Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia Talks About His First Flute, First Concert, His Mother and His Incredible Life Journey

Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia performing at Regis College (Photo: Neil Pandit.)
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WESTON, MA—Yes, flute maestro Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia came, entertained, mesmerized and won the hearts of hundreds of Bostonians during a two-hour non-stop performance at Regis College’s packed 650-seat auditorium on Nov. 18.

The next day, the 79-year-old maestro sat down with INDIA New England News, and talked about the first flute he had bought in a mela when he was 9, the first concert he gave at age 11 and then about his mother, whom he had lost when he was only five. At 79, Pandit Chaurasia still misses his mother because he says there was no one whom he could go and tell about what he has accomplished.

To watch the full interview, please click here.

His performance at Regis College in Weston, MA, mesmerized the audience. He started with raga Marubihag, the main raga of the evening. It was followed by raga Jog and then raga Hansadhwani. He ended the concert with a dhun (folk tune) in raga Pahadi that literally transported the audience to foothills of Himalaya.

Pandit Subhankar Banerjee  gave a half an hour masterful solo performance on the Tabla before Pandit Chaurasia’s flute recital.

“Pandit Chaurasia’s performance was replete with melodic beauty which engulfed the listeners for two hours befitting a legendary maestro like him,” said Pradeep Shukla, founder of Waltham, MA-based LearnQuest Academy of Music.

Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia performing at Regis College (Photo: Neil Pandit.)

The program was organized by Radio MusicIndia, a weekly radio show, in collaboration with LearnQuest Academy. The radio show is hosted every  Sunday from 11 am to 12 pm at WLYN 1360AM by the hosts Sanjay Jain, Syed Ali Rizvi, Anuradha Palakurthi and Shukla.

After the main raga, Pandit Chaurasia interacted with the audience and asked what ragas they would like to listen, and last couple of ragas he played following the audience choice.

Shuchita Rao, one of the Boston area musicians, said: “It was a soul stirring concert. It was a treat to see Pandit Chaurasia’s disciple Jay Gandhi support him on flute so beautifully.”

Gandhi grew up in in Connecticut and has learned flute with Pandit Chaurasia in India for more than 10 years.

Pandit Chaurasia is known for his outstanding contribution in popularizing Indian Classical Music all over the world.  His consummate artistry has distinguished him as the greatest living master of the North Indian Bamboo Flute, acclaimed both at home and abroad.

Born on July 1st, 1938 in Allahabad, India, he began his musical pursuit at the age of 15, learning classical vocal technique from Pandit Rajaram.  Within a year, however, he had switched to flute playing, after hearing Pandit Bholanath, a noted flautist from Varanasi.  He tutored under Pandit Bholanath for eight years.  In 1957, barely out of his teens, he became regular staff artiste of All India Radio, Cuttack in Orissa, where he worked as performer as well as a composer.  From here began his musical journey that took him all over the globe, according to his official biography on his website.

Since early 1960s, Pandit Chaurasia has been performing nationally and internationally winning acclaim from varied audiences. He tours regularly in the US and Europe and is a featured artiste in almost all major music festivals around the globe.

“As a musician Pandit Chaurasia is a rare combination of an innovator and a traditionalist.  He has significantly expanded the expressive possibilities of classical North Indian flute- playing through his masterful blowing technique and his unique adaptation of alaap and jod to the flute,” according to his bio. “Pandit Chaurasia’s horizons also extend beyond North Indian Classical music to Indian folk and popular music and to western music as well.”

He has composed music for many Indian films. The famous “Silsila” which he collaborated on with Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma was a platinum disc in India, and the musical duo Shiv-Hari went on to compose soulful music for many successful movies like Lamhe, Chandni, Faasle, Parampara, Sahibaan and Darr.

His experimental album “Eternity” which incorporated many western elements alongside of North Indian Classical ones to become a platinum disc.  Pandit Chaurasia has recorded many such albums in which he has tried to blend Indian Classical Music with western music to create beautiful and soulful music.   He has recorded a compact disc at Oslo along with jazz artiste John McLaughlin and Jan Garbarek, which has gained international popularity.  Besides these he has cut many albums of Indian Classical music, thematic music, music for meditation, bhajans and folk music, according to his official bio.

He has also shared stage with eminent artistes from all over the world.  He has performed memorable jugalbandis with the stalwarts of Indian Classical music like Pandit Jasraj, Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma, Ustad Zakir Hussain, Dr. Balamuralikrishnan, Smt. Kishori Amonkar and jammed with western artistes like John Mc Laughlin, Jan Garbarek, Larry Coryell, Egberto Gismonti and many others.  He has conducted orchestras with western instrumentalists also amongst which is  ‘Adi Anant’.

In addition to his performance and compositions, Pandit Chaurasia also plays the role of a dedicated Guru & teacher.  He has several dedicated and talented students not only in India but also around the world who are making their mark on the Indian Classical music front.  When he is not touring and performing he is busy teaching music in Mumbai, where he has built a Vrindaban Gurukul, a Gurukul type ashram where he teaches music in the traditional Guru-Shishya Parampara.  For his students hailing from Eastern and Central zones, he has another school in the same Gurukul style in Bhubaneswar, Odisha.  He also teaches music at the Rotterdam Music Conservatorium, where he is the Artistic Director of the Indian Music Department, according to his official bio.


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