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Farewell: U. Shrinivas

2.28.69–9.19.14

U. Shrinivas (right) with John McLaughlin in 2014

I first saw Shrinivas when he was 14. He was mature well beyond his actual age. I had the distinct impression that he’d been here on Earth many times before. He had a look in his eyes that was at once totally pure and suggested there was nothing he hadn’t seen in some other time. He had been a star in India since he was 7 years old and I can truthfully say he blew my mind when I first saw him. He was playing pure Carnatic music on an electric mandolin plugged into a Fender Twin Reverb. It was unbelievable, and I knew right away I had to play with him one day.

That was in 1983. Then, in 1997, Zakir Hussain and I tried to reunite the original Shakti group with L. Shankar and Vikku Vinayakram for a tour of the U.K. We were unable to find Shankar, so we invited flutist Hariprasad Chaurasia to replace him. The tour was a phenomenal success, especially musically. Zakir and I decided to continue playing together, and Remember Shakti was born. I suggested inviting Shrinivas to replace the unfindable Shankar, since Hari-prasad is older and not too keen on touring the way we do. From the first note it was just amazing. It was like he’d been made for Shakti. He grew up listening to Shakti, so in a sense it was all there from the start.

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Originally Published