Carnatic music, jazz and metal — New York-based guitarist Prasanna talks about playing it all
When R Prasanna began to make music at the age of 13, he had only one aim — to be known for his signature sound. “About 10 seconds into the song, I wanted people to know it’s mine,” he says. Going by that, the Tiruchirappalli-born has certainly carved a niche for himself with hits like Electric Ganesha Land, Kalyani Connection, and the recent All Terrain Guitar. A mix of these and more is what you can expect at his upcoming show in the city, this weekend. “I make a conscious effort in every performance to make sure listeners have something to take home. In my last show in Hyderabad, I took a lot of song requests. This time, that apart, the audience can look forward to some of my oldest hits and not-so-popular tracks, which I’m also putting together for my next album titled Bowling for Peace,” he shares. Bringing the New York-based musician to Hyderabad is city-based entertainment group, The Whole Shebang, while fusion band Niraval will be the opening act.
Best of both worlds
While Prasanna’s initial musical training was in the midst of strong Carnatic tradition, the 48-year-old didn’t restrict himself to one genre alone. He has from the age of 10 followed his passion whichever path it chooses to take — be it rock, metal, reggae or jazz. He is equally comfortable shredding like Eddie Van Halen as he is playing Indian raagas. His graduation from the Berklee College of Music in Boston only added to his versatility. “Although I listened to Western music while growing up, it was during my course in Berklee that I had great international exposure. I met people from various parts of the world. That’s where I explored genres like salsa, Cuban music and reggae,” he explains.
Carnatic on chords
Prasanna’s choice of instrument all along has remained the guitar, and he has been wielding it for more than three decades now. He is best known for being one of the few players to perform Carnatic music on the guitar. “Guitar is a versatile instrument. It lets you play whatever kind of music you want, which works great for me. I started learning guitar when I was 10 or 11,” he recollects.
A regular collaborator with musicians including Steve Smith, Victor Wooten, Vijay Iyer and Trilok Gurtu. Award-winning composer AR Rahman has called him ‘a living hope for quality music.’ Interestingly, Prasanna’s start in music can also be traced back to Indian films. Some of his best works are the ones with Rahman himself, for instance, the fiery jazz-trio track Springtime in New York — making him one of the celebrated virtuosos.
Rs.500. At Tabula Rasa. February 16, 8 pm.