical work his albums have also featured guest artists such as Frank Zappa, Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins, Bruce Springsteen, Van Morrison, John Waite, Stewart Copeland (The Police), Ginger Baker, Toto, Jonathan Davis (Korn), Natasha Bedingfield, Pat Monahan (Train), Randy Jackson (American Idol) and Patrick Leonard (Madonna) amongst others.

Shankar’s pop DVD, “One In A Million”, became the number 1 DVD in the US spending 4 weeks on top of the U.S. Soundscan/Billboard charts. Shankar has also collaborated with Frank Zappa (who produced Shankar’s solo record for Zappa Records), Talking Heads, Pete Townsend, Lou Reed, Marianne Faithfull, Sting, Jeff Beck, U2, The Pretenders, Echo & The Bunnymen, John Lydon (Public Image Ltd.), George Harrison, Michael Jackson, Madonna, Dave Stewart, Jonathan Davis (Korn), Robert Trujillo (Metallica), Stephen Perkins (Jane's Addiction) and more.

Shankar has worked on numerous soundtracks including the Grammy award-winning and controversial The Last Temptation of Christ by Martin Scorsese. He co-wrote many tracks with Peter Gabriel and his vocals were featured in the movie. In 2004 Shankar composed and performed vocals on Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. Shankar has released numerous solo albums and videos in various idioms of music from Indian classical, pop, rock, EDM and soundtracks, including the musical composition of the 2005 Oscar-winning documentary, “Born Into Brothels”. In 1990, Shankar co-produced a one-hour BBC film by award-winning director H.O. Nazareth. It was nominated as one of the best documentaries at the Cannes Film Festival. Shankar’s work has been featured in the following films: “Queen of The Damned”, “Ali”, “Jennifer 8″, “Robin Hood”, “Jacob's Ladder” and more.

Shankar collaborated with the gifted duo Wendy & Lisa (Prince) on their original score for the NBC smash hit TV series “Heroes”; he is the featured vocalist on the theme and all episodes of “Heroes”, and also in Heroes- Reborn. His voice is currently featured on the hit TV show Fear the Walking Dead on AMC.

Shankar and British guitarist John McLaughlin arrived in the U.S. around the same time. McLauglin visited Wesleyan University to study Indian music and the vina with S. Ramathan, who was Shankar's uncle. Two years before, McLaughlin had toured with the Mahavishnu Orchestra. Shankar had heard McLaughlin on the album Bitches Brew by Miles Davis. In 1974, Shankar and McLaughlin formed the band Shakti with Zakir Hussain, Ramnad Raghavan and Vikku Vinayakram. During the next year they performed a concert at Southampton College which was released by CBS as the band's debut album.[1]

After the band broke up in 1978, Shankar recorded his American debut album, Touch Me There, with Frank Zappa producing.[1] He started the rock group The Epidemics with Caroline, a British singer, in 1982. They recorded their first eponymous album for ECM in 1986 as a quartet with Steve Vai guitar and Percy Jones bass.[4][5] The duo recorded two more albums under The Epidemics name, Do What U Do and Eye Catcher, that included guests such as Bill Laswell (also producing), Eric Clapton, Phil Collins, Peter Gabriel, Elton John, Bruce Springsteen, Zakir Hussain, Yoko Ono, and Sting.[5]

Shankar performed a concert in Bombay, India, that he helped turn into a documentary for the BBC. The documentary received a nomination at the Cannes Film Festival. He composed music for the films Robin Hood, Jacob's Ladder, and The Last Temptation of Christ.[5]

He has worked in a duo with his niece Gingger Shankar,[5] the daughter of L. Subramaniam.[6] They released the album One in a Million in 2001 as a DVD-Audio disc.[5]

Shankar has been praised for his ability to mix Eastern and Western influences, assimilating Carnatic music with pop, rock, jazz and contemporary world music.[7]




  1. ^ a b c d Peter Lavezzoli (24 April 2006). The Dawn of Indian Music in the West. A&C Black. ISBN 978-0-8264-1815-9.
  2. ^ "Music director L. Vaidyanathan dead". The Hindu. 20 May 2007. Retrieved 18 October 2018.
  3. ^ a b c Dongre, Archana (2001). "Visionary Violinist". Hinduism Today (March/April). Retrieved 4 November 2015. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |journal= (help)
  4. ^ a b Bush, John. "Lakshminarayana Shankar". AllMusic. Retrieved 18 October 2018.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Romero, Angel (5 August 2018). "Artist Profiles: L. Shankar". Retrieved 18 October 2018.
  6. ^ Dasgupta, Privanka (7 June 2007). "'I had to impress my dad' - Times of India". The Times of India. Retrieved 18 October 2018.
  7. ^ Titon, Jeff; Cooley, Timothy; Locke, David; McAllester, David; Rasmussen, Anne. "India/South India". In Schechter, John Mendell (ed.). Worlds of Music: An Introduction to the Music of the World's People (Shorter Version). Vol. 2 (3rd ed.). Boston, MA, USA: Cengage Learning. p. 223. ISBN 9780534627577. Retrieved 4 November 2015. The presence of the violin, the saxophone, the guitar and the mandolin in Carnatic music, and the all inclusive nature of South India's cine and pop music industry are obvious examples… Since the 1970s, South Indian musicians have seen the connection between jazz improvisations and India's classical music traditions. From that awareness, the genre known as fusion was born, an interface between East and West that continues to excite a younger generation of musicians and listeners. The violinists L. Shankar and L. Subramaniam have worked extensively with American and European jazz and rock musicians over the past twenty years, as hastabla player Zakir Hussain.
  8. ^ "Lakshminarayana Shankar | Album Discography | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 18 October 2018.

External linksEdit