Noted Bollywood singer and composer Shankar Mahadevan, who is a member of the celebrated Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy songwriting trio, has been chosen to receive honorary doctorate from Birmingham City University (BCU) for his outstanding contribution to music and the arts.
West Midlands Mayor Andy Street made the announcement on behalf of the University at a trade mission event in Mumbai. BCU Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Julian Beer, via video link, formally invited the multiple award-winning playback singer and composer to receive the award at a ceremony in 2023 where he will also lead on several collaborative projects at the University’s Royal Birmingham Conservatoire and STEAMhouse creative hubs.
Professor Beer said, “I am delighted to have extended the invitation for Shankar to come over to Birmingham in the New Year to receive his Honorary Doctorate in person. We have had the pleasure of him visiting our Royal Birmingham Conservatoire previously, and we look forward to his return so we can build on our relationship with him and strengthen our already strong ties with India further.”
Sharing his excitement, Mahadevan said, “This is truly a special moment for me. It’s something new and will take some time for me to digest this feeling. When I started my career, never did I expect that one day I would be awarded a doctorate in music.”
He further added, “I am looking forward to some amazing music being created between Indian musicians whom I represent and musicians from the West Midlands. We’ve heard musicians from the Conservatoire perform especially for us at our visit and it was just outstanding – I saw a beautiful collaboration that will happen.”
The announcement follows a BCU India and West Midlands India Partnership-organised visit by Mr Mahadevan to BCU’s £400m campus which boasts of state-of-the-art creative industry facilities and schools, including Royal Birmingham Conservatoire (RBC). Mahadevan toured RBC with fellow Indian musicians including Zakir Hussain earlier this year. During his visit, he met with students, staff, and partners, and showed his commitment to exploring opportunities between the Bangalore-based Shankar Mahadevan Academy and the Conservatoire.
Born in Mumbai into a Tamil-speaking family from Palakkad, Kerala, Mahadevan began his music career in the late 90s and established himself as an indie pop star with his fusion of Carnatic, Hindustani, and Jazz. Over the years, he has composed and rendered his voice to a number of successful songs popular not only in India but all across the globe.
Mahadevan has performed at prestigious music festivals around the world. He was also invited to the United Nations Assembly, where he represented India twice. At home in India, Mahadevan had the unique honour of performing at the Rashtrapati Bhawan for former Presidents of India, the late Dr. APJ Kalam, and the late Pranab Mukherjee.
The honorary doctorate announcement underlines BCU’s commitment to their strategic partnership work in India as well, reflecting a recent call to urge policymakers to place greater emphasis on the value of the Creative Arts in higher education and recognise the role universities play in strengthening the sector’s growth and innovation.
BCU leaders have also called on industry and government to commit to increasing diversity in the arts and media industries to ensure equality and true representation, and a need to drive forwards the STEAM agenda – bringing together the Arts with STEM (science, technology, engineering, and maths) disciplines.
The West Midlands trade mission, led by Mayor Andy Street, seeks to cement existing economic ties between India’s sub-regions and the West Midlands. Senior representatives are exploring potential partnerships in areas including emerging digital technologies, low carbon mobility, and data-driven healthcare, with the common objective of creating more prosperous communities in both the UK and in India.
Andy Street said, “Given the strength of the Indian diaspora in our region, it’s wonderful to celebrate the ‘living bridge’ between India and the West Midlands by honouring Shankar Mahadevan – a titan of film and music. I hope it will encourage greater cultural and educational collaboration in the months and years ahead.”
Meanwhile, Shankar Mahadevan is currently seen judging the popular singing reality show Sa Re Ga Ma Pa L’il Champs on ZEE TV.