Slideshow: Shankar Mahadevan and Berklee Indian Ensemble Deliver High-Octane Show
As celebrated Indian vocalist and composer Shankar Mahadevan took the stage at a sold-out Berklee Performance Center on December 13, surrounded by the Berklee Indian Ensemble, a packed and enthusiastic house cheered the star who’s known for his work on Bollywood soundtracks and for his best-selling album Breathless, which held the top spot on Indian music charts for 10 weeks.
The show, Shankar Mahadevan Meets Berklee, was the last of this semester’s four Berklee Signature Series concerts; the others featuring jazz guitarist John Scofield, tango pianist and composer Pablo Ziegler, and Chinese-American pop star Wang Leehom.
In addressing the crowd at the beginning of the show, Mahadevan joked that the ensemble, which had been working with him since Monday, was so well prepared that “I’m nervous that I should mess it up. They know all their parts perfectly.”
Levity aside, Mahadevan said working with the Berklee students and alumni in the ensemble has been an overwhelming experience for him. “I was so pleasantly surprised and so happy to see a bunch of students who have got used to perfection. It’s very rare to see that,” he said. Earlier in the week, Mahadevan recorded a music video for the song "5 Peace Band" with the group, to be released on Berklee's YouTube channel.
The ensemble, composed of 44 students from 12 countries, performed new arrangements of some of Mahadevan’s classics in Indian folk, semi-classical, contemporary, global jazz, and devotional music. The ensemble’s leader, Annette Philip, said the group represents “just a fraction of the world where Shankar ji's influence has shaped music today” and was delighted to be performing his music.
“Shankar Mahadevan is one of India’s finest and most versatile vocal virtuosos,” said Philip, who is also the artistic director of the Berklee India Exchange (BIX), which she leads with managing director Clint Valladares. “Not only is he considered a living legend by Indian classical enthusiasts, but he is also revered by jazz aficionados the world over, who came to know of him as a masterful improviser through the band Remember Shakti where he played alongside John McLaughlin and Zakir Hussain. His popular and Bollywood music, on the other hand, appeals to audiences of all ages.”
BIX is an initiative establishing a platform for cultural conversation about Indian music through artist residencies, musical collaborations, and performances. Past participants include: Clinton Cerejo, one of India's most prominent contemporary composers and performers; Grammy- and Academy Award-winning composer and performer A. R. Rahman; and Grammy-winning vocalist Vijay Prakash.
Watch Mahadevan perform the John McLaughlin tune, "5 Peace Band" with the Berklee Indian Ensemble: