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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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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

 

 

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Kishori Amonkar

Kishori Amonkar – Swararthramani

Kishori Amonkar is surely an unmatched person in the field of Indian Classical Music. Among all the famous musicians of India, she has created a very distinct position for herself. Kishori Amonkar, as she herself says, is in a true sense an artist who cares for notes and takes every care that a note is approached carefully, with love.  This love for notes, for music can be felt through all the performances of Kishori Amonkar.

Kishori Amonkar

Swararthramani – Book written by Kishori Amonkar

Kishori Amonkar, who is also referred as Ganasaraswati (Goddess of music) has written a book named Swararthramni which encompasses her impressions about music. The book comments  in depth about the musical interpretations of Kishori Amonkar. In one paragraph, Kishori Amonkar explains about feelings expressed in any Indian Classical Composition. Her explanation is really very authentic and genuine. She says that any composition in Indian Classical Music talks about a particular feeling of a person, eg. some one waiting eagerly for her lover. As Kishori tai says, later the reason of missing lover is just an excuse to pull up and express the other sorrows of the person. As she says in the book, the ultimate stage is the expression of all the human sorrows, which are quite eternal.

My observation is, what Kishori Amonkar is saying is absolutely true. Unless a song speaks of eternal, it has no appeal. If the sorrow or any feeling for instance, in the given composition is not taken to its eternal form, the music sounds shallow. There are very few musicians which can give us this the feel of eternal feeling. The beauty of such eternal music is, it gives us the sense of universal unity.  To name a few, Pt. Jasraj, Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia, Pt. Shivkumar Sharma, Ustaad Shujaat Khan are some artists who can give their listeners this feel of eternal oneness.

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Kumar Gandharva

Pt. Kumar Gandharva : Famous Musicians of India

Lady Gaga, in her concert in India had said that she reads books by Osho and also she likes the concept of Rebel put up by Osho.  Lady Gaga also said that her journey has been that of a rebel. I am not right person to tell if Lady Gaga really had a rebellious journey or not; but if someone asks me about Indian musician, who was genius and also, who was a rebel, the name which will come to my mind is Pt. Kumar Gandharva.

Pt. Kumar Gandharva

Among all the famous musicians of India, certainly, Pt. Kumar Gandharva had a different fabric. One realizes this fact every time he listens to Pt. Kumar Gandharva. According to me, he was a real rebel. Pt. Kumar Gandharva , with his talent beyond all the limits, challenged, modified and renewed many conventions. Pt. Kumar Gandharva was certainly not a blind singer. He was a genius with highest level of awareness. He developed his own style to suit his voice, his musical thought. Pt. Kumar Gandharva can be said to be a ocean in himself.

I am not fortunate enough to see him performing. But yes, we have many of his concert recordings. Each of them is a masterpiece. One more thing which I like about Pt. Kumar Gandharva is that his music is for patient listeners. If you are not patient, you cannot listen to him. But for patient, aware listeners, his music is like ocean of insights, beauty and eternity.

I am also touched by the simplicity of Pt. Kumar Gandharva. He is an artist without most common attitude problems which artists have. Among all the famous musicians of India, certainly, Pt. Kumar Gandharva has created a unique place which is very distinct from other artists.

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Kishori Amonkar music

Kishori Amonkar Concert- Pune

A few days before, Arya Sangeet Prasarak mandal, Pune had organized a concert to collect relief fund for the drought victims. The concert featured many artists like Pt. Rajan and Sajan Mishra, L. Subramanyam, Ganasaraswati Kishori Amonkar, Pt. Ulhas Kashalkar and Pt. Ronu Majumdar. I, as usual attended the entire concert from early morning and also attended the evening session.

Among all these performers, I was very much curious about the performance of Ganasaraswati Kishori Amonkar. The reason is, she is the artist which I have listened to live very less. Ganasaraswati Kishori Amonkar is running her 81st year. It is so difficult to put the notes at right place at such a high age. But, I think it will be difficult for those who are not totally submerged in music. If your life is devoted to music, you can practice it till your last breath.

Ganasaraswati Kishori Amonkar

L. Subramanyam gave his performance before that of Ganasaraswati Kishori Amonkar. It was really wonderful performance and it was quite difficult to wipe away the spell cast by him. All the atmosphere was filled with the notes of the violin. But, within a few seconds, Ganasaraswati Kishori Amonkar had made her own environment. She started the concert with Raga Kedar. Ganasaraswati Kishori Amonkar was given a vocal support by her disciples, who were very young. But still, it was clearly visible that they were finding it to difficult to sing with the energy level of Kishori Tai. What she sings, the Taan of Jaypur- Atrauli is very pleasant for your ears to listen to, but its a wonder to make them out of your throat. Ganasaraswati Kishori Amonkar was effortless. Her voice was spanning high…higher than ever. It was clearly visible that she is made to sing. She was roaming in the world of notes when I was wondering about how she can do so at this age…

Her performance taught me one thing- If you are dedicated, you become effortless. Then you do not have to worry about the notes, but the notes worry for you. Ganasaraswati Kishori Amonkar truly demonstrated this phenomenon. generally it is said that it is difficult to master even one note. I would not say Kishori  Tai has mastered the notes but yes, all the notes are very friendly with her. That’s why she sings effortless……

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Famous Musicians of India Pt. Mukul Shivputra

Pt. Mukul Shivputra and Pt. Kumar Gandharva

There is an old proverb that no new tree can grow under a giant tree. This proverb is often used to describe the situation of families of musicians. Many times, it happens that sons and daughters of legends find it very difficult to keep themselves up to the expectations of listeners. Most of the times, the son or the daughter tries to imitate the parent artist and their entire life goes being just an imitation.

Pt. Mukul Shivputra

On these lines, it is very difficult for a son or a daughter to come with his/her own style of performing  which is so evolved that listener just forgets to compare it with the parent performer. But there are definitely some genius artists who have achieved this herculean task. All these thoughts came to my mind after a realization that I never compared Pt. Mukul Shivputra with Pt. Kumar Gandharva.

It was really surprising not to compare the son with the father. But, Pt. Mukul Shivputra is in a way incomparable performer. Pt. Kumar gandharva is for sure one of the most innovative and profound artist we had. If you are a son of Pt. Kumar Gandharva, comparison is inevitable. But, Pt. Mukul Shivputra stands above all the comparison.

I have an one and half hour long recording of Raga Malkauns by Pt. Kumar Gandharva. A few days before, I got an chance to listen to Raga Malkauns sung by Pt. Mukul Shivputra. He was playing the same composition which was recorded by Pt. Kumar gandharva. This composition can be said to be the highest peak of Malkauns. Pt. Mukul Shivputra has also sung the same Bandish but in a very unique way. This Bandish also goes to the same peak but it takes a very different way from that of Kumarji. I guess, this is Pt. Mukul Shivputra- reaching same height but in totally different sky.

One more article which talks about Mukul Shivputra can be found here.

Read more about Mukul Shivputra

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Famous Musicians of India

Pt. Nityanand Haldipur : a realization

I don’t know actual year when this event took place. It was some ten years ago. I had gone to Mumbai to enjoy my vacations. My aunt lives at Chembur, in Mumbai. It was a normal rule for all of us; study for the year and then go to Mumbai in vacations. This vacation, I was alone there because all of my cousins were out of India. I used to sleep for the days and nights.

Pt. Nityanand Haldipur

One evening, my aunty introduced me to one of her guests who was learning vocal music from Ajit Kadkade. When he came to know that I was also learning music, he gave me a free pass for a concert featuring three artists which starting from the next day in Chembur itself. At that time, I was very choosey about the music I listened. Still as there were no other things to do I decided to go for the concert. I do not even remember the names of other persons who performed in the concert but I still remember Pt. Nityanand Haldipur. I had no big understanding of music at that time so I used to attend concerts just as a formality. But something happened after the performance of Pt. Nityanand Haldipur and hence though I cannot remember what he played that day I can very easily remember Pt. Nityanand Haldipur.

Pt. Nityanand Haldipur was going to conclude the concert. One man was sitting beside me attending the entire concert. From his appearance it was sure that he had come from some faraway place. Pt. Nityanand Haldipur was performing for almost one and half hour and this man near me was totally submerged in the magic of flute while I was seating like a dumb. When this performance by Pt. Nityanand Haldipur was over, the man stood up and joined his hands. He was a man in his sixties. With his hands joined he said, “He is such rare person, at least I could see him” At that time it was beyond my capability to understand what kind of man Pt. Nityanand Haldipur is. Two days before, while listening to Raga Shuddha Sarang performed by him, I was totally lost. Suddenly I fixed an appointment to meet him. I will be meeting him on this Sunday, 10-02-2013

Read All Articles on Pt. Nityanand Haldipur 

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Famous Musicians of India

Shujaat Hussain Khan and Pt. Niladri Kumar in Pune

In the time span of two weeks I had opportunities to listen to two famous musicians of India. Both of them play Sitar, one of the most delicate instruments in Indian Classical Music. I had listened to Ustaad Shujaat Hussain Khan Live twice in Pune. Niladri Kumar was quite new to me. Pt. Niladri Kumar was going to be accompanied by Ustaad Zakir Hussain, the great Tabla player today. I was quite curious about performance of Pt. Niladri Kumar.

Shujaat Hussain Khan in Pune

The good part was, 2 weeks ago, Ustaad Shujaat Hussain Khan started his concert with Raga Shuddha Kalyan and Pt. Niladri Kumar too, (un)fortunately chosen same Raga shuddha kalyan to open up his performance. I generally do not like to do comparison; especially, I never compare artists because everyone has something special, something unique. I am not writing this article to criticize Pt. Niladri Kumar, but to feel the greatness of Shujaat Hussain Khan.

In case of Shujaat Hussain Khan, his first stroke steals away your heart. His strokes are so perfect, so natural, that you just cannot sustain it. I can remember the impact of his first stroke even now; it was so vibrant. I did not find this get up in the performance of Pt. Niladri Kumar. Raga Shuddha Kalyan has a very attractive personality. When played by a maestro, this Raga can make someone go mad with the ecstasy. Shuddha kalyan played by Ustaad Shujaat Hussain Khan had this ecstasy from start to the end. I could not find it in the entire performance of Pt. Niladri Kumar.

One thing which I would like to clarify is, this has nothing to with the skills of the artist. Pt. Niladri Kumar is famous for his fast and skilled performance. Ustaad Shujaat Hussain Khan, is equally skilled, but his performance has a fragrance which I consider more important than skill. Artist should have something, some experience to express through his performance. Performance of Shujaat Hussain Khan is full of this expression.

Ustaad Shujaat Hussain Khan is very humble person. At the end, when people were still clapping, Shujaat Ji said in a shaky voice that he does not deserve this respect that he cannot play even a fraction of what his Guru and father Ustaad Vilayat Khan used to play.

Ustaad Shujaat Hussain Khan will be performing in Pune in Swarjhankar Music Festival in January 2013. Waiting to see him, feel his Sitar and getting carried away in his divine notes…..