RAJAT PRASANNA, the young flautist of the Benaras Gharana who is known for blending innovation and tradition in a unique yet pure way will perform at the eighth episode of the weekly series of WEBaithaks by Pracheen Kala Kendra.
The grandson of flute maestro Pt Raghunath Prasanna in conversation with Saurabh Tankha
Your relation with Pt Raghunath Prasanna as a teacher and a grandfather. And your relation with Pt Ravi Shankar Prasanna as a teacher and a father.
I began my formal training under the tutelage of my grandfather and father at six. Since then, the humble bamboo reed has been my constant companion. Although initially I started learning from my grandfather but he passed away when I was very young so I started learning from my father. I still learn the inner intricacies of Indian classical music from him even today. My grandfather was very innovative and improved upon the process of making bansuri. The bansuri made by him were easier to play at that time. In fact, he made some revolutionary changes to the instrument to make it more suitable for Indian classical music. Prior to this, flute was only confined to folk music in India. My father has been a source of inspiration and has been teaching music for the past 30 years. He has several bestselling books on music to his credit. I feel fortunate to be born in such a family of legendary musicians from the Benaras Gharana. It’s always helpful to have a guru available 24×7 to support and help overcome any difficulties.
How difficult is it to step out of the shadow of an illustrious father or grandfather?
It’s both good and bad. Emerging from a family’s name and creating your own identity is a little difficult. It’s good because you get a head start as people think you belong to this family so you must be good. But I do believe the success you get for your talent and hard work stays with you longer. Also, merely copying another musician doesn’t take you far. You need to work and create your own style. An artiste does not consult with the masses before deciding on what to create next. He doesn’t concern himself with what might be most popular or what might sell for the most amount of money. Someone with a true artiste’s soul, will create from the heart and that is how the artist reaches those who enjoy his work. Whether it’s an artistic or a practical plan. Everyone needs to create what feels right to them rather than guessing what others will want. Call on your muse, rather than the opinion of others.
Was picking up the flute out of choice or were you made to take forward the family tradition?
It was an easy choice to become a musician because of the influences I had since childhood. Everyone in my family is a musician and I am the eighth generation following the family traditions. We don’t treat it like a profession anymore, it’s a lifestyle. We need to learn to live like an artiste to call ourselves an artiste.
Would you want to play the same role as your grandfather and father — being a guru to your children?
I would love to play the same role but I would like them to choose whatever career path they want to go for. But I would want them to learn at least one art form as I believe it helps in shaping the personality of an individual.
Do events like the weekly WEBaithak by Pracheen Kala Kendra help people get closer to our country’s oldest forms of music?
I have been blessed enough to get several diverse opportunities, all through the years. But, for a classical artiste, sustainability is always a challenge. We need to upgrade ourselves with the changing times, make ourselves more accessible to the digital audience and be constantly connected with our fans. Through their online concerts, Pracheen Kala Kendra is helping to create just the right platform for it and I am honoured to perform under the banner.
Who has been the most inspirational person in your life and why?
“Something in everything and somebody in everybody. Even the chirping of a bird can inspire me to create a new music piece. A poem can inspire me to set music to it and turn it into a song. I can watch some other musicians play and that can inspire me to work harder on my own art. So anything can inspire me.
What is Rajat Prasanna doing when he is not playing the flute?
Probably playing grand strategy video games on my laptop.
What is success to you?
As an artiste, we are the cultural ambassadors of our country. Whenever after a performance the audience asks me about the raga I played or the content I just instead of asking or searching about me as an individual, is success to me. To create curiosity among others about the art form I am presenting is success. We just act as mediums. Many artistes tend to forget this.