Watch as Shri sets up live loops of tabla, flute and bass, and combines his sound with more percussion and live vocals. Folktronica like you’ve never seen before!
In retrospect, there wouldn’t have been a better way to start this week off, courtesy of Blue Frog – had it not been for Shrikanth Sriram, better (and simply) known as Shri, playing some samples of his new musical venture, Tuesday evening would have been as bland as could be. So what’s so special about the flavour of his music? I’m glad you asked.
The man, the multi-instrumentalist mastermind himself, took to the stage around 10:00 pm, clad in casuals – khaki 3/4ths and a t-shirt – with an unassuming air of sheer nonchalance as the crowd clapped and whistled.
For the first 15-20 minutes, it seemed like Shri was performing another sound check, as he played around with all his instruments on stage – a set of tablas, his signature custom-made (hand made, in fact) bass with his horse-tail bow, a flute or two, a series of pedals and processors – it was like being in a studio or a jam room with different artists – but in reality, it was just him, trying to figure out the best combinations and permutations of his own sounds.
This was a rare treat for everyone – one hardly gets to see the behind-the-scene workings of an artist. But that is predominantly how ShriLectric works. The audience gets to witness firsthand how each different layer is weaved into a tapestry of sounds, with Shri himself adding the necessary rhythms in bits and pieces, blending in the sounds of traditional instruments along with electronic drums and beats.
And then, out of nowhere, came in Vivek Rajagopalan, taking up percussion on the left-hand corner of the stage. The two then launched into a live jam session, complementing each other’s instruments and ragas.
Shri’s stage presence exuded and aura of such comfort and ease that one almost overlooks the extraordinary display of skills – such as flute solos, playing the bass with a bow (making it sound like a whiny cello at times) – all of which seemed to just flow ever so naturally.
Within moments, Lindsay D’Mello joined them on stage with drums on the right hand corner, and Nandini Srikar took up vocals close to the center. The full ensemble now featured a different set of percussive instruments on all parts of the stage – eastern, western, acoustic and electronic, all at once – and being able to listen to all of them at the same time was nothing short of a treat for the ears.
Throughout their performance, you could see that they were literally just jamming and pulling melodies out of thin air, even though it felt like a properly orchestrated arrangement.
For instance, Shri was seen keeping count of bars and notes, smiling and gesturing and signaling to each one of this co-performers, yet the fluidity and finesse with which they all played made it seem like a well rehearsed band performance.
To put aside our doubts, in the middle of the performance, Shri even remarked to the crowd that “this is actually much more fun for us on stage!” to which the audience clapped and whistled with renewed gusto.
Closer to the end, the other musicians took a break and left the stage, leaving Shri to play the flute by himself, much to the delight of the audience. One couldn’t help but wonder how easy he made it all look from a distance – but one shouldn’t forget that this man is single handedly playing producing, composing, arranging, playing and performing live, orchestrating all these actions simultaneously.
As he mentions in his own introductory video, this kind of work involves the usage of all sorts of electronic equipment and consoles – loopers, processors, pedals etc – but the sound is essentially that of the instruments that he himself plays and records.
It is essentially like watching a DJ de-construct his work before our very eyes, except, without the simplicity of spinning disks and twisting knobs. This musical set up is about as complicated as it gets, with Shri himself manning all fronts, and yet, doing it all in open view of the audience.
In conclusion, ShriLectric’s music has a unique and refreshing flavour. Gone is the redundancy of traditional rhythms, and gone is the blandness of western drums and bass, since this set up involves more than just one kind of drums and numerous different sounds from the same bass guitar.
Throw in vocals, and ShriLectric’s fusion of folk and electronica transcends all boundaries set by other contemporaries. One can be sure that no two live performances will ever sound the same, as Shri, the head chef and maestro, will continue to play with the sounds and ingredients each time – but not without hiding it from his audience.
PHOTO CREDITS: PARIZAD D
A/V Assistance: Rajat Mehtani