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mysticism

The magic of relaxed control

Generally, people look at life in two different ways. They either assume that everything which happens around is for the sake of good, inevitable and cannot be changed or they assume that everything around us can be and needs to be changed. On the occasions of different talks, given to different audiences, I always receive one common question –

What is the correct way of looking at life? Do all the things which happen with us are good? If yes, then should we accept the things which are wrong, not so favourable?

Each one of us has this conflict inside him or her. People either want to change things which are around them or they just give up trying to change the things. While I was in engineering, I had many friends who had surrendered their lives and had stopped taking any efforts. It is very surprising to see these brilliant students sleeping in their rooms- saying that nothing is in our hands. On other hand, we had even a bigger number of students who tried to change everything. One may wonder, what is wrong if someone tries to control things around him? The problem with second group of people is very subtle- they become very insecure when things start going beyond their control. As we all know, very few things are truly under our control and we human beings are unable to control even smallest of the things around us in spite of advancements in technology. So, I always used to wonder, what can be the right attitude? I think, we have to treat the physical world around us and the turbulence inside our minds in different ways.  I have come up with a golden rule-

In case of external affairs, we should always assume that they are happening for something better. In case of internal matters, we should always keep on looking for improvement.

At first sight, this may sound very absurd and impractical. My experience says, this is the best way to sail ahead. As far as outer events are concerned, we should always carry the approach that it is happening for making things better. But, while doing so, we should always have a keen eye matters inside us- our thoughts, our desires, ego and should always try to improve. As far as our mental and emotional status is concerned, we should always have a sense of incompleteness which calls for continuous improvement. The differentiation helps in many ways. First of all, it tells us that not many things are in our hands. It makes us comfortable with this reality. At the same time, it allows us to focus our energy on what’s there in our hands- self improvement. In most of the cases, we keep on wasting our energy thinking about things which are not in our hands and keep on neglecting the things which are under our control. This golden rule helps us to focus our energy on what can be improved by us and keeps us relaxed about things are anyway not in our control.

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Famous Musicians of India

Pt. Nityanand Haldipur – Silencing the mind

When I meet music lovers around, I always have one question ready for them. The question is, “Why do you listen to music?” Of course, every person has a unique answer. Some of them listen to music to forget their worries and hassles of the life. Some of them have approach of a learner- they try to learn and improve their own performance. If someone asks me this question, I have quite different answer. For me, music is a meditation. Not only playing music, but also listening to someone else’s music.

Pt. Nityanand Haldipur
Pt. Nityanand Haldipur

Can music help you to meditate?

Pt. Nityanand Haldipur is a unique flute player as far as meditative quality of music is concerned. Very few artists have this quality in their music as it is quite difficult to inculcate it in one’s music. I often face this question by many of the music lovers- what is meant by meditative music? How do we come to know if the music is meditative or not? I have a very simple answer for this question. The answer is, meditative music makes your mind silent. The activity of mind simply drops down. Many times, all of us find it very difficult to cut down the thoughts. During my talks, many students ask me this typical question- we sit silent for hours but we are never silent.  The fact is, it is always very difficult to separate ourselves from our thoughts, to cut the supply of energy going to thought process. Listening to some good music can always be useful.

As I mentioned earlier, Pt. Nityanand Haldipur carries this unique ability in his music. His music is like a constant flow. As soon as you start listening to it, you are dragged in it. Your mind just cannot function.  Almost all the masters who have ever walked on this earth, in some way or other ask us to silent our mind. Zen masters say, drop the mind. For hundreds of years, Indian Classical Music is being used as a gateway to god- in form of worshipping god and also in form of meditation.

If we go a step down, silencing mind is an outcome of breath stabilization. We need to stabilize our breath. So, when you listen to someone like Pt. Nityanand Haldipur, who plays flute with a steady and controlled breath, you are bound to be like him. I always keep on telling many of these students and friends to listen to such kind of music. Many of them report that it helps!

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Famous Musicians of India Kishori Amonkar Uncategorized

Kishori Amonkar concert at Gateway of India : Review

When you are into world of music, attending concerts makes a big portion of your life. It is the time when you can see the maestros performing. As elders say, you should never miss an concert irrespective of the artist who will be performing. But, some artists rarely perform. In case of such artists, the listeners strive for every single concert. Whenever they hear even a slight discussion that there is some concert by such an artist, they try their best to be there,to experience the magic of divine notes.WP_20140105_001

also, if a concert is written on your fate, you will never miss it. Ganasaraswati Kishori Amonkar is one such artist who performs rarely compared to other artists.  During my first four years in Pune, I attended concerts by all the famous musicians including Pt. Mukul Shivputra, who is considered to be most infrequently performing artist in the world of Indian Classical Music. But somehow, a concert by Kishori Amonkar was something which I had not experienced. Then I got an opportunity to listen her live for couple of times.

This particular concert on 5th Jan 2014 was quite special because it was arranged in Mumbai. This was my first experience with Mumbai audience. The venue and time were both spiritual. It was an early morning concert scheduled at 6.30 in morning in front of gateway of India, facing the endless sea. Kishori Amonkar, though I had listened to two of her concerts before,was quite an unfamiliar artist for me. I was sincerely looking for more of her concerts so that I could understand her music better. Existence created the opportunity. And yes,I did not miss it!

The audience of more than 2000 stood up to salute Kishori Amonkar
The audience of more than 2000 stood up to salute Kishori Amonkar

the performance started at 7 O Clock.Without wasting much time, the organizers  requested her to start the performance.  Kishori Amonkar started with Raga Bhairav,a morning raga. The composition was spiritual. The skies were spiritual and so was the artist. The tall and robust structure of Taj at back, pigeons flying in their internal rhythm were adding to the already spiritual atmosphere.

It took some time for her voice to open up. When it opened up, she was beyond all the limits. What strikes me most about performance of Kishori Amonkar is her devotion and her level of involvement in the music. Her voice carries a deep resonance. Another thing worth noting is the patience in her performance. Kishori Amonkar is never in hurry. She is always giving full attention to each and every note and nuances of the raga which she is playing. While listening to her rendition of Raga Bhairav, I met many phrases in Raga Bhairav which I had never realized while practising. It was as if you are meeting completely unexplored side of a person whom you know for years. The second Raga chosen for the concert was Lalat Pancham. Her voice was moving steadily and gracefully in all the three octaves.

Kishori Amonkar carries a vision behind her every performance. One can find her constantly trying to materialize this vision through her performance. This striving, this struggle is so beautiful, so valuable! Her performance has nothing to show. It does not tell you how great the performer is. There is no effort done to show the greatness of the performance. It is like a waterfall, which flows for no reason. Perhaps this is what makes Kishori Amonkar one of the greatest artists ever….

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Related articles- 

Swararthramani- Autobiography of Ganasaraswati Kishori Amonkar

Kishori Amonkar concert in Pune: Review

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music

My favourite instrument- tanpura

I know, many of my readers would have already jumped to the conclusion that flute is my favourite instrument. Well, not so true. This is realized when I really gave it a thought. The general observation is, if you ask several people which their favourite instrument is, and what makes it so dear to them, you will receive quite surprising answers. I have this habit of asking people their favourite instrument. My general observation is, it takes quite a long time to get accustomed to the sound of any particular instrument, to understand intricacies of it. So, many of my friends hate the sound of Sitar, reason being they do not understand which strokes are to be listened to and which are just supporting strokes. If one fails to understand the same, the performance will sound like just noise and nothing else. Conclusion is, in order to appreciate any instrument; you should listen to it for quite some time before commenting over it.

If you ask me, what my favourite instrument is, the answer which I give may sound funny and even stupid. My favourite instrument is tanpura, the instrument which is hardly capable of making three notes out of it. Though tanpura is a weird answer, I certainly have some reasons behind making it my first choice. The first thing is, you can listen to tanpura for infinitely long time. In case of other instruments, let them be extremely melodies and skilfully played. Still, after some time, you will get bored of the sound. In case of a tanpura, you won’t get bored. On the other hand, listening to a well tunes tanpura can make your whole lifestyle melodious. The sound of tanpura never irritates you.

Another interesting point is, in case of other instruments, the artists try to show their knowledge, talent and creativity while playing the instrument. Tanpura is the only instrument where the player has no role to play. So, the one who plays a tanpura is not trying to show his talent and skills. In other words, tanpura can be played in a ego less mode, without any interference of the person playing it. For this reason the sound of a tanpura is closest to me.

Apart from the above mentioned reasons, listening to a tanpura carefully can help the seekers of music. It is the very foundation of any musical performance. Many of the great experts in field of music judge an artist just by observing his way of tuning a tanpura. This instrument is very humble, not dominating it over other instruments. Irony is, there is hardly any artist who can sing or play his instrument without a tanpura, which in itself speaks out the greatness of this instrument.

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Rakesh Chaurasia

Rakesh Chaurasia- Swarbhaskar festival 2013, Pune

Winter is the season of concerts. I somehow find winter to be most pleasant season around. The first reason is, it is truly a pleasure to sit silently in sunlight early in winter morning. The another reason is, winter is,the season of concerts.  In these four months of winter, dozens of concerts take place. So, for almost three months ahead, we will be fortunate enough to enjoy dozens of enchanting concerts.

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Rakesh Chaurasia performing in Swarbhaskar Festival Pune, 2013

the series has already started with a wonderful concert given by Rakesh Chaurasia. As Rakesh Chaurasia says, he enjoys playing for Pune audience. It is in a way true. Every year he comes to Pune and delights the music lovers with many memorable concerts.  The another remarkable point is, he always plays something new. We have  attended around eight concerts where he performed. Every concert was unique with a different raga played. We were quite curious to see which Raga he chooses for Swarbhaskar Festival.

the entire audience was excited when Rakesh Chaurasia said he would be playing Raga Janasammohini. Considering the time constraints, he explored the raga briefly but thoughtfully. After that he started playing Raga Jog, one of the most loved late night melody. Jog is a popular Raga, with quite strong and intoxicating flavor which depends a lot on how the performer uses two Gandhars- the sharp and the flat. I liked the way he posed both of these notes and used them to establish the mood.

considering the limited time available, he switched to Pahadi. Rakesh Chaurasia has played Pahadi in almost every concert he gave. Everytime he explores it in a different way. The concert concluded with the ever green tune of Vaishnav Jan to.

It is really nice to see not only consistent but more and more refined performances from Rakesh Chaurasia. He is performing with Ustad Zakir Hussain at Ganesh Kala Krida Manch, Pune on 08 Nov. 2013. I guess, that is the most exciting concert of the season!

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Rakesh Chaurasia

Rakesh Chaurasia- Some intimate moments

I remember a stage where I could listen to flute played by Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia only. Rakesh Chaurasia broke the tradition. Flute was made popular and established as an instrument in the world of Indian Classical Music by late Pt. Pannalal Ghosh. Personally, I could never enjoy Pannalal Ghosh’s music. For me, it missed something.

The first instance when I listened to Rakesh Chaurasia was somewhere in 2009, when I listened to his record of Raga Hansadhwani. This recording did not make any special impact on me. I missed one of his concerts in Pune, in 2009 which was arranged somewhere near Karve Nagar. The first chance to listen to Rakesh Chaurasia came when he performed live at Garware College auditorium, Pune.  Rakesh Chaurasia played Raga Puria Kalyan that day. Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia has played the same Raga in an album named Possession in Osho Ashram, Pune. I have never listened to a Puria Kalyan of that quality. I even now keep on listening to this record as it has non-diminishing beauty. Considering all this, it was quite a big challenge to perform Puria Kalyan and create a lasting memory.

Rakesh Chaurasia was absolutely successful in doing this herculean task. I can still remember the Puria Kalyan played by him, very skillfully and innovatively. This is not the only concert which we attended. After this concert, we have not missed even one of his concerts in Pune. We met him couple of times. I and Dakshayani used to chase him so much that at one concert, Rakesh Chaurasia stopped and asked if we follow him like his shadow!

Out of all these concerts, the concert which I enjoyed the most is the one which was organized by Bedekar Ganpati Mandir in Pune. This temple is a very small temple located in Pune which has a long tradition of organizing outstanding Indian Classical performances. As the temple is really small, we were sitting just 6 feet away from Rakesh Chaurasia and Vijay Ghate who was accompanying him on Tabla. He played Raga Durga, then Kirwani and after that Bhairavi. The concert went off more like a personal concert offered for handful of visitors though there was huge crowd.

Being a flute player and a student of vocal music, I am a great admirer of Rakesh Chaurasia, amazed by the level of his performance. He stands tall on all the fronts- practice, skills, innovation, devotion and the most important, dedication.

While having a long discussion with him in Pune, we slipped a small card in his hands. The card read-

‘Krishna was not as fortunate as Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia as he did not get a disciple like Rakesh Chaurasia’


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Famous Musicians of India music

Dr. Arvind Thatte : Harmonium revitalized

As a tender student of Indian Classical Music, I started studying both vocals and harmonium together. For some years, I kept on studying both the things parallel, progressing well in both of them. After some time, I reached a certain mindset where I believed that harmonium cannot have the grace which s required in Indian Classical Music. With this thought in my mind, I reduced practising harmonium day by day.

 

Around ten years after that, I see a small advertisement in newspaper declaring a free concert by Dr. Arvind Thatte, the famous harmonium player. The concert was scheduled in the evening in the auditorium of Garware College, Pune. I make it a point that this concert should be listened. I try to leave from my company before time so that I can reach the venue un time struggling in the Pune traffic. I and Dakshayani reach ten minutes late, which is before time as far as most of the concerts are concerned. When we reach, to our surprise, the auditorium is full with people occupying the isles and the stairs. We somehow managed to get some space on the railings of the staircase.

Dr. Arvind Thatte accompanying Pt. Rajan and Sajan Mishra at Ramkrishna More Auditorium, Chinchwad
Dr. Arvind Thatte accompanying Pt. Rajan and Sajan Mishra at Ramkrishna More Auditorium, Chinchwad

The musical atmosphere inside was even superior than the physical. Hundreds od listeners paying attention to Jod in Raga Puriya Dhanashree. Dr. Arvind Thatte has a doctorate in mathematics. He is very studious person. It is rare to find the person who is both studious and artistic. Dr. Arvind Thatte is the perfect blend. The evening was colored so well by the notes of Puriya Dhanashree; the color still appears in front of my eyes. I was watching and listening to Dr. Arvind Thatte, who had taken the harmonium beyond all the limitations.

I learned a big lesson that day. It is okay if your instrument has some limitations; you should not have them. Dr. Arvind Thatte is a perfect example of the same.

This was the only solo concert of Dr. Arvind Thatte that I could attend live. Apart from this, we have seen him accompanying many great artists such as Pt. Rajan and Sajan Mishra, Malini Rajurkar etc. Listening to his accompaniment always highlights that accompanying artist is never inferior to the main performing artist of the concert.

I know Dr. Arvind Thatte personally. He is one of the most humble persons you can find out. He is not an ordinary artist who will sell his art. In his eyes, you can see the fire of studious personality, always researching, improvising. He is very simple and hence, very outstanding. Again, I consider myself fortunate and blessed that I could see him performing, could meet him and talk to him for long.

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Famous Musicians of India Pt. Rajan and Sajan Mishra

Pt. Rajan and Sajan Mishra- making music alive

Indian classical music- situation today

After attending many concerts, given by many different and famous musicians of India, I and Dakshayani always discuss that the situation of Indian classical music, especially that of vocal music is quite disappointing. This disappointment is not because of lack of exposure or organisors, but it is out of our experience- what did we feel after attending each concert. The sad truth is, we are losing the masters day by day. Indian classical music might have reached a state of fame and popularity but many of the artists of today’s generation are not successful in making their music alive.

Pt. Rajan and Sajan Mishra- performances in Pune

The feelings which I expressed above become denser when we listen to some performance of these old masters.  Pt. Rajan and Sajan Mishra are the god fathers as far as making music alive is concerned. We are fortunate that we could listen to many of their concerts in Pune,all of them were masterpieces. The music is perfect with all the elements which are necessary for a good performance. One more thing about Pt. Rajan and Sajan Mishra which separates them out from others is the justice which they do to the being of raga they sing. They never overpower the raga they sing; rather they allow the raga to flow through the music.

Indian classical music- what makes it special

Another great vocalist from present period, Pt. Suhas Vyas was explaining us one day that great music comes out of a surrendered being. I liked this statement a lot, also it matches with our own experience. To be a good musician, the musician has to be a surrendered being. I will need help from famous saint Kabir to put this in words. In one of his divine dohas, Kabir says,

Prem gali ati sakri, ta me do na samay

Ya tum, ya hari.

(In narrow lane of love, either you exist or the god.)

In same way in the lane of music, the musician has to disappear. The divinity cannot enter his music unless and until he disappears. These old masters including Pt. Rajan and Sajan Mishra, Pt. Suhas Vyas and many more musicians have surrendered themselves to their gurus, surrendered themselves music. The quality and aliveness in music comes out of this seurrender.

Indian classical music – What’s wrong today?

It can be seen that this submissive tendency is missing in many or rather most of today’s musicians. There are always exceptions. New generation artists like Rakesh Chaurasia and Ritesh and Rajnish Mishra give listeners a glimpse of this alive music.

The way ahead

This makes me think on the question- What makes Indian classical music distinct from other forms of music? Is it skills or practice or creativity? I think what separates Indian classical music is the difference in the attitudes. The correct attitude is the one where artists look at notes as something to be worshipped and not conquered. The attitude, where music is not a medium of being famous but a way to go in, a way towards serrenderedness. Realisation of this fact can revitalize the music, making it alive. I think we should always keep our ears open to what the masters in old days have sung and practiced.

 

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Pt. hariprasad Chaurasia Pune

Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia in Pune Festival 2013

Generally, in India, Kerala is considered to be god’s own land. For me, Pune is gods’ own land. Of course, my context is totally different. Kerala, one of the most beautiful states in India is blessed with incomparable natural beauty. Pune has its own reasons to be called as gods’ own land. Pune is gods’ own land because gods often come to Pune.

Who are these gods? For me, they Pt. Shivkumar Sharma, Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia, Ganasaraswati Kishori Amonkar and many more artists are these gods. They come to Pune and have blessed this city with their divine music. For many days, we did not have a single good concert in Pune and hence, I was desperately waiting for some concert. This thirst is soon going to be fulfilled. Pt. Jasraj and Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia are performing a concert Panchtatva in Pune Festival. I again got a reason to consider myself blessed.

I keep all the activities of the day aside and travel a lot to get passes. After getting the passes I am really happy. This situation is worth thinking. Why it makes music lovers so happy if they get an opportunity to listen to their loved artists? The credit goes to both; the artists as well as the listeners. I just came across a video recording of Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia. He is old. He looks to be tired. But when he is playing, he is at ease. His breath is relaxed; as natural as wind blowing through woods. His ease, the flow in his breath, the flavor created by his fingers and his breath, his steady, firm exploration are all beyond human capacity.

Each Raga has a unique nature. Its unique nature and presence is the identity of the raga. Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia gives you the perfect taste of the Raga. You can almost personalize the Raga. It gets a perfect personality, with emotions and nuances.

Pune Festival is having a performance of Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia. I am eager to feel his meditative breath resonating in the Bamboo energized with hours of this meditative resonance.

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Rakesh Chaurasia

Rakesh Chaurasia – The rebirth of flute

Why Rakesh Chaurasia?

In many previous articles, I talked about famous musicians of India like Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia and Pt. Nityanand Haldipur. These articles can be read here-

Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia – a living wonder

Pt. Nityanand Haldipur – Essence of simplicity

This is for the first time that I am talking about Rakesh Chaurasia. I liked him the moment I saw him for the first time. As far as i am concerned, I feel that every artist carries some aura around him. There are many great musicians, who are truly great artists but I don’t like their aura. In case of Rakesh Chaurasia, his presence spoke much about him. One can feel freshness, energy, openness from his being. So is his music.

Rakesh Chaurasia

Well, I never missed his single concert in Pune. The reason is his unparalleled flute performance. He is unmatched, in true sense. Rakesh Chaurasia comes with exceptional skills. He has really mastered the flute. His patterns are also out of mind. His entire performance is like a power pack.  When he starts, he is unstoppable. In all the concerts I attended, he played different Ragas without repetition. Every Raga was mastered. It was not like a few Ragas mastered. We sat 4 feet away from him in one concert at Bedekar Ganpati Temple in Pune and he played Raga Durga. It was really unimagined version of Durga. I could never imagine that some one will be able to play this Raga so ably.

Rakesh Chaurasia is a humble person. humble nature cannot be an excuse for lack of skills but it complement your skills. Same  happens in this case. Everything meets to make a perfect blend- talented, skilled, humble and humorous artist. Apart from this, he has deep respect for his Guru and his uncle, Pt. Hariprasad Chauraisa. When we met him, most of the time he was engrossed in talking about his uncle and not about himself. It is really rare to find all these qualities together in an artist of today’s generation.

You can enjoy his recording of Raga Des here-

Rakesh Chaurasia- Raga Des