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Soul-Stirring Music By Master Flautist, Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia

Shuchita Rao

On the evening of Saturday, November 18, at Regis College, the organization Radio MusicIndia in partnership with LearnQuest Academy of Music presented a bansuri (Indian Bamboo flute) concert by one of the greatest legends of Indian Classical Music, Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia. His disciple,  Jay Gandhi accompanied him on the bansuri and the reputed percussionist  Pandit Shubhankar Banerjee accompanied him on the tabla. Radio MusicIndia, a weekly Sunday morning radio show (WLYN 1360 AM)  featuring fifteen minutes of classical music followed by forty-five minutes of popular music is hosted by Sanjay Jain, Syed Ali Rizvi, Anuradha Palakurthi and Pradeep Shukla. LearnQuest Academy of Music is a well-known Waltham based music school that offers instruction in Indian vocal and instrumental music.  In 2016, the organizations had collaborated to present a concert by the renowned Hindustani vocalist Smt. Arati Ankalikar-Tikekar.

Warm shades of majenta pink, lavender and sage green lights shone brightly on the LearnQuest and Radio MusicIndia banners pinned on the large stage’s backdrop. Green and yellow potted plants dotted the periphery of a rectangular stage decorated in black and white.  Pandit Shubhankar Banerjee began the program with a solo tabla recital featuring 16 beat cycle teentaal accompanied by Dr. George Ruckert on the harmonium.  Listening to the crisp oral recitation as well as the delivery of a variety of tabla movements, concert attendee Satya Rao said   â€œThe tabla player is out of this world! ” Playing a steady lehra tune on the harmonium while the tabla constantly improvised over several rhythmic cycles was a difficult feat. Dr. Ruckert, however, tapping his foot rhythmically on the stage, accompanied with the total ease of a seasoned musician.

Syed Ali Rizvi welcomed the audience and invited local celebrity Smt. Anuradha Palakurthi to introduce the artists on stage. “When it comes to the flute, our generation remembers two names – that of Lord Krishna and of Pandit Chaurasia”  is how Anuradha Palakurthi introduced Pandit Hariprasad. Dressed elegantly in a striped coral orange kurta and cream vest with strands of pearls around his neck, the 79 year old Pandit Chaurasia sat on a chair placed in the middle of the stage and affectionately addressed the audience. “I am honored to be here, though after a long gap. It does not matter. We have eaten properly and I can play the whole night to you” he said, making the audience laugh at his last remark.

Pandit Chaurasia began with raga Marubihag, playing two compositions, one in seven beat Hindustani rhythm cycle Roopak taal and the other in the sixteen beat rhythm cycle teentaal. There was a noticeable tremor in the maestro’s hands but when the bansuri touched his lips, the maestro’s tonic note was in perfect sur, as stable and serene as the calm and deep ocean. Jay Gandhi on the bansuri, at times shadowed his Guru’s melodic movements, and at other times skillfully harmonized or played pleasing counterpoint. The sublime sound of the bansuri echoing through the packed auditorium in the opening jod and jhaala movements bound the audience consisting of the young and old in a complete spell. When Pandit Banerjee on the tabla joined the flautists, rhythmic interplay, tihais and staggered rhythms culminating attractively on the main note of rhythmic emphasis, the “sam”, added color to the performance.

After a substantive treatment of raga Marubihag, Pandit Chaurasia asked the audience “Kya Sunenge?” (What would you like to listen to?) Based on their requests, he proceeded to play short compositions in ragas Jog and Hansadhwani. Raga Jog created a somber ambience and was followed by a sprightly rendition of the pentatonic raga borrowed from Carnatic music – Hansadhwani.  The first two lines of the composition reminded the members of the audience of the famous Dikshitar composition  â€œVathaapi Ganapathim Bhaje Hum”. Lightning fast taans by master and disciple were complimented with nuanced play on the tabla, mirroring the style and sounds of the Carnatic percussion instrument, the Mridangam. 

The three hour concert concluded with a melodious composition in raga Pahadi set to six beat cycle Dadra taal. Bansuri instruments of different lengths and circumference were used to produce a variety of sound textures. The masterful folk touch by Pandit Chaurasia transported the audience to a world where the vision of mountains and dancing village belles came alive. The concert ended with a vibrant, fast “laggi” movement on the tabla. A vote of thanks by Pradeep Shukla and the felicitation of artists brought the evening to a close. Pandit Chaurasia’s consummate artistry had successfully created a powerful common experience for the audience consisting of members of a variety of ages, ethnicities and cultures.  The concert will live in the memories of music lovers in Boston for a long time to come.




(Photographs by Neil Pandit. )

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