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The Magic Flute

The sound of Krishna’s flute
charms the entire creation,
animate as well as inanimate.
The deer-eyed Gopis of Vraja
are so fascinated herewith that
Mandara flowers which decorate their coiffure fall.
May the sound of Krishna’s flute,
the enemy of Kamsa and saviour of Gods, bless you all.

- Canto VIII of the Jayadeva’s Gita Govinda.

This was the magic spell blown out from the flute of Krishna, a cowherd in the Dwapara Yug with its epicentre on the banks of River Yamuna. The Indian civilization during these years has undergone social, cultural, religious metamorphosis. But the spell is still unbroken, even after 5000 odd years ! The whole civilization has been nurtured and is thriving religiously, socially, culturally & spiritually on this essence through yugas withstanding the onslaught of time and man.

It is no wonder that on a breezy summer evening a near similar spell reverberated and drew us to the banks of river Rhein some 8000 odd kilometers from its original epicentre!“Heart sings and the song is blown out through the flute” this was the spell from the Magic flute of the doyen of Hindustani Classical music genre, Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia. He was accompanied on stage by Jean Christophe Bonnafous ( Maestro’s Disciple) on Flute, Ustad Mustafa Thirakwa on Tabla and A. Balaram on Tanpura.

The Frankfurter Hof theatre, in Mainz a western city in Germany, was jammed packed with western audience and a handful of Indians. There was an air of anxiety and excitement. There were many first timers amongst the Rasikas. First timers for the Indian Classical music and also first timers to be listening to the Living Legend!

Most of us were still trying to soak in the presence of the Maestro, the soft alaap of the much loved and fairly vintage origin raaga - the evening raag, Maru Bihag gently nudged us further into ecstasy. True to its nature, raag Maru Bihag set the romantic longing mood of the rasikas for the evening which was appeased with the Raag of pristine purity- Raag Durga.

This was a very good choice keeping in mind the audience composition. Raag Durga is one of those raag that can have instant appeal amongst the listeners especially those who are not used to Indian Classical Music.
The effect was evident when the Maestro in light humor asked the Rasikas if he should stop as it was dinner time and most of us would be hungry. Disapprovingly there was an uproar for more. Maestro obliged the Rasikas with their own choice - Raag Bageswari. Raag Bageswari is a popular late night Raag depicting the emotions of pratiksha or awaiting a lover.

The concert was concluded with a unique unusual Pahadi folk piece from the Himalayan region.The rendition was unusual in the sense that it is very rare when an acclaimed artist of Classical genre gives a space to folk music which is considered as music by untrained & rustic in nature.The Maestro subtlety highlighted the importance and brought out the elegance, melody of the folk music.

The entire programme was designed for one and half hours, keeping in mind the audience composition, knowledge and appeal. The standing ovation of nearly 10 minutes to the Maestro and his ensemble was the result of a generation of lifetime and effort put in not only mastering the art form but understanding, improvising, amalgamating and presenting a very serious, heavy, classical music rooted in an ethical background as a popular form of music to the world.

Panditji is credited with being one of the first Indian Flautist to create the gayaki or style of the sitar and sarod in the flute which clearly enforced the stature of the instrument calibre of the flute.

Bamboo Flute or Bansuri or Venu , is the only musical instrument which has no mechanical parts and therefore is most natural and simple. The flute is very light in weight, small and does not require any special maintenance.The music emanating from this musical instrument is very melodious and close to the nature’s own melodious sounds.

The flute has been a call from the heart, which Panditji followed as the Gopis to the call of Krishna’s flute song. Belonging to a family of wrestlers, by the age of 15 years, Panditji was getting ready as a performer in classical vocal under the guidance of Pt. Raja Ram of Benaras. But a flute recital by Pt. Bholunath changed his focus. From then on, Flute and Panditji have been inseparable.

Today at the age of 74, apart from innumerable awards and appreciations from across the world, Panditji has a legacy of disciples across the globe. Panditji continues to teach at the Rotterdam Music Conservatory as a Director of Indian Music Department.

This also highlights Panditji’s mission and an offering to his ‘Ishta Devatha’ - Krishna in his own words -
“When you leave nothing behind,
you cry at the point of death,
but I still dream, I dare to dream that
through my playing and through my students
my flute will be left behind as the memory of Krishna.”

The nostalgia of the mesmerising music and the encounter with the Living Legend is something which all the Rasikas that evening no doubt would cherish for the lifetime.