Flying Under the Radar: Biennial of the Arts    Rio de Janeiro x San Francisco

Prasant Radhakrishnan : Music

Link: Website

Prasant Radhakrishnan is a versatile saxophonist steeped in both South Indian Classical (Carnatic) and jazz disciplines. The unique vocal texture of his sound on saxophone, noted for its expressive complexity and rhythmic ingenuity, reflects Prasant’s continued study of tradition, constant innovation, and vast concert experience over the past fifteen years.

The foremost disciple of Carnatic saxophone pioneer, “Padmashri” Dr. Kadri Gopalnath, Prasant began developing his music over the course of nearly a decade of intensive musical training under his guru, much of which took place in the traditional gurukulam format of complete immersion. Waking at 5am each morning in his teacher’s home and practicing through the day under his guidance, Radhakrishnan was initiated into the world of Carnatic music in a format seldom available today in India, much less in his native Arizona.  The rigor of this training, followed by the privilege of accompanying his teacher on stage in hundreds of concerts in subsequent years, fostered a deep understanding of Carnatic music.

In his solo Carnatic endeavors during those years, he has had the privilege of performing with luminaries such as M.S. Anantharaman, Guruvayur Dorai, Mannargudi Easwaran, Srimushnam Raja Rao, Poovalur Srinivasan, V. Suresh, B. Rajashekar, as well as superstars of the younger generation such as B.U. Ganeshprasad, P. Satishkumar, Embar S. Kannan and Delhi P. Sunderrajan, among others. At age 17, Prasant released his first album, Swara Sudha (2000), featuring some of the most respected names in Carnatic music.

After Prasant’s move to the Bay Area in 2005, he founded VidyA. VidyA has emerged with a soulful, penetrating sound that pushes the labels of “fusion” or “world music” by merging the virtuosity of jazz with the melodic and rhythmic nuance of Carnatic music. In VidyA’s music, Prasant’s multi-layered compositions infuse the classic jazz sounds of bass, drums, and saxophone with unusual melodic richness. Named among the top jazz acts by the San Francisco Chronicle, VidyA’s seamless hybridity forges new ground in the American jazz scene and serves as a liaison between the worlds of jazz and Indian classical music. 

Since then, Radhakrishnan has established himself as an exciting Bay Area artist known for blurring musical boundaries while steeped in traditional roots. In 2009, Prasant was commissioned by the de Young Museum Cultural Encounters Initiative and Intersection for the Arts to create and perform original work based on a piece of art in the museum, resulting the VidyA composition “Turbulence, Transcendence.” De Young called upon him again in 2010 to perform an original concert commemorating the King Tut Exhibit combining Carnatic, jazz and Middle Eastern musics, in which he worked with Moroccan master musician Rachid Halihal.

Prasant’s exceptional approach to his music and instrument has been witnessed in a diverse range of venues and locations around the world: from concert halls in India and jazz venues in Japan, to concerts, cultural festivals, and lecture demonstrations all over North America. Prasant has also lectured in several universities in the U.S., including U.C. Berkeley, UNC Chapel Hill, University of Chicago, and Wellesley among others.

“Prasant is redefining the way to play saxophone, and the way for us to listen to it.” (San Francisco Chronicle).