Backtracks: Prasad’s passion for religious songs

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Bhajan singer Patrick Prasad at his home in Korovuto, Ba. Picture: REINAL CHAND.

Patrick Prasad’s love for music started at a very young age.

Prasad, reputed to be one of Fiji’s most prominent bhajan singers, says his thirst for spiritual knowledge and traditional music has led him a long way.

“I first started singing kirtan when I was in Year 6 in my village mandali, and at that time I didn’t even know how to play the harmonium,” he says.

Back then, the Ba-born bhajania listened to kirtan sung by kirtan icon Anil Kumar.

“I used to hear his kirtan that came in cassettes and write the lyrics down in order to memorise them,” Prasad says.

“Slowly, I learnt how to play the harmonium from another artist named Ajendra Pandey.”

At 14 years of age, Prasad could read the holy book of Ramayana.

“At that time, I knew only two or three bhajan and once more prominent bhajan singers started coming to our mandali, I took a keen interest in learning more about bhajan,” he recalls.

He says that in his early days as a bhajania, not many people believed in him and he wasn’t given many opportunities to showcase his growing talent.

Then he was introduced to the music of Michael Chand Mahabir.

“Once, as I was walking beside a Procera Music outlet, I heard the legendary bhajania Michael Chand Mahabir.

“I quickly bought a couple of his cassettes, went straight home and listened to them. But still, I had limited knowledge of the various styles and correct order of singing bhajan.”

Prasad says that as time went by, the good word-of-mouth spread and people in his community and surrounding villages also learnt he could sing bhajan as well.

“I even sang for free at many events to boost my confidence and gain more experience,” he adds.

Along the way, he sang alongside another bhajan singer, Pundit Shiu Ram Sharma, who lived in Lautoka but had been born in India.

“Pundit Sharma was very knowledgeable, and I couldn’t match his in-depth knowledge of different forms of vistaar bhajan.

“I stayed with him, and he gave me a lot of bhajan related books to read. I owe a lot to him for guiding me when I was a nobody.”

Prasad, who also claims to be a beneficiary of the knowledge of bhajania Satendra Kumar, has done many bhajan shows in Australia and New Zealand.

“There are lots of different forms of vistaari bhajan such as Rama Avatari, Krishna Avatari, Shiv Avatari and more.

“I have good knowledge of Hansa vistaar which describes the soul.”

In the meantime, Prasad rates bhajan legend Ashok Kumar as one of the best bhajan singers in the country.

“He is a legend and is very well respected in the bhajan fraternity because he still has such love and discipline towards bhajan.”

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