He is one of the shining stars on the classical music circuit. An ace flautist, Pandit Ronu Majumdar (Ranendranath Majumdar) has indeed become synonymous with the word bansuri. But fame did not come easy to this renowned flautist, who has to his credit many collaborative projects with the likes of ex-Beatle George Harrison, ace guitarist Ry Cooder and several other legends.
Sudeshna B Baruah chats up the legendary musician who was in town recently to launch his new album Soul Raga.
Tell us something about your new album
The album, Soul Raga stems out of my desire to do something pure. Soul Raga comes after a slew of my fusion albums and hence it is close to my heart.<b1>
What is the thematic concept behind the album?
I have tried to converge two energies in the form of two ragas - Raag Gunkali and Raag Yaman Kalyan. While the former is a morning raga and helps you gear up for your daily chores, the latter is an evening raga, which spreads a soothing air at dusk. And you would be surprised to know that Mumbai flood too has been influential in the birth of the album. I wanted to render some positive energy in the city at a time when floods were giving Mumbaikars a tough time.
How long did it take you from its conception to its denouement?
It took over three months. The compositions were over in a day. But finding sponsors took time. Finally Ninad (a production house) supported the venture and it fructified.
Coming back to fusion, do you think classical music is losing its purity with too many fusion elements being added to it.
Fusion in itself is not a bane. It is rather an enhancement of skills. But yes fusions being woven without proper learning is indeed a matter of concern. Today any bad music is being promoted in the name of fusion. But yes there are some masters in the field too, like Shakti, Ustad Zakir Hussain and Hariharan.
Looking back, which incidents at the initial stage in the field are vivid on your mind?
There were many. I was may be 15-16 year-old , when I had approached this gentleman to let me be a part of the Punjabi play, Suraj Da Katal. But I was shown the door as I had wrapped my flute in a cloth - reason enough to make him feel that I am poor. But looking back, this episode actually helped me steel my nerves and become more intense in my endeavour.
You are known to have performed with many legends like George Harrison, Pt Ravi Shankar, Ustad Ali Akbar Khan. Has life come full circle with these performances?
No. Not at all. There is a void still. Every day there is the thirst for creating something new and I think that thirst will remain till death.
Your most memorable performance?
It was playing at Moscow's Festival of India closing ceremony with my guru Pandit Ravi Shankar.
Dawn or dusk - Which is your favourite time with regard to weaving magic with the flute?
It straddles between early morning and late nights. Most of my powerful compostions have been the ones I had composd during nights.
How do you see the government's role in promotion of classical music?
This is one of the queries I have been awaiting to voice my opinion on. The government can be the most effective tool in popularising classical music. I would suggest it makes classical music a compulsory subject in schools, from Std I itself.
And your message to the aspiring musicians in the genre?
My sole message to them is do not let the musician in you die, come what may. As it is, classical musicians are known to have a strong insight and this insight should not be lost in the hubbub of modern-day driven needs.