Making music out of thin air

Pandit Rupak Kulkarni, a flute maestro of international eminence, can’t feel blessed enough for being a humble practitioner of the Indian classical music, which he asserts, “is not just pleasure to the ears, but an art form that abounds in spiritual orientation.”

In Chandigarh to perform at the invitation of SPICMACAY (Society for Promotion of Indian Classical Music and Culture Amongst Youth), Rupak shares details about his grooming in music by legendary musicians and the missing virtue of patience in today’s youth.

Born and brought up in a musical family of Belgaum district in Karnataka, Rupak claims to have given a brief tabla performance when he was less than two years old. “Strange though it may sound, but photos and recordings don’t lie,” he adds, to affirm his claim. Son of Pandit Ganga Rao Kulkarni, a famous flautist and tabla player, Rupak rightly feels blessed to have a guru in his father. Later, in 1981, when Rupak was 12, he fell under the tutelage of the invincible flute wizard, Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia, whom Rupak calls the ‘the ultimate dream destination of any musician’.

“Chaurasia ji awakened my dormant aesthetic potential to fruitful creations. He exposed me to the fundamental streams of nayaki and helped me learn the pure art form of gayaki, laying stress, as a guru, on hard work and patience,” says Rupak, in such reverence that he touches his ears while mentioning his teacher’s name.

Sharing further details about Chaurasia’s stress on detail, Rupak says the master taught him raag Bhairavi for five years. “Just compare my patience with that of today’s youngsters who want instant name and fame through TV reality shows or other means. But, I personally feel it is not the naïve youngsters but their parents are at fault, having failed to inculcate the value and love for classical art in their progeny,” deliberates Rupak.

Conceding that Indian film music is good to relish, the flautist adds that a performer should adhere to the prescribed learning process to do well.

“Even I have played for many films such as Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham, Fiza and many others, but classical music is my first love,” he reinforces.

On his part, Rupak puts in efforts to attune new listeners to claasical music.

“I modify my musical presentations so that they are more soothing to naïve listeners, so that their interest is aroused in the centuries old tradition,” he says, adding that foreign audiences are more inclined and receptive to Indian classical music, ‘unlike their own fixed compositions that are repeated by performers’.

Today, after sixty music albums to his credit, performances worldwide and collaborations with foreign artists, Rupak says he is still learning to explore new dimensions.
Amongst his most memorable moments, Rupak recalls the appreciation bestowed on him by maestro sitarist of Maihar gharana, Pandit Ravishankar, who ‘listened with his eyes closed’ and celebrated Indian vocalist Pandit Bhimsen Joshi. “Well, that may be the magic of our classical music and that of my guru, whose presence can be felt in my flute performances,” signs off Rupak.


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