Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia, the internationally renowned exponent of the bansuri or bamboo flute, not come from a long lineage of flautists. His father was a famous wrestler who had aspiration of his son following in his footsteps.
The younger Chaurasia had an early love of music, and by the age of 15 was taking his first steps towards a lifetime as a performer by studying classical vocal with Pandit Raja Ram of Benares.
Soon after, he heard a flute recital by Pandit Bholanath and was so impressed he changed his focus to studying the flute. When he was just 19, he got a job playing for All India Radio, Cuttack, Orissa, and within five years he was transferred to Bombay. There he got the additional exposure of performing in one of India’s culture centers and also studied with Shrimati Annapurna Devi, daughter of Ustaad Allauddin Khan of the Maihar School of Music.
There he established the creative peak of his career, developing a style that was respectful of tradition, yet full of innovation. Over a lifetime of performances, Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia has become one of India’s most-respected classical musicians, earning several awards, including the National Award of the Sangeet Natak Academy, which he won in 1984.
In 1992, he was awarded the Padma Bhushan and the Konarak Samman and in 1994, he was bestowed the Yash Bharati Sanman. He’s also been bestowed with the Padma Vibhushan. He has collaborated with several western musicians, including John Mclauglin and Jan Gabarek, and has also composed music for a number of Indian films. He has performed throughout the world winning acclaim from varied audiences and fellow musicians including Yehudi Menuhin and Jean Pierre Rampal.
He heads the World Music Department at the Rotterdam Music Conservatory. He is one of the busiest and most sought after contemporary musicians in the world today.
The erstwhile Pt Pannalal Ghosh’s renditions were based on the Khayal style of Indian Classical Music. Pt Hariprasad Chaurasia inspired by the Dhrupad style of Vocal Music, introduced a completely new variant. He aesthetically incorporated the Alaap, Jod & Jhala based on the Nom Tom of Dhrupad singing. This led to a totally, new tonal quality and musical brilliance, mesmerizing audiences globally.
Pt. Chaurasia also set another new trend by playing compositions set to different Taala (rhythmic cycle). Most of his predecessors contained their performances mostly to only the Vilambit Ektaal.
Taking inspiration from the west, Pt Chaurasia was the first artist to develop the Staccato style and adapt the same to Indian Classical Music’s Jod & Jhala.
Pt Chaurasia’s musical prowess, shown greatly in his command over Classical, Folk, Fusion and Film music. He is one of the first Indian Classical artists to not only play for film music, but also compose! By working with a variety of music directors, he created a niche for Indian Classical Music in the world of film music.
The Bansuri, flute is one of the three original forms of rendering Indian Classical music according to ancient scriptures – Vaani (Vocal), Vena (String) and Venu (Flute). According to Hindu mythology, it is the instrument of Lord Krishna and is thus very popular for playing folk music.
Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia’s unique playing style, with his innovative fingering and blowing techniques has taken the bansuri to newer levels.
The Bansuri is a versatile instrument . It can easily produce all basic elements of Hindustani music variation such as meend (glide), gamak, kan. Versatile bansuri players also produce emotions in their music through variations in blowing style.
Maihar has a prominent place in Indian classical music as the birthplace of the Maihar Gharana, a gharna (school or style) of Hindustani music. The greatest doyen of Indian Classical Music, Ustad Allauddin Khan (died 1972) lived here for a long time and was the court Musician of Maihar Maharaja’s place; his students Shrimati Annapurna Devi (Aluddin Khan’s daughter), Pandit Ravi Shankar (Alauddin Khan’s son-in-law, Ustad Ali Akbar Khan (Alauddin Khan’s son), Ustad Aashish Khan (Alauddin Khan’s grandson), Ustad Bahadur Khan (Alauddin Khan’s nephew), Rabin Ghosh (Alauddin Khan’s student on violin) Pandit Pannalal Ghosh, Pandit Nikhil Banerjee (Alauddin Khan’s students) popularized the style in the 20th century.
Unlike other gharanas which remain closed-door, teaching freely with openness is a major preoccupation with the Maihar Gharana.
Several nuances of the veena came into sarod-baaj and later years saw the promotion of sitar, sur-bahar and sur-singer.
An extrodinary sur-bahar-sitar artist, Smt Annapurna Devi’s musical prowess is marked by a rare intensity and strictness. Flautists like Chaurasia and Nityanand Haldipur are some of her best products. Her metalanguage of teaching is very inclusive in nature but guided by search for excellence.
The Bansuri is a very simple instrument. Unlike string instruments, it does not need tuning once it is tuned by the flute maker. However, as Pandit puts it, it is Krishna’s instrument and the Lord has made it deceptively simple. To become adept in the bansuri, one needs many months of practice.
Pt. Hari Prasad Chaurasia’s dream of having a school based on the ancient Guru Shishya Parampara, came alive in the last decade of the last decade of the last century. Shri Rajeev Gandhi, the then Prime Minister of India, ensured a plot of land be made available to Pandit to pursue his dream. Once the land was allotted, the search began for a patron to help put up the physical structure. Mr.Ratan Tata stepped in and today, Brindavan Gurukul, one of Mumbai’s landmark buildings stands testimony to the belief Panditji had in the power of his dreams !
Brindavan Gurukul is a temple of music with the sound of the flute resonating through every brick. Panditji and his students reside here and music happens through the day. Even on days when Panditji arrives in the early hours of the morning after a grueling international flight back, the class meets regularly with Panditji enumerating of a jod or a jhala, as students thirsty for knowledge absorb every spoken syllable.
Panditji’s dedication to his role of a Guru, is mirrored in the number of concerts his students perform during the year. Most of them also participate at international music festivals, thus taking forward the Guru’s task of globalizing Indian Classical Music.
Raga Hansdhwani is a raga of South Indian Classical Music and it belongs to Bilawal Thaat. It is a raga of Audav Jaati. Its dominant or vadi swara is Sadaj. Some musicians consider Ghandhar as Vadi Swara. It is performed during the first part of night. Hari Prasadji is a accompanied deftly on flute by Rakesh Chaurasia.
The lilting notes of Pahari have been used with some freedom to evoke nature’s countless hues in music. This is a rare performance in which Hariprasadji uses both base flute and high pitch flute, echoing the tuneful bird noises.
Raga Baageshri belongs to the Kaafi Thaat, with the Gangadhar and Nishaad as Komal swaras and rest of them as Shuddha. Rishabh and Pancham are avoided during the Aaroh, the ascending order, while some avoid Pancham altogeather. The Vaadi swara is Madhyam and Samvaadi Shadja. The combination of Madhyam, Dhaivat and Nishaad adds beauty to the delineation of this raga.
Pt. Chaurasia presents a thorough elaboration of the midnight raga in a detailed Dhrupad style Aalap. Caressing each note with tender care, he creates a rainbow of swara combinations around each swara, not only with his fertile imagination but also with his poetic heart. The pivotal notes like Gandhaar, Madhyam and Nishaad are invoked with reverence till he reaches the verge of Taar Shadja. Listener’s intensified anticipation for the approaching swara gets an emotional fulfillment when he finally perches with a long breath on the long awaited destination.
Pt. Bhawaani Shankar joins him on the Pakhawaj when he climbs the jod sequence after outlining the Raga sketch with the traditional four part Dhrupad ang aalap. Playing in unison with the Pakhawaj for a long while, Chaurasia also gives Bhawani Shankar an opportunity to show his prowess on Pakhavaj in a solo stretch, like the Carnatic “Tani-Aavartanam”.
Pt. Chaurasia concludes his recital with a melodious Dhun in raga Pahaadi, where the delectable Tabala accompaniment by Zakir Hussain is a delight. The small Murali that Chaurasia shifts to, during the concluding Laggi sequence, brings the performance to a captivating climax.
Raga Bhairavi is the aashraya (main) raga of the Bhairavi Thaat. It belongs to the Sampoorna Jati because all the seven notes are used in this raga, where the Rishabh, Gandhaar, Dhaivat and Nishaad swaras are Komal or flat. At times all twelve notes are used by some of the expert musicians. The Dominant Vaadi swara is Madhyam and Samvaadi is Shadja. The prescribed time of this raga is morning but some take it to be Sarva-Kaalik that could be sung or played any time. This raga is especially popular with the light classical genres like Thumari-Dadara. Bhairavi is conventionally the concluding item of any concert.
Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia concludes this volume with the ‘sada-bahaar’(ever green) Bharavi. He starts with a melodious Dhun, set to the lilting Dadara theka, and brings out the delicate poignancy of the raga. In continuation follows a fast composition in Drut Teen-tala, looking resplendent with Chaurasia’s technical virtuosity. Vijay Ghate’s splendid Tabala support and Sunil Avachat’s sensitive assistance to his Guru enhances the beauty of the ‘Sada-Suhaagin’ Bhairavi.
Translated by : Kali Prasad
Introduced by : Sonal Mansingh
Devised & Designed by : Kamalini Dutt
Associates : Kali Prasad, Rohit Kaushik
Raga : Hansadhawani
Raga : Bageshree
Raga : Bhairavi