Bollywood composer Shankar Mahadevan on Songs of Krishna and performing alongside his sons

Award-winning Bollywood singer and composer Shankar Mahadevan will be taking to the stage with his sons for the first time in Dubai on Friday for a fusion of classical music and international melodies.
Shankar Mahadevan is part of India’s National Award-winning composer trio Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy. AFP
Shankar Mahadevan is part of India’s National Award-winning composer trio Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy. AFP

A heart attack in December last year hasn’t slowed Bollywood singer and composer Shankar Mahadevan. Since then he has been working on big movie projects, expanding his global music-academy project, and touring with his sons, Siddharth and Shivam.

Tomorrow, the 49-year-old classically trained playback singer will take to the stage in Dubai alongside his boys at Songs of Krishna, a show at the Sheikh Rashid Auditorium featuring a fusion of Indian beats and international sounds.

Mahadevan’s oldest son Siddharth, 23, has made it to the top of a new crop of Bollywood singers with hits such as Zinda, from the Indian biographical sports drama Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, and Pehli Baar, from comedy drama Dil Dhadakne Do. Fifteen-year-old Shivam, meanwhile, had his big break in Yash Raj’s Dhoom 3 (2013) with Bande Hain Hum Uske.

Their proud father, who put his heart attack down to his “erratic work schedule”, and is part of India’s National Award-winning composer trio Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, shares his thoughts on bringing several musical cultures to one stage and setting up his academy in Dubai.

What can fans expect from the Songs of Krishna show?

What fascinates me about Hindu culture is that Krishna is a god present everywhere, even in all the diversity we find in India. All over India, in different cultures, he is present as Balagopala, Govinda, Lord Balaji or Guruvayurappan. In fact, Krishna is an internationally recognised figure. Even musically, these different cultures depict various aspects of Krishna. So the show is going to bring it all together, using Krishna as an iconic figure from India. On stage you will hear South Indian classical, thumri, bhajans, abhangs, Sufi, Rajasthani and Gujarati folk, as well as jazz and rock.

What compositions will we get to hear?

It is going to be a two-hour show with a lot of extempore versions and pieces that can range from three minutes to 15 minutes. Siddharth will be representing the broader aspect of Krishna, so there will be a jazz piece that I have composed with renowned guitarist Sanjay Divecha. There is also a rock song that Siddharth has fully composed. Shivam will be representing Bal Krishna [young Krishna] with the song Maine Makhan Khaayo, a beautiful song composed by Hridaynath Mangeshkar in Marathi.

Do you remember the feeling of performing with your sons for the first time?

Sidharth has got his own identity now – his songs have become popular, and he has his own shows. I consider myself one of the blessed parents who can go on stage and sing songs sung by my son. These are things that don’t normally happen to people – I am one of those lucky ones. Shivam started singing when he was very young, about 6 years old, on a Krishna show. He has sung in Dhoom 3 and a Marathi film. So, music has been a growing process in our family. They are also part of my musical journey.

Did you insist they get classical training if they wanted to pursue this career?

I do not insist on anything. I think you have to let the children be what they want to be because, if you insist, they will rebel. So I never, ever insisted on them becoming musicians. It so happens that, naturally, they are doing music 10 hours a day – it just happened that way. Shivam was learning from Saili Kalyanpur. My elder son is a self-taught guy. He plays the keyboard, he programs and composes a lot. He also went to Berklee [College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts] and trained there.

Did your health issues make you reassess your workload?

I am absolutely fine now, they had detected some blocks in the arteries and they have sorted that out. The issue was my erratic work schedule. I am living healthy and eating healthy, planning things better and being a little choosy with what I want to do.

Tell us a little bit about the Shankar Mahadevan Music Academy.

This is a five-year-old academy and we are very proud to say that we have a presence in 66 countries and tie-ups with 25 schools in India. I feel music should be an integral part of the school curriculum. We are setting up a strong base in Dubai because a lot of students come from this region. We are going to have representatives in Dubai to take the vision of the academy ahead. We will be coming to your doorstep to teach children.

What Bollywood films are you working on this year?

We have Mirzya, plus Rock On 2, a big Yash Raj film, and a lot of new performances. I am planning a whole digital platform for non-film music, which I plan to collaborate with many artists for as well.

• Songs of Krishna by Tambourine Live will is at Sheikh Rashid Auditorium on Friday, September 9, at 7.30pm. Tickets start at Dh100, available from

Published: September 7, 2016 04:00 AM


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