Renowned mridangam artiste K.V. Prasad on his initiation into percussion and adapting to other musicians
K.V. Prasad is one of the most sought-after mridangam artistes of the country — a versatile percussionist whose deft fingering, characteristic of the grand Thanjavur style, along with his intricate knowledge of rhythm delights connoisseurs. Apart from accompanying the celebrated vocalist M.S. Subbulakshmi for about 15 years, Prasad has accompanied stalwarts like Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, D.K. Jayaraman, Nedanuri Krishnamurthy, T. Brinda and Muktha, S. Balachander, M.L. Vasanthakumari, Dr. M. Balamuralikrishna, Lalgudi G. Jayaraman, N. Ramani, T.V. Sankaranarayanan, Madurai T.N. Seshagopalan, K.J. Yesudas, Mandolin U.Srinivas, Kadri Gopalnath and other eminent present-day artistes. Prasad has also played the mridangam in Malayalam, Tamil and Telugu films. Winner of a number of awards and honours for his contributions to the field, K.V. Prasad is a recipient of the recent Sangeet Natak Akadami Award 2012. Prasad, who was in the Capital for a performance, took time to answer a number of questions on his musical career. Excerpts:
How did you get initiated into the art of mridangam playing the mridangam?
I have heard my parents telling me that in my native town of Ernakulam, as a young boy whenever I got to visit the Shiva temple and see the chenda I would play it, producing the same rhythm pattern as played by the temple artistes. Observing me, the temple artiste asked my father to initiate me into any percussion instrument. My father then chose the mridangam for me.
Tell us about your gurus…
I had my early lessons from the late Narayana Iyer for two to three years. He introduced me to Professor Parassala Ravi, from whom I had the privilege of mastering this art. I also had the great opportunity to take advanced guidance from the legendary T.K. Murthy. I owe my present stature to my parents and all my gurus. I also learnt vocal music from a very young age for almost 12 years under Ottapalam Mahadeva Iyer. This training has helped me while playing the mridangam on concert platforms.
Apart from the mridangam, are there other percussion instruments that interest you?
Yes. I play the drums, chenda and edakka, which are played in the temples in Kerala, the congo drums and the tabla. In my younger days, I used to play the drums and the congo for a Western music group in Ernakulam as well during light music programmes. I am also into film music recordings for the past 30 years and have worked with many great film music directors. I have played for a number of Malayalam film songs, many of which, like “Pramadavanamveendum” from the film “His Highness Abdullah” and “Orumuraivanthu” from “Mani Chitrathazh”, turned out to be hits. I also had the opportunity to do a mridangam mix for a recording of the legendary Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer supported by MS amma (M.S. Subbulakshmi), which was sung informally and without any accompaniment. This was released as an album titled “Divine Unison”.
You have accompanied many musicians belonging to different times. How did you adapt yourself to them?
The first step is to enjoy the music of the main performer and gel with the music of the artiste performing on that particular day. I’ve tried to completely sail with the compositions taken up by them without posing any hindrance to them.
Your advice to the students of mridangam…
“Asurasadhakam” (vigorous practice) and listen to good music of all generations. Deep knowledge in the art form is essential to reach great heights.
Keywords: mridangam artiste K.V. Prasad