Lure of the Mandolin Awakens Prodigal Talent in Giri Peters

Giri Peters

Giri with the instrument – the mandolin – that has made him a phenomenon in Bluegrass music

By Jawahar Malhotra

HOUSTON: Imagine the surprise of the parents when their son wanted a violin at age 3, when other kids are barely learning basic motor skills. “He was adamant about it and by the age of 5, we started him in lessons,” recalled his mom, Dr. Sarika Peters, after the family had moved from Houston to Nashville, Tennessee where she took up a job with Vanderbilt University in 2009.

In the Country Music Capital of the World, Giri (short for Girish) Peters became enchanted with the sound of the mandolin after he saw the Goat Rodeo Sessions with Chris Thile, a mandolinist, and Stuart Duncan, both well-known Bluegrass musicians. “He told me that he wanted a mandolin,” remembered Sarika in a phone call interview with Indo American News. Not far behind was Giri’s sister Uma, three years younger, who took up the fiddle and banjo and often accompanies her brother in performances. Giri started taking fiddle lessons with Deanie Richardson and mandolin lessons with Ashby Frank.

Having grandkids who were so musically talented, and that too in Western Country music, and within that realm, in the specialized arena of Bluegrass, was hardly what Kul Bhushan Uppal and his wife Suman expected, but they are delighted. “I still can’t believe it – he was born into this,” said the proud granddad. Uppal moved to the US from India in 1961 and later came down to the Houston area in 1979 to work as a chemical engineer with Amoco Chemicals (since acquired by BP) in Clear Lake. He has been a fixture in the Indian community, volunteering on several boards and for many events. Though he is now retired, Suman continues to work in administration of a doctor’s office.

Giri Peters 1

Giri Peters and his sister Uma with their granddad Kul Bhushan Uppal, a Houston resident since 1979

The Uppals have two daughters, Sarika, 44, who is married to Dr. Sean Peters (both are psychologists) and Pranika, 41, who is married to Samir Sinha and has two daughters, Revati, 8, and Anisha, 6, and lives in Houston.

Though Sarika can play the piano and flute and read music, the genre that Giri latched on to, Bluegrass “is really learned by ear and has many improvisations, similar to Indian classical ragas,” explained Sarika. “Even the renowned table player Zakir Hussain has played with Bluegrass musicians.” She said that Giri has listened to Indian instrumental music, and he likes the Dobro guitar, which has a sound similar to a veena.

Life with a musical prodigy can be challenging for a family, as Sarika says that both Giri, 11, and Uma, 8, practice in the evenings and weekends after the Montessori school they attend. Giri’s natural musical talent and ability has flourished in the musical scene at Hickory Hollow in Houston and now in Nashville where he often plays at Bluegrass jam sessions. He has recently released a CD of 11 tracks called Just Whittlin’ Around, in which he has two original tunes, one of which is Zoey’s Reel which has gotten airtime on Sirius XM satellite radio, and Spunky Creek. “The tune is named after our dog, Zoey who like to howl along to music she likes,” smiled Sarika.

Giri has appeared on PBS WoodSongs, and has performed as a guest with Country and Bluegrass music artists Frank Solivan and Dirty Kitchen, Alan Bibey and Grasstowne, Sister Sadie, The Roland White Band, the Vickie Vaughn Band, and New Monday Night at the Station Inn. He has won numerous contests, was the Entertainer of the Year for best instrumental performance, and received the Bobo Driver Fiddle Award for Country Musician Beginners at the Smithville Fiddler’s Jamboree in 2015.

So, if you’re a fan of Country or Bluegrass music, keep tuned in as the next big star that you could be listening to could well be Indian kids born right here in Houston!

You can learn more about Giri on his website He is also featured on and his CD Just Whittlin’ Around is available on cdbaby at