One of the most lovable musicians of our times, Padma Vibhushan Pt Hariprasad Chaurasia has not only taken the flute to the hitherto uncharted territory but is also a renowned composer, having created unforgettable immortal songs for several hit films. His musical partner was Pt Shiv Kumar Sharma, someone he says, he cant live without. Unable to say no to any request, Pt Hari Prasad Chaurasia also has a wonderful sense of humour and an engaging informal persona that instantly puts one at ease.
His command of the flute, the novel techniques he introduced and the traditional dhrupad style barhat of the Senia Maihar tradition to which he belongs and what he popularised decades ago has led to a new generation of flautists.
In the wake of his new biography Every Breath He Takes Shadowing Hariprasad Chaurasia by Sathya Saran, Hari ji opens up on his music and more.
Tell us about the changes in the flute from the time it became your companion
The flute as an instrument is a complete one. It was perfect in Lord Krishnas time and didnt require structural changes to enhance it. I made no changes to it.
It was essentially still a folk instrument when I took it up. It was my Guru Annapurna Devi who brought about the changes that resulted in it being accepted in full as a complete instrument capable of bringing out every aspect of classical music. Her style was essentially a dhrupad style, with powerful meends and gamak. There was gravity and depth in the music that she taught me. Maine kya kiya, unhone karwaya. I was just the medium, she was the catalyst. I accepted her as a god. Whatever she said, I followed.
It is said that Annapurna ji insisted that you change even your hold of the bansuri, which you play as a left-handed player. Is this true?
This is a very personal matter, and I won't comment. But having said that, as far as I am concerned, when you have accepted your Guru as your God, then anything you are asked to do, has to be done. There has to be total complete surrender, only then can you imbibe.
Your third biography is here...
Every biographer has a different take. Its like when one talks of the moon, someone may talk of its light, someone its beauty, a third on some other facet. So no two points of view are the same. Yes, this is the third book about me. Uma Vasudev wrote the first, (Romance of the Bamboo Reed) then a Bengali writer Surajit Sen (Wood Winds of Change) came up with his perspective. Now Sathyas book examines my views on music. As I said, everyone comes with a different perspective, though my life is just one. There is so much I dont talk about. For instance, once upon a time, I was a stenographer. Maybe that needs a fourth book!
Despite being such a wonderful composer, you have never created new ragas like many of your contemporaries did
There are so many ragas already there, if I try to give in to my creative urge and create a raga, who will be interested? If I try to add to the shine of the moon, how can I succeed? People will only comment, why did you even attempt this! There are so many ragas that one could spend three lives just exploring each one. But I must add, I dont say that those who create new ragas are wrong.
Tell us more about your unique partnership with Pt Shiv Kumar Sharma
Bas, ho gaya! It just happened. God wanted us to work as a team and I would like it to continue. Nahi to pati patni mein jhagare ho jaate hain. Our relationship has been for so long; there has never been strife. Think of it, he is from Jammu, I am from Allahabad, we connect in Bombay&.prem ho gaya dil se. We are like two sons of a mother; we cant live without each other.
It is said you love the two institutions of teaching music that you have set up like your own children.
True. My two Gurukuls that I established myself on my own, in Odisha, the place where I started my musical career from, and Mumbai where I live are very dear to me. Much as I love teaching, I could not accept a teaching assignment at the Bengal Foundation School in Dhaka due to my commitment to these two schools. It was just Gods will that the two got established. Underprivileged children stay at my Gurukuls free of cost, and learn with full concentration.
I have received so much love and respect from everyone, but I am aware, ki khali haath aaye the, khali haath jaana hai. What I will leave behind is my music.
What would you like to tell emerging musicians?
In our lives, we focus on our health too much. I, sometimes, think one should just live without care. To students of music I say, devote more time to your music, approach it with an attitude of prayer, not only will you gain knowledge, but you will also gain as a musician.