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Shiva Prasad

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Exclusive interview with the whistle wizard

Shiva Prasad

Whistle music is a rare and specialized art in the melodious world of music and Mr. Siva Prasad has mastered it to perfection, finding himself a prestigious place in the galaxy of enchanting musicians.

A gifted prodigy of Carnatic and Hindustani music on Whistle, Siva Prasad hails from a family of scholars in arts and sciences. He has had no formal initiation into the world of music nor dedicated instruction other than his own interest and enthusiasm for performing mus

ic through whistling. He had opportunities to attain guidance from legendary Carnatic Vocalist Dr. Mangalampalli Balamurali Krishna. His

meetings with the immortal Shehnai Maestro Ustaad Bismillah Khan inspired and rekindled in him the love and fascination for ‘Hindustani Music’. Added to this, the grammar and text of music imparted by the reputed flute vidhwan Sri N.S. Srinivasan has enriched his talent and made Mr. Sivaprasad... The Complete Artiste.

In our continuing series, Torchbearers of Art, we present an interview with this human whistle, Mukha Murali -- Sivaprasad!

Some excerpts...

Q. How did you come into this unique medium of music?

Answer : Right from childhood I used to hum tunes of all the devotional and classical music that were played at home. It was a hobby.

Q. So it never was a prechosen field of music?

Answer : How could it have been. There was no precedent set, something never thought of and whistling was something that you only used to tease girls with.

Q. So then what made you what you are today -- a whistle wizard?

Answer : It was a hobby appreciated by friends and peers that inspired me to take up seriously and train myself in the Carnatic mould. But first, humbly I recall every instance that it is but a gift of God. At the right moments in life I got opportunities that took me and placed me before great stalwarts like Balamurali Krishna who insisted that I continue the practise of Whistle when many whom I came across did not show much encouragement. My meeting with Ustaad Bismillah was what proved to be the most inspiring as in the respect and dignity that my talent beheld. Do you know that it was he who raised Shehnai single-handedly from an instrument of ridicule to that high position what it is today. It seems Shehnai was only used more for funerals. And to think what he achieved... that is great! Yes! I got my inspiration from that moment on.

Q. What do you think has been your singular achievement?

Answer : I have yet to achieve in that sense but going back I think I have achieved in turning a hobby into a high form of expression, to mould into the traditional style of classical music and today I can give a solo classical concert.

Q. Your brochure mentions a mindboggling 1000 concerts...

Answer : Yes and they have taken me to 18 countries of which one of my most cherished tours was the Festival of India held in Moscow, Russia in 1998. The government had picked some 500 artists form various fields among whom featured greats like M.S. Subbalakshmi and I feel greatly honoured that I was part of such an illustrious tour.

Q. Please tell us about your record in the Limca Book of Records.

Answer : In 1990 I released my first Long Playing Record entitled “Indian Classical Music on Whistle”, which is sort of never been done before.

Q. What kind of experience or feeling do you attach with whistling?

Answer : I practise regularly, 2-3 hours everyday and it is a form of meditation. It gives me immense satisfaction. Whatever I’m today is because...

Q. When did you give your first concert?

Answer : At the age of twelve.

Q. Tell us a moment of pure thrill during your musical career.

Answer : There are many incidents where I have felt proud of myself but recently only I will tell you of an incident that was really thrilling. After one of my concerts this gentleman from Bengal approached me and asked me whether I would be interested in giving a concert in Calcutta. I readily agreed and to my utter astonishment the event was named, I came to know on my arrival, “An evening with Shivaprasad -- The Whistle Wizard.” I assumed to be a part of some function and not the center of the evening itself! And Calcuttans, you know, being great lovers of music truly enjoyed the sense of variety that a whistle concert provides and when I rendered a Rabindra composition they all went wild and even I did not expect and that which was simply thrilling -- stood in ovation!

Q. What is your aim now after having already accomplished something unique?

Answer : To render the timeless compositions of all the great vagyayikaras down the history on a Compact Disk. There are many who felt that Classical music in the form of whistle proves very soothing and is a form a relaxation. So if somebody while driving down a busy road can relax himself with a thyagaraya keertana softly whistling... I think it will be a good idea.

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