Nisha Rathode (Editor)

R Prasanna

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Name  R. Prasanna

R. Prasanna wwwhinducomthehindufr20050916images200509
Role  Musician ·
Albums  Be the Change, Shakthi - The Omnipotent, Ra Rama
Similar People  Nitin Mitta, Mahathi, Vijay Iyer, Hariharan, Bhavatharini

Education  Berklee College of Music

Evergreen classicals on guitar r prasanna classical jukebox

Prasanna (also known as Guitar Prasanna), a pioneer in performing Carnatic music on the guitar—as well as skilled in playing and composing in genres such as jazz, progressive rock, and world fusion music.


Early life and background

Prasanna grew up in Chennai, India and fell in love with the guitar at age of five after hearing his neighbor play. He received his first guitar when he was ten years old and would try to play Tamil and Hindi film songs and imitate the sounds of his sister’s Carnatic singing with the instrument. Prasanna’s interest in Western pop music developed when his father’s colleague gave him some cassette tapes with songs by The Bee Gees, ABBA, Toto, Peaches and Herb, and the Pointer Sisters. “For a young boy growing up in pre-internet times in South India, such diverse musical exposure was magical, and I lapped it all up”.

At the same time, he was still enthralled by Indian film music. “The great Indian film composer Illayaraja, was my first big musical influence. I learned so much about Carnatic music, western harmony, counter point and rhythms and orchestration through his music. He continues to inspire me”. After studying basics with his first guitar teacher C.G. Shanmugaraj for a few months, Prasanna studied western music theory and standard guitar vocabulary from classical guitarist Thangadural Samuel for sometime. By now, Prasanna was equally serious about Carnatic music on the guitar and started charting a pioneering path for myself training in the traditional Guru Shishya approach with Carnatic vocalist Tiruvarur Balasubramaniam for 6 years and continuing his study for the last 26 years with legendary Carnatic violinist Sangeetha Kalanidhi A. Kanyakumari.

Prasanna was also a topper in school and his passion and excellence in Math and Science secured him an admission to India's most prestigious Engineering Institution - During his years studying naval architecture at Indian institute of Technology, Madras, he also established himself as one of India's most highly regarded young guitarists, touring the country India with his rock bands, covering songs by Santana, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Rush, Steely Dan, Jethro Tull, and Scorpions, and started getting recognition as a Carnatic artist at the same time. Prasanna's musical development led him into the blues and jazz traditions and many of its sister genres. After a brief stint as a software consultant, he gave up a promising career in engineering and IT, followed his passion and headed to Berklee College of Music in Boston where he majored in Jazz and Classical Composition, setting a stronger foundation for the ever-evolving palette of music from which he draws.

Today, Prasanna enjoys a reputation as a fearless innovator, earning worldwide praise not only for his expertise in performing the ancient and demanding art of Carnatic music on a contemporary western instrument - the electric guitar, but also for the special and instantly identifiable signature with which he blends Carnatic music with contemporary western and world music.


Prasanna received a Bachelor's degree in Naval Architecture from the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras in 1992. He also graduated magna cum laude from the Berklee College of Music, Boston.


Prasanna has several students in the Music Industry. In Guitar, his most notable students are Avyay, Shiam, Srivatsa, Praveen, Raghav, Gokul, Ayyappan, Andre Fludd, etc. In singing, some of his students include Shruthi, Ranjani Sridhar, etc.

Awards and achievements

  • Third place winner at 2014 International Songwriting Contest in Jazz category
  • Prasanna Composition ‘Falsehood’ featured in the 2013 book “Essentials of Jazz – the first 100 years’ –Third Edition by Henry Martin and Keith Waters
  • ASCAP Plus award 2012 for Film scoring
  • Voted one of the top 50 Creative Indians by Open Magazine, India in Aug 2010
  • Congratulatory citation from The President of India in recognition of work done as composer for the 2009 Academy Award winning documentary Smile Pinki
  • Finalist in ‘World music-Traditional’ category, 2006 Independent Music Awards presented by Atlas Music
  • Double Finalist in Jazz and Rock Instrumental categories, 2005 International Songwriting Competition
  • 2005 ‘Best Adaptation of Carnatic music on a foreign instrument’ Award presented by the Music Academy, Chennai, India
  • Lifetime Achievement Award in Carnatic music presented by H.H. Jayendra Saraswathi, Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam in 2003
  • 1999 Berklee College of Music Composition Achievement Award and Berklee College of Music Guitar Achievement Award for outstanding student accomplishment
  • Apna Ek Kal (Prasanna feat. Anuradha Palakurthi and Hariharan) - Single - theme song for NGO Ekal Vidyalaya

    Released Oct 23, 2016 by Shri. Prakash Javadekar, Union Minister for Human Resource Development

    Sunayana Kachroo - Lyrics, Prasanna – Composer, Producer, Acoustic guitars, Electric guitars, Vocals, Anuradha Palakurthi - Vocals, Executive Producer, Hariharan - Vocals, Children’s Choir - NSS Hill Spring International School and St. Xavier’s High School, Fort, Mumbai, Jay Gandhi - Flute, Ismail Lumanovski - Clarinet, Abhik Mukherjee - Sitar, Manu Koch - Piano, Fender Rhodes, Korg CX3 Hammond Organ, Steve Jenkins - Bass, Kenny Grohowski - Drums, T.S. Nanda kumar -Mridangam, Nitin Mitta - Tabla, A. Sivamani - Bells, Shakers, Tambourine, Triangle, Daf, Kanjira, Ghungroo, Mixed by Elliot Scheiner, Mastered by Bob Ludwig

    All Terrain Guitar – Susila Music, Release date – Aug 5, 2016

    Prasanna – electric and acoustic guitars, Shalini Lakshmi and Natalie John – vocals, Dave Douglas – trumpet, Rudresh Mahanthappa and David Binney – alto sax, Vijay Iyer – piano, Mike Pope – acoustic and electric bass, Bill Urmson – electric bass, Rodney Holmes and Mauricio Zottarelli – drums

    Live in Sedona (DVD) – Susila Music, 2009

    Prasanna – electric guitars, konnakol, Poongulam Subramanian- mridangam, S. Karthick – ghatam, morsing, konnakol, Bangalore Amrit – kanjira, konnakol

    Electric Ganesha Land – Susila music, 2006

    Prasanna – electric guitars, electric bass, konnakol, Haridwaramangalam A. K. Palanivel – thavil, Prapancham Ravindran- mridangam, S. Karthick – ghatam, morsing, konnakol, B.S. Purushotham – kanjira, konnakol, Papanasam Sethuraman – kanjira

    Ra Rama (Carnatic) – Kosmic music (India), 2005

    Prasanna – electric guitar, Haridwaramangalam A. K. Palanivel – thavil, J. Vaidhyanathan – mridangam, S. Karthick – ghatam

    Be the Change – Susila music, 2004, Carbon7 records (Europe and Japan)

    Prasanna – electric guitars, acoustic guitars, vocals, Victor Wooten – electric bass, Alphonso Johnson – electric/acoustic bass, Jeff Coffin – tenor sax, soprano sax, clarinet, bass clarinet, flute, alto flute, Shalini – vocals, Andy Suzuki – tenor sax, alto sax, clarinet, bass clarinet, flute, alto flute, acoustic piano, Ralph Humphrey – drums, Derico Watson – drums

    Peaceful – Susila music, 2001

    Prasanna – electric guitar, acoustic guitar, 12 string acoustic guitar, vocals, keyboardss, synth/drum programming, Keith Peters – bass, J. Vaidhyanathan – mridangam, Karthick – ghatam, Chandrasekhar – additional synth programming, Aravind – additional drum programming

    Shakthi – The Omnipotent – Music Today (India), 2000

    Prasanna – electric guitar, J. Vaidhyanathan – mridangam, S. Karthick – ghatam

    Natabhairavi – Inreco (India), 2000

    Prasanna – electric guitar, Haridwaramangalam A. K. Palanivel – thavil, Karthick – ghatam

    Apoorva Ragas on Guitar – Kalakendra (USA), 2000

    Prasanna – electric guitar, Poovalur Srinivasan – mridangam

    Echo – Saican (Canada), 2000

    Original arrangements of Sai bhajans on guitar. Prasanna – electric guitar, Madhu – tabla, assorted Indian percussion

    Roots – Sangeetha/HMV (India), 1997

    Prasanna – electric guitar, Embar Kannan – violin, K.V. Prasad – mridangam, B.S. Purushothaman – kanjira

    Guitar Indian Style – Oriental Records (USA), 1996

    Prasanna – electric guitar, Embar Kannan – violin, Srimushnam Raja Rao – mridangam, Karthick – ghatam

    Spirit of Youth (Carnatic) – Saragam (India), 1993

    Prasanna – guitar, Madurai Balasubramaniam – violin, Poongulam Subramaniam – mridangam, Subhash Chandran – ghatam

    Vibrant Aesthetics – Inreco (India), 1993

    Prasanna – guitar, Sikkil Bhaskaran – violin, Triplicane Shekar – thavil, Subhash Chandran – ghatam, Ganesh Kumar – kanjira, Raman – morsing

    Evergreen Classicals on guitar – Keerthana (India), 1993

    Prasanna – guitar, Meera Sivaramakrishnan – violin, Tanjore Subramaniam – mridangam, Subhash Chandran – ghatam

    Evergreen Melodies on guitar – Keerthana (India), 1993

    Prasanna – guitar, Meera Viaramakrishnan – violin, Tanjore Subrmaniam – mridangam, Subhash Chandran – ghatam

    Guitar goes Classical – Audio Fine (India), 1993

    Prasanna – guitar, T.K.Padmanabhan – violin, Tanjore Subramaniam – mridangam, T.D.Balu – ghatam

    Million Dollar Arm – Score and Sound track

    Produced by Walt Disney productions and Directed by Craig Gillespie. Walt Disney Records, 2014

    A.R. Rahman – composer, primary artist, cocals, Matt Dunkley – orchestration, Prasanna – electric guitar, Asad Khan – sitar, Gaayatri Kaudinya – Vocals, Nick Glennie-Smith – choir, Neeti Mohan – backing vocals, T.R. Krishna Chetan, Ishaan Chabra – programming

    The Hundred Foot Journey – Score and Soundtrack

    Produced by Steven Spielberg/Oprah Winfre/Juliet Blake and Directed by Lasse Hallstrom. Hollywood Records, 2014

    A.R. Rahman – composer, primary artist, Vocals, Gaayatri Kaudinya, Shalini Lakshmi – Vocals, Prasanna – electric guitar, classical guitar, Peter Calo, George Doering – guitars, Matt Dunkley – orchestra conductor, Henry Hey – piano, Chinna Prasad – tabla, Naveen Kumar – flute, Asad Khan – sitar, Ishaan Chabra – programming

    A R Rahman featuring Ustad Ghulam Mustafa Khan, Farah Siraj & Ani Choying, Rayhanah & Issrat Quadhri, Prasanna, Sivamani – Sony Music India, 2013

    MTV Coke Studio

    A.R. Rahman – Piano, keyboards, Harpejji, Continuum keyboard Ustad Ghulam Mustafa Khan, Farah Siraj, Ani Choying, Sushmita Das, Rayhanah, Issrat Quadhri, Blaze – lead vocals, Prasanna – electric and acoustic guitars, Sivamani – drums and percussion, Kevin Doucette – piano, Keba Jeremiah – acoustic guitar and many other musicians

    Tirtha – ACT Music+Vision (Germany), 2011

    Vijay Iyer – piano, Prasanna – electric guitar, Nitin Mitta – tabla

    Ragabop Trio – Abstract Logix (USA), 2010

    Steve Smith – drums, George Brooks – tenor/alto sax, Prasanna – electric, acoustic guitars

    Aka Moon “Guitars” – De Werf (Belgium), 2002

    Fabrizio Cassol – alto sax, Prasanna – guitar, David Gilmore – guitar, Pierre Van Dormael – guitar, Michel Hatzigeorgiu – bass, Stephane Galland – drums

    Lagaan, Sony Music, 2001 – With A.R.Rahman

    String Orchestra for title track arranged and conducted by Prasanna

    Summa cum Jazz – BMG (USA), 1999

    The Berklee College of Music Guitar Album, Vol. 2

    Featured Guest

  • Mantra Revealed – Marc Rossi, Innova records, 2012
  • Inner Duality – David Hines, Spice rack records, 2009
  • Hidden Mandala- Marc Rossi, Gravity records, 2008
  • The Music Messiah- Illayaraja, Agi music, 2006
  • Moving – Tony Grey, 2004
  • Apfelschaun- Ben Schwendener/Uwe Steinmetz, Gravity Arts, 2003
  • Peace in Progress – Manisha Shahane, 2003
  • Play by Ear – Deep C, 2002
  • Partial list of recordings for Indian Films

  • 'Kochadaiyan’ soundtrack (Tamil) – A.R. Rahman, 2014
  • ‘Highway’ soundtrack (Bollywood) – A.R.Rahman, 2014
  • ‘Essaye Moi’ soundtrack (French) – Pierre Van Dormael, 2006
  • ‘Mumbai Express’ soundtrack (Tamil) – Illayaraja, 2005
  • ‘Ghajini’ background score (Tamil) – Harris Jayaraj, 2005
  • ‘Swades’ soundtrack (Bollywood) – A.R.Rahman, 2004
  • ‘Dil ne Jisa apna kaha’ soundtrack (Bollywood) – A.R.Rahman, 2004
  • ‘Udhaya’ soundtrack (Tamil) – A.R.Rahman, 2003
  • ‘Ramanaa’ soundtrack (Tamil) – Illayaraja, 2002
  • ‘Nee Romba Azhaga Irukke’ soundtrack (Tamil) – Aravind/Jaishankar, 2002
  • ‘Lagaan’ film soundtrack (Bollywood) – A.R.Rahman, 2001
  • ‘Grahan’ film background score (Bollywood) – Karthik Raja, 2001
  • ‘Dumm Dumm Dumm’ soundtrack (Tamil) – Karthik Raja, 2001
  • ‘Vanchinathan’ soundtrack (Tamil) – Karthik Raja, 2001
  • ‘Pukar’ soundtrack (Bollywood) – A.R.Rahman, 2000
  • ‘Split Wide Open’ soundtrack (English) – Karthik Raja, 1999
  • ‘Harischandra’ soundtrack (Tamil) – Agosh, 1999
  • ‘Enn Swasa Kaatre’ soundtrack (Tamil) – A.R.Rahman, 1998
  • ‘Jeans’ soundtrack (Tamil) – A.R.Rahman, 1998
  • ‘Kizhakkum Merkkum’ soundtrack (Tamil) – Illayaraja, 1998
  • ‘Zor’ soundtrack (Bollywood) – Agosh, 1998
  • ‘Nam iruvar namakku iruvar’ background score (Tamil) – Karthik Raja, 1998
  • ‘Kadhala Kadhala’ soundtrack (Tamil) – Karthik Raja, 1998
  • ‘Ullasam’ soundtrack (Tamil) – Karthik Raja, 1996
  • ‘Lovebirds’ soundtrack (Tamil) – A.R.Rahman, 1996
  • ‘Muthu’ soundtrack (Tamil) – A.R.Rahman, 1995
  • ‘Puthiya Mugam’ soundtrack (Tamil) – A.R.Rahman, 1992
  • Films

  • Composer of original score for Megan Mylan’s short film After my garden grows (2014)
  • Composer of original score for Ian McDonald’s documentary film Algorithms (2012)
  • Composer of original score for Balaji Sakthivel’s Indian National and Filmfare Award-winning feature film in Tamil Vazhakku Enn 18/9 (2012)
  • Composer of original score for Megan Mylan’s 2009 Oscar Award-winning documentary film Smile Pinki
  • Composer of original score for Chetan Shah’s documentary film ‘The Open Frame’ (2011) and English feature film Framed (2007)
  • A Story and a Song

    For alto saxophone, voice, spoken word, guitar, carnatic, Indian folk and western percussion | Boston University Dance Theater, Boston, MA, United States, July 20, 2007 (US premiere) | Commissioned by Navarasa Dance Company, Somerville, MA | Aparna Sindhoor, choreographer

    The Tempest

    For string orchestra, string quartet, two guitars, two voices, bamboo flute, carnatic percussion | Everest Theatre, Seymour Centre, Sydney, Australia Aug 4, 2004 (premiere) | Commissioned by Lingalayam Dance Company | Astad Deboo, choreographer

    DNA in Dance - Story of DNA through Indian Classical Dance

    For string quartet, female voice, synthesizers, FX loops, electric guitars, carnatic percussion | Tufts University, Medford, MA, United States, Sept 5, 2004 (premiere) | Commissioned by Ranjani Saigal and Tufts University | Kausalya Srinivasan and Ranjani Saigal, choreographers


    For soprano voice, flute, oboe, violoncello, harp, two guitars, carnatic voice, veena, violin, carnatic percussion | Queen Elizabeth Hall, London, UK Sept 14, 2001 (premiere) | Commissioned by Institute of Fine Arts, London, UK | Maresa Moglia and Krishnaveni Lakshman, choreographers


    For guitar, synthesizer, voice, violin, bamboo flute, carnatic percussion | Museum Theatre, Chennai, India Feb28, 1997 (premiere) | Commissioned by Padmini Chettur; Padmini Chettur, choreographer


  • Established Swarnabhoomi Academy of Music (SAM), South Asia’s largest college of contemporary Jazz, Rock and World music. Served as its President from inception until Feb 2014.
  • Faculty at the prestigious Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, Canada for international workshop in Jazz and Creative Music in May 2008
  • Lectures and clinics at Harvard University, Institute of Music at Osnabrück University, Berklee College of Music, MIT, Tufts University, New School in New York, University of Arizona, Utah State University
  • References

    R. Prasanna Wikipedia