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The Shruti Box

Here I am on a cold winter after noon, thinking about some of the interesting encounters of 2011. The ShrutiBox, an online music album, didn’t make breaking news but it flashed on the Facebook feed rather expeditiously, that is, until three weeks back when the “Kolaveri” virus hit the net! The ShrutiBox is a fusion composition by Shankar Tucker, an American clarinettist and music composer. The album was first released on social media platforms like YouTube and SoundCloud. 

Shankar grew up in Massachusetts. Unlike others of his generation who drifted to the beats of Nirvana, Madonna and Usher, Shankar was drawn towards Indian classical music, his ideal being maestro John McLaughlin who is famous for composing Indian and Western classical fusions. Tucker was induced towards learning Carnatic music after listening to “Remember Shakti”, a unique composition by McLaughlin (Strings) and featuring Zakir Hussain (table), V Selvaganesh (percussion) and U Shrinivas (mandolin). 
About Shankar Tucker.  While his mastery over the clarinet can’t be doubted....he also magnificently blends the essence of jazz, pop and Indian classical music to create seamless fusion. I know this sounds a bit melodramatic. Most of his videos crossed one million views over the last 6 months, though not all comments were alluring. Before I started writing this article, I was under the impression that the guy who sings in “O re piya” video was Shankar Tucker. The confusion resolved after I Googled him and found that the one behind the clarinet is actually our protagonist. It all fits, the guy named Shankar (a Hindu mythological name) who fuses Indian music with jazz should happen to be a firangi desi rang me. It mesmerizes me to think someone linguistically alien, should share the same platform as the legendary artists Zakir Hussein and Hariprasad Chaurasia.  

If you think there cannot be anything as captivating as the Oscar winner AR Rahman’s anthem from “Slumdog Millionaire”, catch “O Saya (A.R.Rehman cover) ft. Shankar Tucker” on YouTube. 

Unlike conventionally released compositions, The Shruti Box is an online going music album. Shankar, a musical prodigy, when his career has barely taken flight, claims not to make music that must sell. A blend of fresh Carnatic fusion - vocals by the Iyer sisters with the highlight from the melodist’s clarinet left me in crisis of adjectives, as I spent half an hour repeatedly listening to the “Nee Nenaindal” video. Refined and perfected, lilting and rising sounds of his clarinet in his signature style can even beat the pulses of a heart; such is the soul of his original composition- “Lemongrass”. A treat to anyone who appreciates classical music is his deft rearrangement of classical Bandish of Raga Bimpalassi in the vocals of Nirali Kartik’s- “Ja Ja Re”. 

This whole article might look a bit aggrandized and amplified to some who are in the critics’ stage of persona or to the Jagjit Singh or Pundit Jasraaj fan followers, who are grumpy over the lyrical and pronunciation aberrations in the videos. If I could understand my culture and musical heritage half as well as Tucker does, I would have been in a better position to savour the taste of his ethnic brew.

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Vasundhara Goyal
I eat when I am bored and I live by the quotes that explain exactly what I am going through. I fancy reading Archie comics for the love of my favourite character Jughead Jones and I tend to get attracted to guys with a persona like him. I am a loner and at times I search for lonely spots where I can just sit and daydream.


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