Your Story: Ganesh Rajagopalan is hopeful that Grammy win will boost Indian music

Swetha Kannan writes:

Ganesh Rajagopalan, the violinist of Shakti band, talks about the making of the album ‘This Moment’ that won the Grammy award recently, what the recognition means to Indian music, the dynamics of Shakti, and more.

Ganesh Rajagopalan, the violinist of the fusion band Shakti that bagged a Grammy recently, says the momentous win is slowly sinking in.

Post the win, Ganesh and other members of the band have been giving a slew of interviews, talking at length about their experiences at the Grammys. But it was only when the pilot, on the flight back home, came up to him and congratulated him that Ganesh began to realise the magnitude of the win.

“That’s when the momentous event started sinking in … And when I landed in Chennai, it was such a huge honour to be welcomed by Kanyakumari ji, the great violin maestro,” he says.

Three weeks after bagging the most prestigious award for musical excellence, Ganesh is still ecstatic and beaming with pride, understandably so. While the nomination came as a surprise to him, the violinist was certain that the band would win the Grammy. Shakti—comprising guitarist and founding member John McLaughlin, tabla maestro Zakir Hussai

n, violinist Ganesh, vocalist Shankar Mahadevan, and percussionist V Selvaganesh—won the Best Global Music Album award for their work This Moment.

“I was euphoric,” the violinist tells YS Life, recalling the moment when their band’s name was called out at the Grammy Awards 2024 ceremony in Los Angeles. Chennai-based Ganesh, who is part of the Carnatic music fraternity, believes the Grammy recognition is a testimony to the global appeal of Indian art and culture and will provide a big fillip to Indian music.

“It should give a platform for Carnatic music on the world stage and give Indian music a great boost,” says Ganesh, whose odyssey with the violin began at the tender age of seven. Renowned for his Carnatic style violin duet with his brother Kumaresh, Ganesh became a member of Shakti, a trans-continental Indo-jazz fusion band, in 2019. The violin virtuoso talks about the making of the pandemic project This Moment, the dynamics of Shakti, the role of instrumental music, and more.

His reverence and admiration for McLaughlin and Hussain—key members of Shakti—is evident from his innumerable references to the musical legends during the course of the interview.

Edited excerpts from the interview …

YS Life

[YSL]: The studio album, This Moment, represents Shakti’s labour of love over 50 years of playing together. Can you take us through its making?

Ganesh: It was during the pandemic that John ji and Zakir bhai decided on doing this album. We were all in different parts of the world then, and not doing anything besides online concerts and teaching. So, this was fantastic because we would actually get into some work. Shakti coming up with a studio album after 45 years was a huge thing. John ji said, “We have to heal the world.” That was appropriate at that point of time because the world was reeling. And those words stuck with me. We were able to heal a lot of souls by doing this album. Everybody was putting in their work in Dropbox, and we were downloading and listening to it. We were also putting our musical ideas into it. Back and forth, it was all laid out. For the engineer, it would have sounded different because the sounds were coming from different areas, different continents actually. But once they were all mixed, it sounded as if we were all performing in one room. And that’s what Shakti is about … brotherhood, affection, and the love we have for each other … It’s like an extension of a family.

YSL: Musically, what does This Moment represent?

Ganesh: John is a jazz musician, but he is also good at other forms of music and so fond of Indian rhythm, especially the Carnatic form. Selvaganesh is fantastic with the kanjira, mridangam, ghatam, and morsing. Zakir bhai’s tabla is a world instrument now. Then we had Shankar ji with his exploding, mind-blowing voice, and I did whatever I could do from my side. Musically, This Moment is a coming together of different soundscapes … how jazz music can collaborate so well with Indian and world music.

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