Master bamboo flautists combine with two of India's great percussionists for a memorable concert at the renowned Saptak festival
Hariprasad Chaurasia – Flute
Rakesh Chaurasia - Flute
Vijay Ghate – Tabla
Bhavani Shankar - Pakhawaj
1 Alap 21.42
2 Jorh (with Pakhawaj) 15.44
3. Jhalla 6.13
4 Gat in Rupak taal 24.20
1 Alap 4.37
2 Gat in Teentaal 15.15
3 Drut Teentaal 19.37
4 Raag Pahadi 14.36
Hariprasad Chaurasia's story is a remarkable tale of a how a young boy groomed by his family to be a wrestler, through unwavering devotion and single-minded determination came to be the greatest living master of the North Indian bamboo flute. His contribution to the global popularisation of the Bansuri is unparalleled, and well into his seventies, he remains a prolific performer giving consistently high quality, captivating performances worldwide. Fortunately for Indian music lovers, Hariprasad Chaurasia has also committed himself to the continuation of excellence through his many students and disciples, the finest of which, his nephew, Rakesh Chaurasia, is featured alongside his mentor and guru in this recording of a memorable performance at the 2008 Saptak Festival, in Ahmedabad, Gujarat.
It's hard to think of any Indian music awards or accolades which haven't been bestowed upon Hariprasad Chaurasia. He is the only flautist awarded 'Padma Vibhushan', also known as the 'Living National Jewel' by the Indian government. Furthermore, he is probably the most recorded musician of all time with scores of vinyl, cassette and CD releases documenting a prolific career.
As a young aspiring musician the vibrant musical environment of his hometown Allahabad, provided him access to some of India's finest musicians. His early vocal training with Pandit Raja Ram proved an invaluable tool, bearing a profound influence on his evolving style. He was first drawn to the flute after hearing a performance by Pandit Bhola Nath from Varanasi. His long hours of practice soon paid off with his first job in music at All India Radio in 1957 when he was just eighteen years old.
After moving to Bombay in the sixties to pursue a career in the lucrative Indian film music industry, he was introduced to Baba Allaudin Khan, guru of Ravi Shankar, who took an instant liking to his music. He suggested a period of intensive training with his daughter and disciple Smt. Annapurna Devi, an enigmatic and highly knowledgeable sitarist who prepared the young virtuoso for a lifelong performing career in Hindustani Classical Music. The journey has been in no way a straightforward or smooth path, but the result is a unique musician who has brought immense pleasure to thousands of
listeners over many years.
In Hindu mythology the flute, or Venu, is synonymous with Lord Krishna, whose divine
music is said to have hypnotised his devotees, otherwise known as gopis. The Indian
bamboo flute is one of the most simple instruments in the world and possibly one of
the oldest too. Made from a single piece of hollowed out bamboo it usually consists of
one blowing hole and six fingering holes. The wood is taken from jungles in the Indian
states of Assam or Kerala. The bansuri can vary in length according to the desired tonal
range; basically, the longer the flute, then the deeper the pitch. Pandit Hariprasad
Chaurasia plays several varieties of bansuri but his favoured instrument for classical
recitals is approximately 30 inches in length and uses E (Sa) as the tonic note.
Pannalal Ghosh is rightly credited as the first flautist to develop a classical repertoire
in India in the mid-twentieth century. However, Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia has taken
the instrument to whole new heights with a series of modifications designed to
improve its tonal qualities making it particularly effective in producing typical Indian classical music effects such as meend (glide) and gamak.
Rakesh Chaurasia started training with his uncle from the age of seven and has accompanied him the world over since the age of thirteen. As well as establishing himself as a top performing classical artist he is particularly in demand with Indian film directors who have featured his playing in several Bollywood blockbusters.
Vijay Ghate is is considered to be one of the most outstanding tabla players in the modern era of North Indian music. Based in Mumbai, he is an innovative and versatile performer who has been a regular accompanist of all the major instrumentalists, singers and dancers of North India.
Bhavani Shankar is the most well known Pakhawaj player in India today. His mesmerising performances with Shakti, alongside Zakir Hussain and John McLaughlin, have made him one of the most sought after percussionists in the world.
Raag Jog has gained great popularity with musicians and audiences only in the last fifty years and has become a particular favourite with Hariprasad Chaurasia. Its use of both major and minor third gives it a distinctive 'bluesy' feel. This concert, recorded at the Saptak Festival January 2008, begins with a traditional alap, an unmetered improvised prelude which sets the mood of the raag and explores its characteristic phrases in a systematic, yet highly poetical manner. Hariprasad's potent phrases are appropriately and skilfully complimented by nephew Rakesh throughout. The jorh section (track 2) is an extension of the Alap sequence with the introduction of a rhythmic pulse, in this case, played by Bhavani Shankar on the Pakhawaj, an ancient barrel shaped drum with an invigourating resonance.
Towards the end of the Jorh section, Bhavani Shankar is invited to play a flourishing improvised sequence before the introduction of the fast tempo Jhalla, played as an exciting finale of the Alap. The use of percussive accompaniment for Jorh and Jhalla in North Indian classical music is not common, but is a recent and welcome innovation in performance adding a new dimension.
Gat is the most common word used for the instrumental composition, here performed to a seven beat rhythmic cycle on tabla known as Rupak. Throughout the performance there is natural rapport between the two flautists, never unduly encroaching on each other's space.
Hemavati is a râgam in South Indian classical music which has recently been adopted by players in the North. It is the 58th Melakarta râgam in the 72 melakarta râgam system of Carnatic music. It is also the name of a river in the southern state of Karnataka. It is one of several South Indian raags which have made a successful transition into the Northern repertoire, others include Hansadhwani, Charukeshi and Kirvani. The word Hemavati literally means, 'that which possesses gold'.
The performance concludes with a rendition of Pahadi, a folk based melody, evocative of the Kashmiri valleys and mountains. Lively accompaniment is provided by both tabla and pakhawaj using a 6 beat rhythm known as dadra. Pahadi is a huge favourite for Hariprasad Chaurasia's fans, allowing for the skilful use of incidental notes for aesthetic effect. The two maestros even manage to incorporate some gorgeous harmonic phrases in the bargain!
Notes: © John Ball
(John Ball is based at the University of Sheffield)
SENSE WORLD MUSIC
93 Belgrave Road,
Tel: +44 (0)116 266 7046
Fax: +44 (0)116 261 0480