Carnatic idol Vivrd Prasanna

Neha Kaul, A&E Editor

Cal High has a lot of talented musicians and singers, but only a few can call themselves award winning.

Sophomore Vivrd Prasanna can do just that. 

Prasanna is a singer of South Indian Classical music, also known as Carnatic music. 

Carnatic music evolved from and is greatly influenced from Hinduism and Indian Hindu culture and traditions. 

“The style is very distinct and has many aspects that no other style does,” said Prasanna.

Prasanna started performing at concerts when he was 13, but he started learning the craft at the age of four, over Skype from a professional musician, Neyveli Santhanagopalan.

“I discovered that Vivrd has an ear for music at a young age,” said Vidya Mahadevan, Prasanna’s mother.  

Through many video calls, Prasanna mastered his pitch, and the plenty oscillations between notes that the genre demands, known as sruti, swara, raga, and tala, in official Carnatic terms.

“He practices almost everyday, and almost all the time,” said Prasanna R. Narayanan, the singer’s  father. “He breathes music in and out.” 

Prasanna’s favorite song to sing is “Bhajare.” He performs this song along with many others who are amongst the best Carnatic performers at several festivals and showcases. 

The December Music Season festival in Chennai, India, is the biggest event at which Prasanna performs. He flies to India every winter to perform at the concert. 

Prasanna was crowned Carnatic Music Idol USA for the junior category in 2015. In the same year, he placed third at Cleveland Aradhana Festival’s concert competition, which he will be returning to in April.

 He has also participated at Osaat and Papanasam Sivan festivals. All these events are “high profile”, according to the Carnatic Times. 

Prasanna occasionally performs locally at Carnatic Chamber Concerts (CCC) in Milpitas at the Shirdi Sai Parivaar. Prasanna said that many religious places and temples will host events for him and fellow singers to perform at, as the music revolves around Hinduism and spirituality. 

The religious aspect is just one of the genre’s distinct traits.

“One of the hallmarks of South Indian Classical is that when we sing on stage a lot of the things we perform cannot be memorized or practiced beforehand,” said Prasanna. 

Prasanna said when he performs, there is always an accompanist on stage who plays a violin, tabla, or sitar. Alongside the singer, they stray from any planned music, getting creative and building upon the basic notes, complementing each other. 

“I love improvising on stage. It feels really nice to get inspiration from the accompanists,” said Prasanna. “It feels like we are having a musical conversation on stage.”

Mahadevan explained that Prasanna has always had a lot of music knowledge, which Prasanna said helps his craft.

“Lots of other genres don’t have improvisation on stage,” said Prasanna. “You see it in jazz and maybe a couple other genres, but you have to be reasonably skilled, musically, to be able to improvise.”

Prasanna has received acclaim and features from several programs and publications, such as the Hamsadhwani Carnatic Music Academy, Kalanjali, Carnatic World, Carnatic Times, and Brindavani, which revolve around the Indian arts and Carnatic music scene. 

Prasanna said he has been musically trained to fit South Indian Classical music, listening to it from a very young age. 

“I don’t want to branch out to any other genres,” said Prasanna. 

While he sings no other music, Prasanna has other musical talents. He plays the veena, an Indian string instrument, and the piano. 

Prasanna hopes to become a professional South Indian classical singer one day.

“We  will definitely support him whichever path he chooses to pursue,” said Narayanan.