On a rainy evening in September 2013, I negotiated peak hour traffic to reach a hotel in T Nagar for a book launch. I was rushing – book launches generally start on time. An Incurable Romantic was the book; the biography of renowned violinist Lalgudi Jayaraman by Lakshmi Devnath. Ilaiyaraaja released the book (on time) and reminisced about performing at Lalgudi Jayaraman’s house during Navarathiri.
After the launch, I joined a long line of Carnatic music enthusiasts to get my copy of the book autographed by Lakshmi Devnath. When I was just about to leave the hall, a fellow journalist held me back, “Mandolin Srinivas is going to perform. You might like it.” I wasn’t sure why he thought I might like a classical music performance (for I’m not really an informed listener), but I went back to my seat to listen to Srinivas.
Clad in an off-white kurta, Srinivas, with a serene smile on his face, interacted with the audience. He chose to not use the entire seat of the chair when he spoke with Ilaiyaraaja. His hair kept falling over his eyes and he nodded often while touching his bosom with reverence as they talked.
And when the audience settled, Srinivas and his small group of musicians started performing.
Despite having listened to Srinivas on tape when I was a child, seeing him perform live was unforgettable. Amidst mamas and mamis – Carnatic music aficionados – who hummed and beat thalas in the air as Srinivas strummed, I couldn’t quite comprehend how the half hour fled.
“These are thillanas that were composed by Lalgudi Jayaraman!” explained a music lover sitting next to me, without taking his eyes away from Srinivas. When the performance was over, Srinivas gracefully accepted compliments. My neighbor went on, “I have been listening to Srinivas since the time he began to play. His music grew with him. It’s impossible to find anybody who can play classical music on the mandolin like Srinivas does. Avar vaasicha, Mandolin unga kitta konjum!”
His last phrase summed up what I was struggling to articulate about Srinivas’s performance.
I vowed to myself that I would attend at least one concert of Srinivas every year. And today I realise the futility of my promise. Srinivas passed away this morning after a bout of illness.
He was 45.
Musicians and fans from across the world paid homage to the gifted musician.
Music has lost a legend too young. Cannot believe the incredible mandolin pioneer U Srinivas has passed away.
— Anoushka Shankar (@ShankarAnoushka) September 19, 2014
An emotional Zakir Hussain tweeted.
Today mother India cries, today a part of Indian music died and we are orphaned, RIP my dear brother Mandolin Srinivas — Zakir Hussain (@ZakirHtabla) September 19, 2014
My brother your presence shall always be with us through your memories and your immortal music. — Hariharan (@SingerHariharan) September 19, 2014
We lost Mandolin Maestro Shri U. Srinivas this morning. One of the greatest musicians of this world. And too young to go away. R.I.P. — Shreya Ghoshal (@shreyaghoshal) September 19, 2014
Awful news! U. Srinivas aka Mandolin Srinivas, gone. An absolute genius, and an ambassador for Indian classical music! So young, too! 🙁 — VISHAL DADLANI (@VishalDadlani) September 19, 2014
mandolin Srinivas no more.. What a huge huge loss to the music industry..there was no one like him and never will be.. God bless his soul.. — Amit Trivedi (@ItsAmitTrivedi) September 19, 2014
Very sad news as we wake up today – the departure of a great musician and human being – life can’t be so cruel – RIP Mandolin U.Srinivas sir — Vijay Yesudas (@IAMVIJAYYESUDAS) September 19, 2014
“I just came to know that accomplished Mandolin player U Srinivas who is also known as Mandolin Srinivas passed away last night. I felt sad when i heard the news. When he used to be 13-14 years I used to watch his performance on TV. He is well versed in classical music. It is actually a difficult task to play mandolin the way he does. I offer my condolence to this great artist. May his soul rest in peace.”
Columnist Madhavan Narayanan:
Emotionally shaken to hear of Carnatic shining star Mandolin Shrinivasji’s demise… May God bless him with happiness in the next world… — A.R.Rahman (@arrahman) September 19, 2014
And the Prime Minister remembered Srinivas too.
The Prime Minister expressed grief on the passing away of renowned musician Shri Uppalapu Shrinivas.
— PMO India (@PMOIndia) September 19, 2014
PM recalled the Mandolin Maestro’s dedication & long-standing contribution towards music & added that he will always be remembered. — PMO India (@PMOIndia) September 19, 2014