On July 21, flautist Rakesh Chaurasia and Ustad Zakir Hussain (tabla player) will perform together at a classical concert in the city. Rakesh dedicates the show to his paternal uncle and guru, Pt Hariparsad Chaurasia. “I was four years old when Hariji gave me a small flute. I didn’t even know the name of the instrument. That was when my journey started,” he says.
However, it was only when he was a teenager that Rakesh realised he wanted to become a professional musician. “I was about 14 when I went to Moscow (Russia) for the Festival of India with Hariji. There, I realised that this instrument can take me a long way. That is when I started taking it seriously,” says the maestro.
Rakesh adds that Chaurasia always encouraged him to incorporate his creativity while playing the flute. He was never allowed to blindly copy him. “Hariji used to say, ‘If you keep imitating me, then you will have to give me credit all the time.’ He never allowed us to record [our rehearsals] for that same reason,” says Rakesh, who believes there is no end to how much one can learn when it comes to classical music. He admits that it is a bit scary to play alongside a legend like Zakir. “But Zakir saab never makes me uncomfortable, and doesn’t treat me like a kid or a newcomer. He gives the performance his 100%. If we make any mistake, he covers it up in such a way that nobody finds out about it,” says Rakesh.
The artiste also feels that while there are audiences for every genre of music in India, the main difference between Bollywood and classical music is that the former is “seasonal”. “Classical music stays in the minds of people for longer. Also, a lot of people enjoy classical music. A classical musician can fill up an auditorium. I recently went for the Cape Town Jazz International Festival (in South Africa), where my band was the only Indian group. We had an audience of 7,000 people,” he says.