b. 26 April 1950, Madras, India. The son of noted violinist, V. Lakshminarayana Shankar was taught to sing ragas at the age of two and began studying violin with his father at five. At his father's insistence he also studied a South Indian drum, the mridangam. It was his father, too, who encouraged him to learn from the North Indian (Hindustani) as well as his native South Indian (Carnatic) tradition. In 1969 he moved to the USA to take a Ph.D in ethnomusicology at the Wesleyan University. Subsequently, while working at the University, he began to meet jazz and rock musicians such as Ornette Coleman, Jimmy Garrison and John McLaughlin. From 1973 he and McLaughlin studied together and between 1975-78 they co-led Shakti, an acoustic fusion of free jazz and Indian music, which grew out of Turyanandha Sangeeth, a duo with McLaughlin. He has continued to lead bands which cross the boundaries of music, including Peshkar, Shankar and the less adventurous, rock-based Epidemics. In 1988 the Epidemics took part in a world tour for human rights along with Sting, Tracy Chapman, Bruce Springsteen and Peter Gabriel. A remarkable, compelling musician who can carry an audience with him through Hindustani, Carnatic and jazz-based music in a single concert, Shankar plays an impressive-looking and sounding 10-string double-necked violin which he designed himself. He is much in demand for rock sessions requiring his unique sound, and can be heard (sometimes very briefly) on albums by Gabriel, Lou Reed, Talking Heads, Frank Zappa, Phil Collins, Echo And The Bunnymen and the Pretenders. He also played on the soundtrack of Martin Scorcese's THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST and joined Bill Laswell's movable feast of a band, Material, for its ‘come-back’ SEVEN SOULS.
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