U. Srinivas

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Uppalapu Srinivas (28 February 1969 – 19 September 2014) was an Indian mandolin player in Carnatic classical music and composer. Because he was a child prodigy, he was sometimes called the Mozart of classical Indian music.[3][4][5][6]

U. Srinivas
ఉప్పలపు శ్రీనివాస్
Srinivas performing in Pune, January to December 2009
Srinivas performing in Pune, January to December 2009
Background information
Birth nameUppalapu Srinivas
Also known asU. Srinivas, Mandolin Srinivas
Born(1969-02-28)28 February 1969
Palakollu, West Godavari District, Andhra Pradesh, India
OriginAndhra Pradesh, India
Died19 September 2014(2014-09-19) (aged 45)
Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
GenresIndian classical music
Occupation(s)Musician (Mandolin Maestro)
InstrumentsElectric Mandolin[1]
Years active1978–2014
LabelsReal World Records
Virgin Classics/EMI
Associated actsRemember Shakti [2]
WebsiteMandolin U Shrinivas

He was awarded the Padma Shri in 1998, by the Government of India.[7] He was also awarded the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 2009 given by Sangeet Natak Akademi, which is the National Academy of Music, Dance & Drama, in India.

Early life and backgroundEdit

Srinivas was born 28 February 1969, in Palakollu in Andhra Pradesh.[8] At the age of five, he picked up his father U. Satyanarayana's mandolin, after he heard it being played at a concert he attended with his father.[9] Upon realizing the talent of his son, his father, who had studied classical music, bought him a new mandolin,[9] and started teaching him. Guitarist Vasu Rao, introduced seven-year-old Srinivas to western music in 1976.[10] Soon, Satyanarayana's guru, Rudraraju Subbaraju, (disciple of Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavathar) who had also taught Srinivas' father and Vasu Rao, recognized the potential of the young Srinivas and started teaching him.[10] Since Rudraraju Subbaraju did not know how to play the mandolin, he would just sing pieces from the Carnatic classical repertoire, and U. Srinivas, all of six, would play them on the mandolin, thus developing a phenomenal style of playing entirely his own, and astonishingly, on an instrument that had never been played in the rigorous and difficult Carnatic style before. Soon, the family moved to Chennai, the hotspot of Carnatic music, where most Carnatic musicians live.[11] When Srinivas gave his first performance it led to him being compared to the world's greatest prodigies: "Some of you have heard or read about exceptionally gifted children, our own Mandolin Srinivas, Sir Yehudi Menuhin, Beethoven, Sir Isaac Newton, Picasso, Madam Curie, the list is endless."[12]

At a young age he was internationally viewed as the successor to Pandit Ravi Shankar.[2]


He made his debut public Carnatic concert performance in 1978 during the Thyagaraja Aradhana festival at Gudivada in Andhra Pradesh. Thereafter, at age eleven, in 1981, he gave his first public concert in Chennai at the Indian Fine Arts Society during the December Music Season, and never looked back. The skeptics were convinced and soon mesmerized, connoisseurs fell in love with him, and patrons of the arts could not have enough of him. At age eleven, a star was born, who was both revered and adored.[1][10][13] He started off playing the acoustic mandolin, but he later switched to the electric mandolin as he felt it allowed the playing of lengthy, sustained notes - the quintessential component in classical Indian music - in addition to making them clearly audible.[9] George Harrison's favorite piece of Indian music was Mandolin Ecstasy. "It was, like, my dad's favourite album of all time," says (Dhani) Harrison. "U Srinivas is 27 now and still making music. He plays an electric five-string mandolin, he's fantastic...." [14]

Over his career, he toured across the world, and collaborated with John McLaughlin, Michael Nyman, and Michael Brook.[15]

Remember Shakti Concert, Munich, Germany (2001)
(left to right) U. Srinivas, John McLaughlin, V. Selvaganesh
"Collaborating with him (U.Srinivas) was one of the greatest experiences of my life, and I have played with the greatest"

John McLaughlin, speaking with The Times of India[2]

He was the first musician to use the electric mandolin in Carnatic music: he modified the electric western instrument, using five single strings instead of the traditional four doubled strings to suit the Carnatic pitch, raga system, and especially gamakas, or nuanced oscillations.[16] After initial reluctance, he found wide acceptance and critical acclaim in the following decades. Starting in 1982, he performed regularly during the December season of the prestigious Madras Music Academy, performing there every year except in 2002 - December 23 of each year was a reserved slot for U. Srinivas - the highest accolade.[10][17][18] Srinivas stormed the world music scene at age thirteen at the Berlin Jazz Festival. Initially booked to play a half-hour concert after Miles Davis, Srinivas so enthralled the audience in Berlin that he won a standing ovation, and had to play for another hour.[19] "He's got it in him. He's fantastic,"[20] raved the legendary Don Cherry at the time. Guitarist John McLaughlin first heard a tape of this concert by the thirteen-year-old prodigy, and was left very impressed.[21] He played at the Olympic Arts Festival, Barcelona in 1992[17] and in 1995 recorded a successful fusion album with Michael Brook.[22] When John McLaughlin revived his group Shakti, and renamed it Remember Shakti, in 1997, he asked Srinivas to join the group and tour the world with it, along with other celebrated Indian musicians Zakir Hussain, Shankar Mahadevan, and V. Selvaganesh. Srinivas, of course, was the undisputed superstar of the group.[23][24][17] Srinivas toured extensively across the world, in his own right, as a prodigy and leading star from the classical Indian music firmament, receiving thunderous applause and appreciation wherever he performed - he played in Australia, Southeast Asia, Southwest Asia, and extensively and frequently across the United States and Canada.[1] Soon, the mandolin became synonymous with Srinivas and he started being called Mandolin Srinivas. Thus, Srinivas stands as a trailblazer and pioneer, who introduced and adapted an unlikely western instrument, the mandolin, at age six, and made it suitable for performing in the rigorous Carnatic style of music, in the same manner that the violin had been introduced into Carnatic classical music some two hundred years before.[1][25]

His gifted younger brother, U. Rajesh,[26] has studied with Srinivas for some twenty-seven years, and is also an accomplished mandolin player, who has often accompanied him at concerts over the last twenty years.[27][22] He also plays jazz and western music, and played the mandolin in the John Mclaughlin album 'Floating Point' which received a Grammy nomination in the Best Contemporary Jazz Album Category in 2008.[18] Srinivas and Rajesh have together composed music as well, and, besides Carnatic music, they have extensively worked on the fusion of Carnatic and western music. They also played with the Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra, with French electric bass player Dominique Di Piazza, pianist Anil Srinivasan and Stephen Devassy, a pianist from Kerala. In 2008, they collaborated again with John Mclaughlin for the album Samjanitha, which also featured Zakir Hussain, Sivamani, and George Brook.[18] Srinivas compared Carnatic music to the Sanskrit language, "It's the basis, from which spring so many other languages. Carnatic music is here to stay with us and all other music that we play is based on that."[18]

Over the years, Srinivas recorded over 137 albums, in diverse genres from Carnatic music solos to jugalbandis with Hindustani musicians, and world music.[11] He performed with Western artists such as John McLaughlin, Michael Brook, Trey Gunn, Nigel Kennedy, Nana Vasconcelos, and Michael Nyman, as well as with Hindustani music artists such as Hariprasad Chaurasia and Zakir Hussain, besides Carnatic artists like Vikku Vinayakram and V. Selvaganesh.[10][25] U. Srinivas started a music school called the Srinivas Institute of World Music (SIOWM) in Chennai,[28] where, since he was barely eighteen, he taught a number of students gratis.[29] Srinivas has trained almost a hundred students worldwide, many of whom have studied with him and U. Rajesh for as long as ten years. U. Rajesh continues teaching their students at the SIOWM.[9][18]


Srinivas' first mandolin belonged to his father, a clarinetist. That instrument was a 'standard' Western mandolin; however, he made modifications to suit his playing style over the course of his musical career.

Srinivas started out on the acoustic mandolin, but neither the size nor plucking required of the acoustic mandolin was suited for long, sustained notes. He then switched to the electric mandolin, which was better suited for sustained notes and musical ornamentations.

Unlike a typical mandolin's eight strings, tuned to GG-DD-AA-EE, Srinivas generally used only five strings tuned to CGCGC. Copies of this style of mandolin are available in India, and several other Indian mandolin players have used instruments just like it (including Suresh Kumar, Raghavendra, and his brother, U.Rajesh).[30]

Personal lifeEdit

Srinivas married U. Sree, daughter of a vigilance officer from Andhra Pradesh, and veena player, in 1994.[5] The couple had a son, Sai Krishna (also known as Naani Krissh, a director who made his directorial debut with Opperah in 2017), and were divorced in 2012.[10] After their divorce U. Sree received custody of their son.[5]

U.Srinivas was an ardent devotee of the Paramacharya of Kanchi. He was also a follower and devotee of Sri Sathya Sai Baba and had performed before him on several occasions.[31][10]

Illness and deathEdit

Srinivas was undergoing treatment for severe liver problems [32] and had undergone a liver transplant on 11 September 2014. While recovering, he died at Apollo Hospital at 9:30 AM on 19 September 2014 after experiencing complications.[33] He is survived by his parents, sisters, brother Mandolin U. Rajesh, his former wife and a son.[10]

Awards and achievementsEdit

Some of the awards that Mandolin U. Srinivas received:


He recorded a CD of Carnatic compositions by Ilaiyaraaja called Ilaiyaraaja's Classics in Mandolin. In 2008, U Srinivas released Samjanitha featuring Debashish Bhattacharya (Lap Steel Guitar), John McLaughlin, Zakir Hussain, Sivamani, Vikku Vinaykram, Dominique Piazza Michael Brook, U Rajesh and others.

Partial discography:

  • Mandolin - Master U. Srinivas (Magnasound, 1986)
  • Mandolin Ecstasy (Oriental, 1986)
  • Magic Mandolin (Chhanda Dhara, 1989)
  • Music on Mandolin (Super Cassette, 1990)
  • Double Mandolin (The Master Company, 1991)
  • Modern Mandolin Maestro (GlobeStyle, 1991)
  • Trio Mandolin (Koel, 1992)
  • Mandolin Duets (EMI, 1994)
  • Prodigy (Koel, 1994)
  • Rama Sreerama (Real World Records, 1994)
  • Dream, with Michael Brook (Real World/Virgin/EMI, 1995)
  • Dawn Raga (Womad, 1996)
  • Marvels on Mandolin (Magnasound, 1996)
  • Mandolin (Geethanjali, 1998)
  • Mystic Raptures (Music Today, 2000)
  • Remember Shakti: The Believer (Verve/Universal, 2000)
  • Mandolin Magic (Dunya, 2001)
  • Gamanashrama (Charsur, 2003)
  • Sangam: Michael Nyman Meets Indian Masters (WEA, 2003)
  • Om Nama Shivaya (Sea, 2004)
  • Five Star (Saregama 2004)
  • Mandolin Melodies: South Indian Classical Music (Felmay, 2005)
  • Ragasangamam (Music Today, 2006)
  • Sahavaadhan (Living 2006)
  • Samjanitha (Dreyfus Records, 2008)
  • Chinnanchiru Kiliye (Music Today, 2011)
  • Sangeet Santaj Vol. 1 & 2 (Music Today, 2011)
  • Ru-Ba-Ru: A Unique Confluence of Sarangi & Mandolin (Music Today, 2011)
  • Dikshitar Masterpieces (Music Today, 2011)

For the Sangeetha Music label, U. Srinivas recorded the following albums:

  • Mokshamugalada
  • Nadasudharasa
  • Double Mandolin
  • Meenakshi Memudam
  • Pancharatna Kritis –Trio Mandolin
  • Magnetic Mandolin
  • Naada Brahmaanandam (Double Mandolin)
  • Naanu Palimpa
  • Vaathapi on Mandolin
  • Endaro Mahanubhavulu
  • Enduko Dayaradura
  • Gaana Sampoornam
  • Mandolin Ganamrutham


  • Lavezzoli, Peter (2006). The Dawn of Indian Music in the West. A&C Black. ISBN 978-0-8264-1815-9.
  • Broughton, Simon; Ellingham, Mark (2000). World Music: Latin and North America, Caribbean, India, Asia and Pacific. Rough Guides. ISBN 978-1-85828-636-5.


  1. ^ a b c d "Renowned musician Mandolin U Srinivas passes away at 45". CNN-IBN. 19 September 2014. Retrieved 19 September 2014.
  2. ^ a b c "U. Shrinivas, 45, Indian Mandolin Virtuoso With Global Reach, Dies". nytimes.com. 30 September 2014.
  3. ^ "Uppalapu Srinivas – aka Mandolin Srinivas, The Mozart of Classical Carnatic Indian Music". Beaninspirer.com.
  4. ^ "Mandolin U Srinivas – Mozart of Indian Classical Music". riyazapp.com.
  5. ^ a b c "Remembering Mandolin Hero U. Srinivas". NPR.org. Retrieved 14 May 2017.
  6. ^ Ramamoorthy, Mangala (17 June 2006). "'We move around like brothers'". The Hindu. Chennai. Retrieved 2 June 2009.
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  10. ^ a b c d e f g h Kamini Mathai (19 September 2014). "Mandolin U Srinivas, a rebel who silenced his critics with music". The Times of India. Retrieved 19 September 2014.
  11. ^ a b Aruna Chandraraju. "Disarming humility". Retrieved 19 September 2014.
  12. ^ "Mike Marshall's Mandolin World - Global Mandolin Summit". Herschelfreemanagency.com. Retrieved 23 April 2020.
  13. ^ "U. Srinivas BindumAlini 1984". YouTube. 4 October 2014. Retrieved 23 April 2020.
  14. ^ Will Hodgkinson. "Dhani Harrison | Music". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 April 2020.
  15. ^ Gautam, Savitha (27 March 2003). "The 'shakti' of sound". The Hindu. Chennai. Retrieved 2 June 2009.
  16. ^ "Stringed Instruments In Carnatic Music". Carnatica.net. Retrieved 23 April 2020.
  17. ^ a b c Samanth Subramanian (19 September 2014). "U. Srinivas, who made the mandolin his own, and many others', passes". Mint. Retrieved 19 September 2014.
  18. ^ a b c d e Manmadhan, Prema (27 August 2010). "Mandolin magic". The Hindu. Retrieved 19 September 2014.
  19. ^ G.C. Shekhar (30 October 2017). "Mandolin master leaves behind huge void". Telegraphindia.com. Retrieved 23 April 2020.
  20. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 27 October 2014. Retrieved 27 October 2014.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  21. ^ John McLaughlin (21 September 2014). "Shrinivas was the spirit of Shakti, who can replace him". The Times of India. Retrieved 23 April 2020.
  22. ^ a b Ellingham 2000, p. 85.
  23. ^ John McLaughlin (21 September 2014). "Shrinivas was the spirit of Shakti, who can replace him". The Times of India. Retrieved 23 April 2020.
  24. ^ Lavezzoli 2006, p. 116-117.
  25. ^ a b "Mandolin Shrinivas passes away". The Hindu. 19 September 2014. Retrieved 19 September 2014.
  26. ^ "Mandolin and U". The Hindu. Retrieved 23 April 2020.
  27. ^ "Indian Mandolin by U Srinivas". YouTube. 28 August 2008. Retrieved 23 April 2020.
  28. ^ "Mandolin magic". The Hindu. 27 August 2010. Retrieved 23 April 2020.
  29. ^ "Shrinivas gave away music as a gift with free lessons to all students at his institute". The Times of India. 20 September 2014. Retrieved 23 April 2020.
  30. ^ "U Srinivas". Emando.com. Retrieved 23 April 2020.
  31. ^ "Beautiful Mandolin Concert by U. Srinivas and U. Rajesh". Prasanthi Diary. 5 August 2010. Retrieved 19 September 2014.
  32. ^ "U Srinivas: And the mandolin falls silent". Dnaindia.com. 20 September 2014. Retrieved 23 April 2020.
  33. ^ Janani Sampath (19 September 2014). "Mandolin U Srinivas, popular Carnatic musician, passes away". The Times of India. Retrieved 19 September 2014.
  34. ^ "Padma Awards Directory (1954–2013)" (PDF). Ministry of Home Affairs. Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 October 2015.
  35. ^ "SNA: List of Akademi Awardees". Sangeet Natak Akademi Official website. Archived from the original on 30 May 2015.

External linksEdit