Students are my greatest teachers, says guitar legend R Prasanna

Updated: 25 January, 2018 17:25 IST | Shunashir Sen | Mumbai

Guitar legend R Prasanna, who is equally comfortable with Carnatic music as he is with rock and jazz, will play a concert especially for schoolchildren

Prasanna with students from a workshop held previously
Prasanna with students from a workshop held previously

Most musicians are categorised into boxes depending on genres. But a few maintain a fluidity of sound that helps them diversify their output, cutting across various styles. R Prasanna is one such artiste. Although the 47-year-old's initial upbringing was in Carnatic music, he mastered different forms like jazz, rock and even heavy metal in no time. Eventually, he also made a mark in Bollywood, becoming AR Rahman's go-to guitarist, apart from shaping his own identity as a multi-faceted music composer. Prasanna is also a revered guitar teacher, who will play a concert this week where the audience will consist primarily of schoolchildren. We catch up with him over email ahead of the gig. Excerpts:

You left a career in engineering to study music. What would you advise someone contemplating a similar shift today?
Only if you really have passion and full faith in your music and yourself — and the determination to carry on despite challenges and struggles that come your way — should you go ahead and enjoy a fulfilling musical career.

Your initial musical training was in the midst of a strong Carnatic tradition. So, in what ways did going to Berklee College of Music open up your world view?
Although my strongest training has been in Carnatic music, I grew up playing film and rock music, and heavy metal, in my teens. Therefore, going to Berklee was a logical extension of delving deeper into my musical studies, so that I could integrate all kinds of music and form my own identity as an artiste.

The guitarist in concert
The guitarist in concert

What are some of the things that you bring to the table as a teacher of music?
I've been a teacher since I was in class 8, and have been imparting guitar lessons throughout my life to students, from rock stars to young children. Teaching fulfills me as a person. For me, the most rewarding aspect of it is the opportunity to shape someone's life through music as the language of communication. I also don't encourage hierarchy among my students. In fact, students are my greatest teachers. They constantly remind me of the need to grow as a person and make a positive contribution to the world.

What are some of the grouses that you have about Bollywood music?
I don't have any grouses about Bollywood music or, actually, any form of music in general. I myself have been a part of Bollywood music and I look at the industry as a uniting force. Like in every other system, you might like and not like some things. But I personally feel that Bollywood plays a very positive role in bringing joy and cheer to the people of India.

What do you have in store for your performance for schoolchildren?
I want to be who I am and present music that is joyful, with a particular desire to let the audience experience the oneness of music. Playing an instrument like the guitar helps me express myself beyond genres and styles. In short, I plan to have a lot of fun and make the Mumbai audience, especially the young children, have a lot of fun as well!

ON: January 28, 11 am
AT: Sophia Bhabha Hall, Breach Candy.
CALL: 9870967601

Rajeev Raja

Also check out
It took Rajeev Raja 25 years of slogging it out as an advertising copywriter to realise that it's time for a change. The flautist thus changed tracks and decided to dedicate all his time to his first love — music. That gave birth to the Rajeev Raja Combine, a Mumbai-based act that explores everything from jazz to world music. The band also comprises Chandana Bala (Carnatic vocals), Hitesh Dhutia (guitar), Karl Peters (bass), Rahul Wadhwani (piano) and Vaibhav Wavikar (drums), and they will be playing a gig at an Andheri watering hole that is also making a name for itself as a live music hotspot.

ON Tonight, 9.30 pm
AT: The Finch, Andheri East.
ENTRY: Rs 249

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First Published: 25 January, 2018 09:00 IST

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