Stars Descend on Chennai
Prasanna getting down jazz biggies for residential performance workshop
In India, Western music is still considered more of a hobbyist pursuit than a serious discipline, and aspiring musicians have to step out of the country to gain professional expertise. Internationally acclaimed guitarist and Berklee grad R Prasanna intends to change things with the opening of the Swarnabhoomi Academy of Music, in Chennai next year. The institute will be India’s first full-fledged music college catering to contemporary music. “We have thousands of musicians in India who play contemporary music, but they don’t have a place where they can study and get access to accomplished professionals. This is something that’s been on my mind for about ten years now,” says Prasanna.
This month the guitarist offers a teaser of the same with a four day residential music performance workshop, “Unlock Your Potential,” to be held on the 77-acre nature reserve of Tapovan, some 80 km from Chennai. With a star-studded faculty featuring guitarists Prasanna and David Gilmore (played with the likes of Wayne Shorter, Joss Stone, Trilok Gurtu, Steve Coleman), bassist Mike Pope (played with Chick Corea and the Elektric Band, Al Di Meola Band, Michael Brecker) and drummer Rodney Holmes (8-time Grammy Award winning drummer of Santana, Joe Zawinul, Wayne Shorter, Brecker Brothers,) this workshop would be a first of its kind in India. “These are not just a bunch of superstar musicians who are going to throw their weight around. I don’t want my students to be starstruck; they have to learn something. Other than the fact that they are great musicians, they are very patient individuals which is very important in this case,” says Prasanna, who is expecting a turn-out of at least forty students.
Prasanna, offering an unconventional yet disciplined approach, says, “We are going to tackle the dynamics that go into making a band. It’s a performance-based workshop and emphasis will be laid on playing with other musicians. We will have one-on-one sessions with the faculty, which would be a very rare opportunity for musicians. We will also make sure that the guitar player takes a lesson from the drummer, and so on. If one is able to put himself in the drummer’s perspective, he would be able to gain some valuable insights.” The students will be living on site and recitals would be key to this learning experience. The workshop will conclude with a concert featuring the four faculty members.