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Prasanna-Gilmore Concert - A Mesmerizing Presentation

Ranjani Saigal

Guitar Maestro Prasanna and David Gilmore presented a guitar concert at the Peabody Essex Museum. The presentation was part of PEM’s India Week. Although it was only two guitar players in the concert, there was a diverse range of music that came out including carnatic music, jazz, reggae, blues, bluegrass, funk and a lot more. While the repertoire, original compositions of Prasanna and David Gilmore , some written expressly for this performance had a high degree of technical complexity, the audience was mesmerized by music which showcased several shades of emotions.

Listening to the music flow seamlessly between Carnatic and other styles of western music (a characteristic trait of Prasanna’s music) was a treat. Being a Carnatic music affectionado, my ears perked up when Prasanna wafted into Hamsadwani or Simendra Madhyamam. But for the rest I was just able to hear sounds and feel the music rather than understand its complexity.

The presentation began with a high-energy piece called “Ironically” that immediately drew the audience into the presentation. This piece was composed by Prasanna specifically for the PEM concert. “This is an up-tempo and funky piece in 5/4 written for two acoustic guitars, it explores the 'sama veda' three-note drone chant in a post-bebop jazz guitar harmonic chord changes. The melody subtly changes from a traditional carnatic raga 'Sarasangi' into avant-garde angular jazz lines and freely uses chromaticism and large scale intervals.” says Prasanna.

“Kaizen” composed by David Gilmore followed. The next piece started with some wonderful sounds mimicking the sounds of waterfall or gentle rain. One could identify the Carnatic motif in this piece called "Garuda" (another Prasanna composition) which perhaps got its name because it was entirely composed in the Ragam Garudadwani. Prasanna opened the next composition with “konnakol” (reciting pure rhythmic syllables) in Mishra Chapu Talam (of seven beats). Titled "Uncensored" , it is featured in his brand new CD 'Be the Change',

"Blues for Saraswathi", was based on Hamsadwani and Hamsanadham. “This is a composition that I wrote fourteen years ago during my college days at IIT” says Prasanna. David Gilmore played his own composition “Confluence” featured in his CD Ritualism. Prasanna used a special Guitar which was tuned in Carnatic style to play his composition “Gaza”. “I have tried to create a sonic imagery of the Palestine/Israel conflict through a dissonant carnatic raga 'Simmendramadhyamam' “ says Prasanna. While the conflict in Gaza did not come to mind while listening to the music, my ears enjoyed the rendition of Simhendramadyamam. David and Prasanna moved on to play “Dharma becomes Alibama” which Prasanna claims to be his “personal favorite”. The piece included some vocals by Prasanna. The concert concluded with "Reality Check" composed by David Gilmore. Prasanna and David explored some avant-garde improvisation over this and made it an interesting and contrasting exchange of ideas as a duo.

An expert Carnatic musician, with a passion and understanding of music styles like Jazz, Blues and Reggae Prasanna has been striving to take Carnatic music to a new dimension. Only time can judge the success or failure of his venture. But for those of us who braved the biting cold to make it to the concert, the music of Prasanna and Gilmore touched a chord within and warmed our souls. Even though the audience was small, both musicians put everything into the presentation. It was clear that these are very talented musicians and I am sure we will hear a lot more of them in the future.

To learn more about Prasanna, please visit his website at http://www.guitarprasanna.com.

To learn more about David Gilmore please visit his website at http://www.dgilmore.com.

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