Saturday, 22 September 2012

Generation Next

By KS Kalidas

Prasanna Venkataraman

Each year, the Carnatic music scene in Chennai is enriched by the arrival of a score or more of talented young musicians in the performance circuit. Many are from Chennai, while a few are from other parts of Tamil Nadu, and other States as well. Other countries too contribute their share.

Many of these young musicians are drawn from well-to-do middle class families; the legacy of successive generations of professional musicians has dwindled considerably. Many do not even have a family background in music. All of them pursue academics but have by themselves discovered the joys of music and have been hooked inexorably to it.

One such young vocalist is 26-year old Prasanna Venkataraman, originally from Mumbai, who graduated in engineering from that city. An only child of his parents, he started learning the basics at the age of six from his mother’s friend Seethalakshmi, mother of Bombay Jayashri. After about two years of coaching she took him to T.R. Balamani, a teacher par excellence who has trained innumerable youngsters over the years. Many of them are performing artists today. He was with her till 2005, when Chennai, the centre of Carnatic music beckoned him. He took up M. Tech. in electrical engineering in IIT Madras, and simultaneously enrolled with Sangita Kalanidhi T.K. Govinda Rao who had taught Balamani many decades earlier. Govinda Rao was therefore his natural choice for his further training, but the remarkable success of Sanjay Subrahmanyan as a leading performer also attracted him. He did not find it strange or impractical to be studying under two guru-s whose musical instincts were quite different. Govinda Rao did not raise any objection, even though his own training method is quite orthodox. Prasanna adds that much of his systematic learning comes from the maestro, while his interaction is often informal and sporadic with Sanjay who has a very busy concert schedule. Sanjay helps him to conceptualise music presentation in concerts.

As with many young musicians, Prasanna took many elements of music from his guru-s including their mannerisms! In fact, he had absorbed a whole lot of mannerisms of Sanjay, but during the past year and a half, he has consciously shed much of it.

His music is bright and oriented towards musical values. His voice cannot be said to be powerful but has a mellowness and he sings at a respectable 2-kattai pitch. He is good in the laya department, but does not indulge too much in its intricacies at the cost of rakti. He has a large store of compositions, around four hundred. He is now concentrating on adding more kriti-s of Dikshitar to his repertoire.

Prasanna works in a Chennai based company and manages to perform four or five concerts a month on the average. His mind is set on a purely professional career in music in the not too distant future. Meanwhile he wants to stabilize himself as a vocalist of merit.

Even while in Mumbai, he had won top prizes in competitions held by various sabha-s like the Shanmukhananda Sabha, Mumbai Tamil Sangam and Music Triangle, as also the Pandit Digambar Paluskar award, all in Mumbai, as well as sabha-s in Chennai and Kolkata. In Chennai, he has won prizes in Krishna Gana Sabha, the Music Academy (three in all, one in the ‘Spirit of Youth’ festival and the others during the music season), Hamsadhwani, and IIT Madras and received the title Isai Chudar from Karthik Fine Arts. He has performed in all the metros and many tier two cities in India.

If and when Prasanna makes up his mind to take up music as his sole profession, his future in the field is bound to be rosy.

(Reproduced from Sruti 306, March 2010)

1 comment:

  1. What an informative and interesting article. While reading it I thought of the wonderful four and a half months I spent in Chennai during the 2014 Music Season. I attended 256 concerts. Sometimes I attended four or five concerts in one day, at the Music Academy, from 9 AM to 9.30 PM! Quite a few concerts were excellent, some extraordinary, a few were average, also. But there were four memorable concerts during which I experienced “Ananda”, and I wept. One of those concerts was by Sri Prasanna Venkatraman: At the Ragasudha hall, Mylapore, on January 3, 2015.
    After singing a beautiful Kanada raga alapana, when he sang Sri Thyagaraj’s kriti Sukhi evvaro, at a slow tempo, tears flowed from my eyes. It is not often that I experience ananda at concerts these days, because the vocalists tend to sing kritis too fast to excite the rasikas’ minds. But we can experience ananda present in our jeeva only when the mind is calm, and not when the mind is excited. In other words, when our chanchala mind becomes nischala, we experience ananda. Sri Prasanna Venkatraman is an extraordinary, wonderful singer; he will be regarded as a great vocalist in the very near future, I have no doubt about it.
    Yesh Prabhu, Bushkill, Pennsylvania