The flute of Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia is one of the most tranquil instruments in our times, rich in texture, full of shine and melodious ecstasy. His flute expresses the most profound and unexpressed truths of the power and beauty of a raga, with boundless tenderness and appeal. When he begins a deeply moving raga, you are reminded why the Indian tradition has given the flute its magical properties. We recognize in its sound, candour and richness that is the very essence of the land. The internationally renowned exponent of Baansuri’, the bamboo flute believes that being associated with Lord Krishna the flute is the symbol of the spiritual call, the call of divine love. He says “Practice is my pooja (worship) and Sargams are my Mantras.”
Born in Allahabad in l938, Chaurasia surprisingly does not come from a long lineage of flautists His father was a wrestler who aspired for his son to follow in his footsteps. lt was a gain in disguise as the wrestling helped Chaurasia build stamina that helped him a great deal in playing flute, as’ the art require high level of energy. Music initially, he learned in secrecy, starting with vocal under Pt. Rajaram and flute under Pt. Bholanath of Varanasi. He was merely 18 year old when he got a job as staff art the All India Radio. He served at A.I.R Allahabad and Cuttak before he transferred to Mumbai, where additional exposure to performance.
His quest for excellence took him Annapurna Devi, the gifted daughter and disciple of the legendery Ustad Allauddin Khan under whose guidance he got his magic touch. He gave up the salaried job of A.I.R to pursue music as profession. This marked his steady rise to fame, both as a soloist and a versatile composer. Here he took off for the creative peak of his career by developing a style true to tradition and innovative too. He expanded the expressive possibilities of flute by evolving his own masterful blowing and fingering technique that allowed a tremendous control over ‘sur’ and ‘laya’ (melody and rhythm). The ability to produce microtones and maneuver the intonations of notes, marked his playing with his own characteristic signature.
A classicist by temperament and training, he is also modern in outlook and susceptible to new ideas. He has collaborated with world musicians like John Mclauglin and Jan Gaberek in experimental, cross cultural performances, including the fusion group ‘Shakti’. He has also successfully ventured into Film music direction with Pt. Shivkumar Sharma as Shiv-Hari for a number of films, one of which also scored a gold disc. Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia heads the World Music Department of Rotterdam Music Conservatory, Netherlands. He has performed throughout the world, winning acclaim from varied audiences and fellow musicians including Yehudi Menuhin and Jean Pierre Rampal.
Chaurasia's flute has an indubitable presence. The economy which Chaurasia adopted, gave to the raga an unusual distinction, tight and understated in feeling and form. Over a life time of performances he has become one of the most admired and popular musicians of our country. He has been honoured with many prestigious awards like the Central Sangeet Natak Academy award, Padma-Bhushan, Konaark Samman, Yash Bharati Samman and the Padma-Vibhushan to name just a few.
Pt. Chaurasia is also a dedicated Guru (teacher) with several disciples world wide, many of whom have made their mark on the concert stage. To create and inculcate love and appreciation for music from classical to Jazz and fusion, he has established ‘Brindavan’, a Gurukul for the youth, which is a constructive, disciplined, satisfying and a creative alternative to the culture of drugs and violence. Chaurasia says with satisfaction,"when my breath is gone and I can not play any more, what do 1 leave,behind? Some dedicated disciples and a modern Brindavan, from where a ‘thousand flutes shall ring out, like Krishna’s Brindavan! I dare to dream that through my playing and through my students, my flute will be left behind, as the memory of Krishna.”
Baansuri The Flute
One of the commonest of musical instruments of the world, flute is also the most ancient, belonging to the most primitive to the most sophisticated civilizations. Its foam is more or less same throughout the world and has remained unaltered during the course of human history. Amongst all the wind based instruments (Sushir Vadya) the flute has excellent acoustics, producing melodious sound.
In India flute is not just a musical instrument but a symbol. According to Hindu mythology it is the instrument of Lord Krishna. Peacock feather and flute immediately remind us of Lord Shiva. Compared only to the Veena of Saraswati and the Damaroo of Lord Shiva, the flute has held a mystic fascination for an Indian. It is the call of Krishna for his beloved Raadha, an analogy of human soul pining to unite with the Paramaatma, hence the human soul responds to the divine calling. Perhaps this is why the flute enjoys preeminence in the Indian consciousness.
The Indian flute made of bamboo is known as Baansuri. It has six finger holes and one blowing hole. There are two varieties of flute. The one used by musicians is transverse and side blown. It is held across the face of the player. Larger ones are used for playing the aalap and some times shorter ones for faster passages. The other type of flute is end blowing and is used only by children or street players. The flute is called by various names like Venu,Vanshi, Bansi, Murali apart from Baansuri.
The classical and semi-classical style of play the Baansuri’s derived from vocal music hence the earlier flautists like Pt Pannalal Ghosh used to play it in Khayaal-ang and used talas likeVilanbit Ektala and Jhoomara.However Pt.Hariprasad Chaurasia adopts the Tantrkaari ang with aalap jod and jhaala, used by Sitar and Sarod. This may be because of his mentor Annapurna Devi, who herself is an accomplished Sur-Bahaar and Sitar player. But he has also played the Dhrupad Ang aalap accompanied by Pakhaawaj and the Thumari , Dadra styles as part of his varied repertoire in these archival recording from the trove of Doordarshan.
Monsoon favourite, Raga Des originates from Khamaj Thaat. It leaves Gandhaar and Dhaivat swaras in the ascending order hence it belongs to Audav-Sampoorna Jaati that denotes five and seven swaras in ascending and descending order respectively. It’s Vaadi or dominant swara is Rishabh and Samvaadi is Pancham. This raga is quite akin to raga Sorath but the Rishabh in Avaroh, the descending order id used in a Vakra way in Des. Although the designated time of this raga is midnight but it is most popular during the rainy season.
Pt Hariprasad Chaurasia creates the mood of the raga with a short Aalap and plays a medium tempo composition set to Rupak tala of seven beats cycle, before proceeding to a faster composition in Drut Teen tala. Decorating it with fascinating Taan-patterns he concludes the raga with a pulsating Jhaala Rakesh Chaurasia has assisted his Guru on Baansuri with the same sonorous disposition.
Raga Maarwa originaris from the Maarwa Thaat itself. It uses Komal or flat Rishabh and Teevra or Sharp Madhyam with rest of the Shuddha swaras. Pancham being prohibited, the Jaati of this raga is Shadav-Shadav with six swaras in ascending and descending order, the Aaroh and Avaroh. The dominant Vaadi. swara is Komal Rishabh and Samvaadi Dhaivat. The time prescribed for this raga is the last quarter of the day. After this raga the time for the ragas of Kalyaan Thaat begins, hence it is also called the ‘Parmel-Praveshak’ raga, that facilitates entering the ragas of a different’ mel’ or that.
Chaurasia plays the introductory Aalap followed by a medium tempo composition set to Teen-Tala in this raga. He proceeds to the faster pace and concludes the raga with Jhaala.
Raga Yaman belongs to the Kalyaan Thaat, using a sharp i.e. teevra Madhyam along with rest of the shuddha swarass. The jati of this rags is Sampoorna - Sampoorna because it uses all the seven notes in Aaroh and Avoroh.The Vadi or the dominant swara of this raga is Gandhaar and the Samvaadi, Nishaad. This is the main or the Aashraya raga of Kalyaan Thaat and is performed in the first segment of the evening, just after the ragas of Maarwa Thaat as Chaurasia has thoughtfully done in this volume.
Creating the desired atmosphere with a soulful Aalap of the serene evening raga, Chaurasia has played two compositions in medium and fast paced Teen-tala that resemble the two most popular Bandishes of ragaYaman. His virtuosity is evident in the crystal clear Taans of various hues before the composition culminates in super fast Jhaala.
Raga Chandrakauns originates from Kafi Thaat, but since it is played totally with Malkauns ang, it would be perhaps more logical to put it under Bhairavi Thaat. The Gandhar, Madhyam and Dhaivat swaras are komal (flat),whereas Nishaad is Teevra ( Shuddha). Rishabh and Pancham are avoided totally hence its Jati is Audav-Audav i.e. pentatonic. Vaadi swara is Madhyam and Samvaadi, Shadja. Raga Chandrakauns is also a midnight raga. In fact it is just like Malkauns except for the unique use of the Teevra Nishaad that sets it apart.
Its a delight to see young Chaurasia playing raga Chandrakaus along with a younger Zakir Hussain accompanying him brilliantly on Tabala. The introductory aalap establishes the identity of the raga by weaving different note combinations around each swara, gradually proceeding towards Nishaad. The detailed delineation of the raga is carried out in a disciplined manner through Aalap Jod and Jhaa, exploring every possibility to elaborate the raga. Chaurasia has dealt this raga with extraordinary grace, Infinite delicacy and profound depth.
Dhun The lilting Dadara in raga Pahaadi serves the purpose of a sweet dish after the sumptuous main course.. The Benaarasi Andaaz of Kalinath Mishra on the Tabala, adds charm to the folk element of the mesmerizing Pahaadi especially during the concluding laggi in Kaherawa.
Devised & Designed by: Kamalini Dutt
Associates: Kali Prasad, Rohit Kausik
Translated by: Kali Prasad
Introduced by: Sonal Mansingh
Programme Notes by Manjari Sinha
Raga : Des
Raga : Marwa
Raga : Yaman
Raga : Chandrakauns