U. Srinivas | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Indian classical music has proved to be a wonderfully malleable tradition over the last five decades or so, with remarkable musicians like guitarist Brij Kabra and saxophonist Kadiri Gopalnath finding ways to play the ancient repertoire on Western instruments. In the late 70s U. Srinivas began adapting the mandolin for Carnatic music, and since then the self-taught musician has become one of India's most exciting voices. He's perhaps best known in the West as a member of John McLaughlin's Indian-jazz fusion ensemble, Remember Shakti, but it's in performing the unfiltered music of his homeland that he truly shines. Srinivas's innovation was to amplify the mandolin and, rather than the usual set of four paired strings, leave only five strings, including one paired set. The most striking aspect of his playing is his ability to manipulate the tempered instrument microtonally; his lengthy melodic improvisations feature fluid, bending notes that glide over complex rhythmic cycles like oil floating on water. And he's found a perfect collaborative foil in his brother (and student) U. Rajesh, whose lovely mandolin counterpoint on albums like 1996's Dawn Raga (Womad Select) helps shape Srinivas's exquisite, slow-building climaxes. Srinivas will be joined by his brother for this rare local appearance, along with Muruga Boopathy on mridangam and S. Venkita Ramani on ghatam. Mon 5/22, 7 PM, Preston Bradley Hall, Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington, 312-744-6630. Free. All ages.

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