With his versions of hits, such as A.R.Rahman’s “Munbe Va” and Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep,” musician Shankar Tucker’s signature sound has been garnering a loyal following. This clarinetist and composer has been making his presence felt in the Indian fusion music scene ever since he created The Shrutibox, his YouTube channel, in 2011, to share his music online. Earlier this month, Tucker initiated a campaign on Kickstarter.com to raise funds to develop a full-length album of music and videos. That the project was funded over 100 percent within a week of its launch is worth noting.
For many budding musicians, the prospect of obscurity in a crowded field is not that far-fetched. Shankar Tucker has sought to avoid this by setting the stage for his career by embracing social media. The Kickstarter project is only the latest example of his ability to leverage the Internet to push his career forward. With this project, Tucker is aiming for the big time. “I want to step everything up a notch,” he says, in a telephone interview. The funds raised through Kickstarter will be used to record songs and produce videos for his new album, which he sees as his answer to making Indian music more accessible to audiences worldwide. “There are some Bollywood singers who are also incredibly gifted classical musicians, and I have been fortunate to have them agree to be a part of it,” he says. The album will have songs in Hindi, and, potentially, other regional languages such as Tamil, Malayalam and Telugu. Tucker is collaborating with Boston-based Indian Raga to create a web space for fans to digitally download the album’s music for free.
A classically-trained musician, Tucker uses The Shrutibox to showcase his style of fusion music that combines Indian classical, Western classical and jazz music traditions. The music videos on Shrutibox feature Tucker’s own compositions, along with covers of hit songs. Two years in, the self-made videos have yielded over 15 million views on YouTube. The Indian movie industry is starting to take notice as well. The song “Aakashame,” in the recently-released Malayalam movie, titled “English,” features Tucker playing the clarinet. He is also composing the soundtrack for “Orey Nyabagam,” a Tamil movie due for release later this year. “Every opportunity I have got in the last two years is one hundred percent because of the YouTube channel and my work that people have seen there,” he says.
Although record companies have expressed interest, Tucker acknowledges that his work does not lend itself to the way mainstream artists work. “Because I am working with Indian music and Western music and the way it crosses over… it is a new way that the Internet is making it an emerging market, and I want to continue to explore that on my own,” he avers, dwelling on the topic of his brand of fusion music. So, what’s next? A concert tour India in September and October is in the works, followed by a tour in the United States in November this year. “I guess my goal is really to be able to record and tour professionally full time and hopefully make a comfortable living doing that. I am going to try different avenues and see what works for me,” he concludes.