Published on 18 Feb 2013 | over 3 years ago
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Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia (born 1 July 1938) is an Indian classical instrumentalist and is known as the 'virtuoso' and a 'living legend' in the Eastern Classical genre. He is a player of the bansuri, the Indian bamboo flute.
Hariprasad Chaurasia was born in Allahabad in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. His father was a wrestler. His mother died when he was 6. He had to learn music without his father's knowledge, for his father wanted him to become a wrestler. He did go to the Akhada and train with his father for some time, although he also started learning music, and practising at his friend's house. He often credits his wrestling training for giving him the immense stamina and lung power that are the hallmarks of his flute playing, stating that,
" I was not any good at wrestling. I went there only to please my father. But maybe because of the strength and stamina I built up then, I'm able to play the bansuri even to this day.
Hariprasad Chaurasia started learning vocal music from his neighbor, Pandit Rajaram at the age of 15. Later, he switched to playing the flute under the tutelage of Pandit Bholanath Prasanna of Varanasi for eight years. He joined the All India Radio, Cuttack, Odisha in 1957 and worked as a composer and performer Much later, while working for All India Radio he received guidance from the reclusive Annapurna Devi, daughter of Baba Allaudin Khan. She only agreed to teach him if he switched from right-handed to left-handed playing (so as to start over free from any pre-existing errement). Another version is that she only agreed to teach him after he (of his own) took the decision to switch from right-handed to left-handed playing to show her his commitment. In any case Hariprasad Chaurasia plays left-handed to this day.
He is considered a rare combination of innovator and traditionalist. He has expanded the expressive possibilities of the bansuri through his masterful blowing technique.
Apart from classical music, he has made a mark as a music director for Indian films along with Pt. Shivkumar Sharma, forming a group called Shiv-Hari. He has also collaborated with various world musicians in experimental cross-cultural performances, including the fusion group Shakti.
He serves as the Artistic Director of the World Music Department at the Rotterdam Music Conservatory in the Netherlands. He is also the founder of the Vrindavan Gurukul in Mumbai (opened 2006) and Vrindavan Gurukul in Bhubhaneshwar (opened 2010). Both of these institutes are schools dedicated to training students in Hindustani Bansuri in the Guru-shishya tradition. As a Guru, he has produced many noted disciples including Rupak Kulkarni, Rakesh Chaurasia (nephew), Vivek Sonar, Sameer Rao, Jay Gandhi, Santosh Sant and Himanshu Nanda.
He has collaborated with several western musicians, including John McLaughlin, Jan Garbarek, Ken Lauber and has also composed music for a number of Indian films. He has performed throughout the world, winning acclaim from varied audiences and fellow musicians including Yehudi Menuhin and Jean-Pierre Rampal.
Chaurasia is regarded as the best flute player of Eastern Classical music. He is as credited for his musicianship as for his technical ability on the native instruments. A documentary film on 35mm has been just completed in 2013 titled 'Bansuri Guru' and is directed by the musician's son Rajeev Chaurasia. The 2013 documentary film Bansuri Guru features the life and legacy of Chaurasia and is produced by the Films Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India. It includes a series of interviews and comments about the artist, and is introduced by Amitabh Bachchan.