Ustad Srinivas, solid-body electric mandolin guru.
January 19, 2008 7:18 AM   Subscribe

Ustad Srinivas plays some mean electric mandolin, y'all.

There's some biographical info here and here.
posted by flapjax at midnite (28 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Very cool; so many good music posts on MeFi recently.

I'd never heard of a ghatam before, you can see him jamming out on it in the last video. Anyone know which ragas are being played?
posted by rottytooth at 7:42 AM on January 19, 2008

Holy Shit! Cool.
posted by horsemuth at 8:09 AM on January 19, 2008

Technical question: do you think U. Srinivas has pulled the frets on the mando? It would appear difficult to perform the typical Indian glissandos on a fretted mandolin--especially when electrified.

From a practical standpoint, the mandolin is a double course plucked violin. This certainly makes it easier for the mando and violin to "trade fours." Or sevens. . .or thirteens. . .

Great stuff. The Carnatic version of Indian classical music has never received an audience in the West as large as the Northern version--Ali Albar Khan, Ravi Shankar--because of George Harrison and the Beatles. Had "Norwegian Wood" used a vina instead of a sitar. . .
posted by rdone at 8:29 AM on January 19, 2008

Beautiful, just beautiful. Nice one, flapjax.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 8:33 AM on January 19, 2008

This is fucking awesome.
posted by chunking express at 8:34 AM on January 19, 2008

It doesn't appear to be a mandolin. Mandolins have eight strings - four courses of two. The instrument he's playing has only six strings and appears to be a small electric guitar.
posted by wsg at 8:38 AM on January 19, 2008

I love this guy.
posted by digaman at 8:43 AM on January 19, 2008

While I may be mostly missing this due to really not 'getting' that style of music, can someone please explain to me exactly why this guy isn't just a reasonably good guitar player with some nice sustain?

It's a lickle six stringed guitar by another name, is it not?

(And I hate the lack of sync of audio/video, too)
posted by Brockles at 9:23 AM on January 19, 2008

peripherally related:'s entry on U. Srinivas.

disclaimer: If you click the 'players' tab the splash pic of a blue electric is me, and mine.
posted by mwhybark at 9:37 AM on January 19, 2008

The lady behind him (in at least a couple of the videos) does not seem to ever strum or pluck the strings on her instrument. As far as I can gather, all she ever does is Eddie Van Halen-style hammer taps. I am having a difficult time imagining that she's able to get any noticable volume out of that, especially as she doesn't seem to be doing so very energetically. So I'm thinking I'm missing something here.

Is her instrument the one producing the constant background drone? If so, is it electrified or something to make the strings constantly vibrate? And again, if so, why does the drone seem so... dronelike... it seems like one constant chord, not varying, or at least not varying very much, yet she is moving her fingers around as if she's changing something.

Incidentally, she is one of the most bored-looking musicians I have seen in quite some time. She should join a goth band.
posted by Flunkie at 9:40 AM on January 19, 2008

Flunkie: yeah, it's a tanpura she's playing, for the background drone.
posted by rottytooth at 9:45 AM on January 19, 2008

And BTW as the emando entry clarifies, yeah, it's a mandolin.
posted by mwhybark at 9:55 AM on January 19, 2008

Ditto what wsg said. IMO that's not a mandolin, it's a six string electric of the mini variety. He's got it in some eastern tuning.

Cool nevertheless
posted by poppo at 10:03 AM on January 19, 2008

Ah ok, just read the emando link.
posted by poppo at 10:05 AM on January 19, 2008

Rottytooth, thanks.

So I assume that when Indian teenagers get together in their garage to make a band, the tanpura is the equivalent of the tamborine that you give to the talentless friend?
posted by Flunkie at 10:09 AM on January 19, 2008

I don't know how many Indian teens are starting devotional music garage bands.
posted by chunking express at 10:25 AM on January 19, 2008

What, you're not even going to take a stab at a guess?
posted by Brockles at 10:33 AM on January 19, 2008

The challenge in playing tanpura (as much as there is any) is to keep it from being noticeable. It has to be struck slightly off-rhythm in such a way that it doesn't distract from the lead instruments.

Of course, if you don't have someone to play it, you can always get an electric tanpura.

I would start a Hindustani classical garage band!
posted by rottytooth at 10:35 AM on January 19, 2008

He was with John McLaughlin on several Remember Shakti releases. Heard them together in DC...wonderful night of Indo-jazz fusion.
posted by aiq at 10:51 AM on January 19, 2008

The challenge in playing tanpura (as much as there is any) is to keep it from being noticeable
The lady in the first video on the tanpura page that rottytooth linked to said that the hardest part is tuning it.
posted by Flunkie at 10:59 AM on January 19, 2008

Errr, and by "rottytooth", I mean "you".
posted by Flunkie at 11:00 AM on January 19, 2008

Full explaination of his experimentations of mandolin design on his website.
posted by aiq at 11:01 AM on January 19, 2008

Thanks for the beautiful post, flapjax.

rdone, it looks as though the frets are in place, but I imagine they are shaved down. There's a term for that and I don't remember it. Speaking of terms, thanks for bringing up "glissando". I was struggling with that one too!
posted by snsranch at 3:54 PM on January 19, 2008

Thanks, flapjax!

/me pulls on bong and hits play
posted by not_on_display at 8:29 PM on January 19, 2008

Oh, and I vote that that tiny gee-tar does have fully functional frets. He's just a quick glissander. Evidence: in close-ups, when he lands square on a note, he is behind the fret; or when he glissandoes, back-n-forth, depending on how quick he does it, you can distinguish the discrete steps from note to note.

coff coff.. 'ere
posted by not_on_display at 8:35 PM on January 19, 2008

I also first heard this guy with Shakti. Amazing musician, quicksilver technique in the service of a vision. Thanks, this was great!
posted by Wolof at 11:56 PM on January 19, 2008

An amazing difference between the discussion here and that of the story on Bela Fleck ... looks like the real "hicks" freaked out over the mandolin and not the banjo ...
posted by aldus_manutius at 7:41 AM on January 20, 2008

Heavenly, made my week. Made the effort, learnt how to download and play flvs just for the post. Thanx.
posted by dodialog at 3:19 PM on January 20, 2008

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