Andrew H. Walker, Getty Images Nine days after the deadly tornado that touched…
- Posted on Oct 16th 2007 1:00PM by Steve Hochman
But when the flow goes the other way, we're a bit taken aback. It was considered news when citizens and/or governments of small developing countries came forward to offer monetary or other assistance to the U.S. following the terrorist attacks in 2001 and the flood devastation of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast in 2005.
So maybe noting the charitable efforts of K. Sridhar would be a matter of falling into this trap. But regardless of such concerns, the efforts are notable. For a decade, Indian-born Sridhar, recognized as one of the world's top sarod players, has had a unique relationship with the North Carolina-based Eight Gates Music to raise funds and awareness for immunotherapy treatments for cancer.
Sridhar, who traces his musical lineage back fourteen generations, has had some remarkable collaborations in his 61 years. At age 12, having become the youngest member of Ravi Shankar's orchestra, he's had ongoing roles with Peter Gabriel's Real World Records and the WOMAD organization, he's recorded and performed often with his brother, violinist K. Shivakumar, he's teamed with Arabic and Persian musicians, and a recent performance at Los Angeles' Skirball Cultural Center paired him with tabla master Anindo Chatterjee -- the latter all the more remarkable as the two had only just met hours before the show. His interest in reaching across cultures comes naturally, given his schooling in both the Carnatic music of his native South India and the Hindustani styles of the North. But the most profound partnership may have been with one C. Douglas McFadyen. A fan, not a musician, McFadyen approached Sridhar following a mid-'90s concert in the Raleigh-Durham area of North Carolina, Sridhar's part-time home, along with England and India.
"He was even more into Indian culture than music," says Sridhar, speaking from a retreat in Wilmington Beach, N.C., near Meher Baba's ashram.
McFadyen was intrigued by the musician's discussion of the healing properties of music, Nada Yoga traditions Sridhar had studied with his guru and his musical mentor, veena player Ustad Zia Mohiuddin Dagar. "He said, 'From playing the ragas, can you find the problem I have in my body?' " Sridhar recalls. " 'I have a pain.' I said, 'I don't know. I'll try.' "
The pain, it turned out, was from a tumor in his liver, and it was too late for effective treatment. The two, though, became fast friends for the time McFadyen had left, and when he asked the musician to help others going through cancer, Sridhar did not hesitate.
"My Sufi guru taught me to spiritualize music," he says. "Many ragas are connected to the chakras. Some ragas can have a healing or soothing effect. Most musicians are entertainers, but I try to use sound on a higher level."
But the two wanted to attack cancer from other angles, and a plan was drawn up to raise money for research into immunotherapy treatments using the body's natural defenses in fights against the disease.
"Before his death in 1998, he asked if I could do some recordings for him and after his death donate proceeds to research," Sridhar says.
Two Sridhar CDs, 'Ocean of Sound' Volumes 1 and 2, have been dedicated to the effort. The first, featuring his sarod and Anil Datar's tabla, is of the Raga Bilaskhani Todi, which he says was composed by a son on the occasion of his father's death. The second adds Sridhar's violinist brother for Raga Todi, a piece covering "heroic and devotional" moods. Together they stand as effective memorials for McFadyen as well as supporting his cause, as do numerous concert appearances that have also benefited Eight Gates.
Again, it all comes back to the philosophy imparted from his guru, about music and about life: "He said, 'Never follow the crowd. Let the crowd follow you,' " recalls Sridhar.