‘How can you play Carnatic music on a guitar’? is a question that was on everyone’s mind when Prasanna daringly took to one of the world’s most ancient musical forms on one of the world’s most modern instruments – the electric guitar! 20 years on, the question is still asked by everyone but now in disbelief at how Prasanna brings out the subtlest of microtones on a standard electric guitar and goes even further by extending his signature style to Jazz, Blues, Rock, Classical music and everything that he feeds in as a contemporary musician of today.
In a world studded with brilliant guitarists, ‘Prasanna plays like nobody on the planet’ according to one Jazz critic. As a guitarist and composer, Prasanna’s prolific body or work is as diverse as it is integrated. This includes over eleven Carnatic albums, the just released Carnatic/Rock Jimi Hendrix tribute album ‘Electric Ganesha Land’, a highly acclaimed Jazz Fusion album ‘Be the Change’ featuring several Grammy Award winning artists from the Jazz world, an eclectic solo guitar album ‘Peaceful’, a special triple guitar project ‘Guitars’ with the Belgian band Aka Moon, an original score for contemporary dance theater adaptation of Shakespeare’s ‘Tempest’ with a premiere in Sydney, Australia, a work for Contemporary and Fusion dance ‘Sanaatana’ premiered at Queen Elizabeth Hall in London, yet another work for contemporary dance ‘Soliloquy’, numerous sessions work on multi-platinum Indian film soundtracks for such top composers as A.R. Rahman, Illayaraja and many more. His orchestration and arranging credits include the title score for the Oscar nominated Bollywood film ‘Lagaan’. Prasanna’s acclaimed guitar instructional DVD ‘Ragamorphism’, gives an in-depth look at how he stretches the boundaries of improvisation.
The North Sea Jazz Festival, Middelheim Jazz Festival, Festival Guitares Du Monde, La Fete de la Musique, Les Orientales De St. Florent Le Vieil, Festival Jazz En Artois, PanaFest, Lotus world music festival are some of the top international festivals Prasanna has performed at. He has performed/recorded with legendary names in the Jazz/ Fusion world including Joe Lovano, Larry Coryell, Victor Wooten, Airto Moreira, Alphonso Johnson, Steve Smith, Kenwood Dennard, Jeff Coffin, David Gilmore, Aka Moon, Kai Eckhardt and from the Indian music world such as A.R.Rahman, Hari Prasad Chaurasia, Illayaraja, Dr. L. Subramaniam, Umayalpuram Sivaraman, Trichy Sankaran and several others. As a true artist, Prasanna is both a traditionalist and modernist and everything in between.
Prasanna began learning guitar when he was ten years old and studied with Dr C.G.Shanmugaraj Phd(Raj Echo Orchestra) and then Samuel Thangadurai. After learning quite a few things on his own, in 1984, he started formal instruction with Tiruvarur Balasubramaniam. In 1989, he gave his first professional Carnatic music concert at the Madras Music Academy. He studied with violinist A. Kanyakumari.
Educational Qualification & Sports
He got an engineering degree in Naval Architecture from the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology, Madras. Bachelor’s degree in Technology (Majoring in Naval Architecture) – Indian Institute of Technology, Chennai, India, 1992. Bachelor’s degree (Hons) in Music (Majoring in Classical Composition and Jazz Composition), Berklee College of Music, Boston, USA, 1999. Magna-Cum-Laude distinction. Principal teachers – Classical Composition: John Bavicchi, Tom McGah, Jazz Composition: Scott Free, Bill Scism, Jeff Friedman, Jazz guitar: Mick Goodrick, Garrison Fewell, Ritchie Hart.
Awards & Titles
‘Lifetime Achievement Award for Carnatic music for 2003’ from H.H. Sri Jayendra Saraswathi. ‘The Berklee College of Music Guitar Achievement Award’ (for outstanding work as a Student Jazz guitarist’), ‘The Berklee College of Music-Composition Achievement Award’ (for outstanding work as a Student Classical composer) and many others. Spirit of Youth Award – Music Academy, Chennai, India, 1992. Winner (Instrumental) – Audiofine National Talent Contest 1992. This brought Prasanna’s first record deal with Audio Fine for the album ‘Guitar Goes Classical’. Kapali Fine Arts award, Chennai, India, 1999. Narada Gana Sabha’s ‘K.S.Mahadevan Endowment’ Award, Chennai, India, 1999 – for outstanding work as a carnatic performer on a foreign instrument (guitar).