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HomeEntertainmentShakti opened door for fusion music in India: Grammy winner V Selvaganesh

Shakti opened door for fusion music in India: Grammy winner V Selvaganesh

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Percussionist V Selvaganesh says fusion band Shakti, which last month won the Grammy for its latest album, has inspired many young musicians since its formation in the 1970s.

The 57-year-old musician credits founding members of Shakti — guitarist John McLaughlin, percussionists Zakir Hussain and TH ‘Vikku’ Vinayakram, and violinist L Shankar — for starting India’s first fusion band.

“John ji, Zakir bhai, L Shankar ji, and my father (Vinayakram) are the musicians who opened the door for new music, fusion music.

“Of course, before that Pandit Ravi Shankar ji had collaborated with western musicians, but as a band Shakti is the gate opening for each and every fusion band in India. If you see it from that moment, the youngsters who start a group, this band is the inspiration for them,” Selvaganesh told PTI in an interview.

The percussionist, who plays kanjira and ghatam, was in the winning team of McLaughlin, Hussain, vocalist Shankar Mahadevan and violinist Ganesh Rajagopalan.

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He narrated a mythological story to describe his involvement in creating “This Moment”, which recently won the Grammy in the best global music album category. Shakti, founded in 1973, has undergone several changes with new members joining over the years.

Drawing a parallel with a squirrel in the Hindu epic Ramayana that helped build the bridge to Lanka by carrying pebbles, Selvaganesh credits the founding members for the success and believes the new members are “just add-ons”.

“I follow in their footsteps because they never expect anything, they just give their 100 per cent to music. They just work. And after 50 years of this band, it was considered the best global music album. So that goes to the founders, that’s their property, their treasure. We are all just add-ons,” he said.

“In Ramayana, when they were building the bridge to Lanka, there was one squirrel that came to help, so I feel that way. But I am taking honour and Shakti is my family too,” he added.

The Chennai-based percussionist joined the band in 1999 when it was rebranded as ‘Remember Shakti’ along with mandolin player U Srinivas and then Mahadevan.

Over the next few years, a number of artistes worked with the group, including flute maestro Hariprasad Chaurasia, percussionist Taufiq Qureshi, and santoor player Shivkumar Sharma.

The band regrouped in 2021 to create another album under the name of ‘Shakti’, as a result of which “This Moment” was released in June 2023.

Selvaganesh said he has learned to take his legacy in his stride and stay receptive to new ideas, a lesson he learned from his father, a ghatam pioneer.

“I am never nervous because my mind is always open to learning. One thing I have learned from my father is to keep it open. Sitting and learning is one thing but what you learn stays onstage forever with you. When you make a mistake, you learn. I never get nervous, I get excited at every concert,” he said.

The musician will be presenting the ‘Ghatam Symphony’ at the second edition of Mahindra Percussion Festival at Bengaluru’s Prestige Srihari Khoday Centre for Performing Arts on March 23 with his father, brother Umashankar and son Swaminathan.

Selvaganesh said such festivals help take south Indian percussion to mainstream audiences.

“These are the festivals that will definitely help out. And people love it. We need more festivals like this in different cities. There are festivals for classical music, but we need something just for percussion. We should expand this all over India,” the Grammy winner said.

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