Journey of Pt. Ajay Prasanna

Hailing from the holy city of Banaras, also known as the city of Kabir’s origin, Pt. Ajay Prasanna inherited the musical genes of his father and the great guru Pt. Bhola Nath Prasanna- who is also the guru of the greatest flute players of our nation- Pt. Hari Prasad Chaurasia. His strong roots in Indian classical music did not limit him to experiment with world music. A three- time grammy nominee for his excellent album collaborations with various artists from around the world, He has received the “Sangeet Ratna Award” by Swami Haridas Samiti, Vrindavan and “Surmani Award” by Surshringar Sansad, Mumbai. Ajay Prasanna has also received the honorable “Bharat Gourav Samman” by the Orissa Academy of Tribal Culture Research & Performing Arts. Pt. Ajay Prasanna worked on the music of Kabir for two years and the wait was worthwhile as he has kept the soul of Kabir in tact and also added new dimensions to the music in order to create a soulful sound that will reverberate with the listeners for long.

Question 1. When and how did your journey of music began?

Being born into a family of musicians, music was already all around when I came into this world. My father used to teach Indian classical music under Guru- Shishya Parampara where students stay with the Guru to learn the lessons of life, become great individuals and even better musicians. The students included stalwarts like Padma Vibhushan Pt. Hari Prasad Chaurasia. I would take a step up, sit at my window and listen all day to music. Picking up and playing the flute came very naturally to me at the tender age of 3.

Question 2. At the age of 6-7 years, you won the “ALL INDIA COMPETITION” from then till now , how was your journey?

Well, it has been quite a journey till now. I have been blessed to have such a great guru as my father Guru Pt. Bhola Nath Prasanna and blessed enough to have interacted and collaborated with the best of the bestest artists and human beings like Bharat Ratna Pt. Ravi Shankar ji- I had such a golden opportunity to play for him where he called me to play for him and his students at his Gurukul ; Padma Vibhushan Pt. Hari Prasad Chaurasia, Ustad Zakir Hussain; Ustad Sultan Khan and international artists like Sting, Alicia Keys etc. Music has changed, traditions have changed and main challenge today is to maintain the traditional approach to Indian classical music and side by side keep innovating as well, to keep it flowing around the world.

Question 3. Your father, was a great guru, who taught many musicians from the industry, was there some kind of pressure, knowing that people expect more than 100% from you?

I feel no pressure at all as my father has instilled upon us great sense of discipline, confidence, perseverance , patience, hard work, riyaaz, yearning to learn and lots and lots of musicality. He has always been there for us and guided us. That’s the beauty of Guru- Shishya Parampara- it is a holistic way of honing talents. Given his teachings, I always try to strive for better and better, it keeps me going without any pressure and insecurities!

Question 4. Share some memories with your father ?

When your father is also your guru then the latter takes a backseat. He was more of a Guru to his own children and was more like a father to his students. He would give them money, when in need, just like a father. He Would take care of every single person in the house and in the family. I mostly remember him discussing music in all the waking hours, while traveling, he would teach one or two nuances while at the station waiting for the train etc. Once I was doing my riyaaz while he was taking a bath and I heard him asking me aloud to play the note correctly from the bathroom itself. He was listening to my riyaaz while taking a bath. Such was his passion and love for music.. Of course, we had our share of fun- we would watch a classic movie every Sunday in the afternoon with the entire family sitting together! They were little joys and precious moments of life.

Question 5. You have performed not just in India but also internationally along with many different musicians, if asked to choose one best performance, which one would that be?

There are a number of international and national performances that are milestones in my life but if I have to choose one then it has to be at the Guru Bhola Nath Music Utsav – in the memory of my father last year, where I performed in front of Padma Vibhushan Pt. Hari Prasad Chaurasia, Padma Vibhushan Pt. Birju Maharaj, Padma Bhushan Pt. Vishwa Mohan Bhatt and to a jam packed audience on a weekday. The performance was really very special as I dedicated it to my father and guru and I could feel his presence around while playing. It was a surreal experience!

Question 6. What tips do you share with your students?

My only tip to students is to learn music properly, practice hard, listen to great artists and be patient.

a Nath Prasanna and blessed enough to have interacted and collaborated with the best of the bestest artists and human beings like Bharat Ratna Pt. Ravi Shankar ji- I had such a golden opportunity to play for him where he called me to play for him and his students at his Gurukul ; Padma Vibhushan Pt. Hari Prasad Chaurasia, Ustad Zakir Hussain; Ustad Sultan Khan and international artists like Sting, Alicia Keys etc. Music has changed, traditions have changed and main challenge today is to maintain the traditional approach to Indian classical music and side by side keep innovating as well, to keep it flowing around the world.

Question 3. Your father, was a great guru, who taught many musicians from the industry, was there some kind of pressure, knowing that people expect more than 100% from you?

I feel no pressure at all as my father has instilled upon us great sense of discipline, confidence, perseverance , patience, hard work, riyaaz, yearning to learn and lots and lots of musicality. He has always been there for us and guided us. That’s the beauty of Guru- Shishya Parampara- it is a holistic way of honing talents. Given his teachings, I always try to strive for better and better, it keeps me going without any pressure and insecurities!

Question 4. Share some memories with your father ?

When your father is also your guru then the latter takes a backseat. He was more of a Guru to his own children and was more like a father to his students. He would give them money, when in need, just like a father. He Would take care of every single person in the house and in the family. I mostly remember him discussing music in all the waking hours, while traveling, he would teach one or two nuances while at the station waiting for the train etc. Once I was doing my riyaaz while he was taking a bath and I heard him asking me aloud to play the note correctly from the bathroom itself. He was listening to my riyaaz while taking a bath. Such was his passion and love for music.. Of course, we had our share of fun- we would watch a classic movie every Sunday in the afternoon with the entire family sitting together! They were little joys and precious moments of life.

Question 5. You have performed not just in India but also internationally along with many different musicians, if asked to choose one best performance, which one would that be?

There are a number of international and national performances that are milestones in my life but if I have to choose one then it has to be at the Guru Bhola Nath Music Utsav – in the memory of my father last year, where I performed in front of Padma Vibhushan Pt. Hari Prasad Chaurasia, Padma Vibhushan Pt. Birju Maharaj, Padma Bhushan Pt. Vishwa Mohan Bhatt and to a jam packed audience on a weekday. The performance was really very special as I dedicated it to my father and guru and I could feel his presence around while playing. It was a surreal experience!

Question 6. What tips do you share with your students?

My only tip to students is to learn music properly, practice hard, listen to great artists and be patient.

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