Tuned in to music

March 19, 2009 12:00 am | Updated September 15, 2010 11:48 am IST

Musician Prasanna, talks about his “Smile Pinki” experience

Call him a virtuoso musician, one of those rare breeds who plays Carnatic music on the electric guitar with elan. He is also a jazz musician, blessed with the formidable gift of brewing a brilliant concoction of classical and peppy, heady and magical music. Meet acclaimed electric guitarist and composer, Prasanna, now on a new high as a team member of the Oscar-winning Best Short Documentary “Smile Pinki”.

Luck by chance

Prasanna narrates his experience of working in the film. “I met the director, Megan Mylan, through a common friend just five days ahead of the film going for the final round of sound mixing. At first, Megan wasn’t sure of having an original musical score and was contemplating using something from albums of Indian artistes.

After much brainstorming, we decided that the film should have an original music score as it would do justice to the film and the cause; this despite not having much time,” recalls a visibly happy Prasanna.

It took a day for him to receive the DVD of the film, watch it and get briefed, half-a-day for composing and another half-a-day for correction and another day for recording. “In just three days, I completed the music for the film,” beams the ingenious musician.

Born in Coimbatore and raised in Chennai, Prasanna took to guitar at the age of 10 and went on to learn Carnatic music.

A graduate in naval architecture from IIT Chennai, he quit his job in a software firm to join the Berkeley College of Music, U.S.

It didn’t take long for Prasanna to realise that his heart was all tuned to music. From then on, there has been no looking back for this prodigious talent, now based in Boston.

To him, music is a reflection of his persona: “I try to reflect my life experiences in my music. I always try to hear music from a visual angle and firmly believe that music should be fun.”

He is at his creative best while deciding the titles for his albums and tracks — “Electric Ganesha Land”, “Indra’s Necklace”, “Potbelly blues”, “Iguana on a funky trail” and more. Prasanna is a member of the highly-acclaimed trio ‘Tirtha’ with pianist Vijay Iyer and tabla player Nitin Mitta.

He is also a member of Vijay Iyer’s Quintet. This master of strings has jammed with renowned musicians across the globe, including Joe Lovano, Larry Coryell, Anthony Jackson, Omar Hakim and Trilok Gurtu.

In India, Prasanna has teamed with A.R. Rahman, Hari Prasad Chaurasia, Ilaiyaraaja, L. Subramaniam and Umayalpuram Sivaraman.

Ask him about his accomplishments and he sounds philosophical: “Music is a communal sport. You need friends and allies to reinforce what you do and to bounce off ideas to others and vice-versa. The wider the network, it is fulfilling.”

He confesses that he does not like the hyperbole of music being a uniting factor amongst people across the globe in troubled times. “Let’s get real. Music is not going to solve the Kashmir or the Palestine tangles. Not all music connects people. But, it is important that artistes should connect to their audiences,” he says. Prasanna is “drawn to anybody who makes music honestly. People who produce music in a heartfelt and natural way, leave a legacy behind. But those who just try to impress, fail,” he says. He regrets that people seldom talk about a musical performance in a film song these days, appreciating a mridangam or a violin piece. He also rues the dominance of machines over musicians nowadays.

Prasanna’s entry into Kollywood was with the song “July Matham” for the movie “Puthiya Mugam”.

He is currently in discussion with a few Tamil directors for composing music for their films. “But I will prefer to use more live musicians than machines,” he says.

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