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Clarinetist Shankar Tucker Enthralls Audience At MIT

Umang Kumar

Clarinetist Shankar Tucker, whose highly popular YouTube channel The ShrutiBox showcases Indian-themed music, performed to a wildly cheering audience at the Kresge Auditorium at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) on Sunday, Nov 4. Close to 900 people were in attendance. The program was organized by Association for India's Development (AID), the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal (ICJB) and IndianRaga. All proceeds from the event would go to support the fight for justice in Bhopal and sustainable developmental projects in India.

Tucker, a graduate in clarinet from the New England Conservatory in Boston, went on to train under the wellknown Indian flautist, Hari Prasad Chaurasia. In 2011 he launched a YouTube music channel, called The ShrutiBox, which presented compositions that blended Indian classical and popular music with western genres like jazz. The channel achieved immense popularity in a short while and has recorded several million hits. Tucker typically works with a wide range of artists and musicians. His musical compositions have seen singers from the Hindustani and Carnatic traditions.

In Boston, Tucker was accompanied by a wide range of musicians and vocalists - Michael Gam on bass, Matt Consul on viola, Akshaya Tucker on cello, Rhiannon Barendt on violin, Marty Wirt on drums and Akshay Nalavadi on tabla formed the musical accompanists, while Rohan Kymal, Rohini Ravada and Vidya and Vandana Iyer make up the vocal lineup.

The show included highly popular tracks like Nee Nenaidal and Munbe Va by the Iyer sisters, Khalbali and O Re Piya by Kymal and Aaj Jaane Ki Zid Na Karo by Ravada. There was also the original composition Kinara by Ravada.

“It is certainly a new experience for me,” said Tucker about performing in front of such a large crowd at MIT. “And Kresge is a beautiful venue to perform at,” he added in praise of the venue. He also praised the organizers - “I am really impressed by the commitment of the volunteers of AID, ICJB and IndianRaga who are pursuing very praiseworthy causes. We should all support them in their endeavors.”

Gam, the bassist, said he was particularly impressed by the account of the Sambhavana clinic that serves the survivors of the Bhopal disaster with indigenous and innovative methods.

Students for Bhopal in MIT is a human rights group committed to bringing justice to the victims of the Bhopal gas disaster of 1984. ICJB helps the survivors of the gas disaster by supporting legal recourse, awareness campaigns and environmental initiatives.

Association for India’s Development, MIT and Boston chapter is a non-profit working on sustainable, equitable and just development in areas such as agriculture, anti-corruption, education, health, energy, livelihood, natural resources, women’s empowerment and social justice with grassroots groups in India.

IndianRaga is an MIT-based initiative and winner of the prestigious IDEAS Global Challenge, 2012. Recognizing the need for talented musicians to train with accomplished maestros, IndianRaga has partnered with India's prestigious ITC Sangeet Research Academy, a foremost academy for the most talented Indian classical artists, to offer residential courses to Indians and non-Indians who wish to reach their highest musical potential.

For the audience, the experience ranged from a dream come true for some in being able to be present at the concert to discovering a whole new world. Ashvin, who had come up from Cranston R.I, said, “I have been following him all along on YouTube. I have always wanted to see a live show. I am a 'fan' of his stuff.” Manan, who was visiting his friend in Boston from Los Angeles, on the other hand had not heard of Tucker till then. “I had never heard of him. But the way he combines the various musical styles – he is a genius. I intend to go back and look all his compositions up,” he said.

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