• Friday, June 14, 2024


Singer-composer Shankar Mahadevan receives major university honour

The announcement of Mahadevan’s honorary doctorate was made by Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, during a trade mission event in Mumbai last November.

Shankar Mahadevan (Photo credit: STR/AFP via Getty Images)

By: Mohnish Singh

The globally acclaimed singer, composer and actor Shankar Mahadevan has been awarded an honorary doctorate from Birmingham City University (BCU) in recognition of his outstanding services to music and the arts.

Mahadevan, who has been described as one of the greatest ever Bollywood vocalists, was given the award at a special ceremony held at the University’s Royal Birmingham Conservatoire (RBC) on Saturday (24 June).

A member of the internationally renowned Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy songwriting trio, he has composed music for scores of Bollywood films, as well as establishing the Shankar Mahadevan Academy, which provides educational opportunities for aspiring musicians. His most famous album, ‘Breathless’, released in 1998, topped the charts in India for over 10 weeks, and he has 18 million monthly listeners on Spotify.

Mahadevan was welcomed to the ceremony with performances from Dhol drummers and a student ensemble led by Dr Radhika Balakrishnan, a Carnatic classical vocalist and BCU’s first-ever Indian Council for Cultural Relations Chair in Indian Studies.

He was then presented with a bespoke medal made by students at the University’s renowned School of Jewellery.

Receiving the honorary doctorate, Shankar Mahadevan said: “This is a moment I will cherish – and I want to thank Birmingham City University for making this happen.”

“It’s like a dream for me. Having my family in the audience, this is really special. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all those gurus from whom I’ve learned so much.”

Mahadevan was joined on stage by Ustad Zakir Hussain, Indian tabla player, composer and percussionist, and John McLaughlin, legendary guitarist and a pioneer of jazz fusion.

Professor Philip Plowden, Vice-Chancellor at Birmingham City University, said: “Shankar is not only an exceptional artist across many genres, a Bollywood legend, and a beloved TV star – but he’s also an educational innovator who believes in making the best tuition available to talented aspiring musicians. It was fantastic to be joined at the event not only by Shankar’s family, but by his brother musicians, Maestro Zakir and Maestro John.

“We are honoured to have the opportunity to formally bring Shankar into our University community.”

Anita Bhalla OBE, Chair of the Board of Governors at BCU and a past BBC executive and broadcaster, said: “We are delighted to recognise Shankar’s distinguished musical career and his outstanding contribution to the development of up-and-coming talent.

“This event symbolises so many themes that are important to our University. It’s about creativity, collaboration, partnerships and being future facing, welcoming people from the region, the wider UK and also from across the world.”

After the formal ceremony, Mahadevan took part in a question-and-answer session with Shyam Nabar, Director at the West Midlands India Partnership, where he spoke about his early life, musical influences and Bollywood career.

An accomplished engineer-turned-musician, Shankar Mahadevan’s melodic singing and compositions have captivated audiences in India and around the world.

Over the next few years, he will lead several collaborative projects at the University’s Royal Birmingham Conservatoire and STEAMhouse, a major £70 million innovation centre based at its city centre campus.

The announcement of Mahadevan’s honorary doctorate was made by Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, during a trade mission event in Mumbai last November.

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