Symphony of pipes

Celebrated flautist Pandit Chaurasia plays with an entourage of over 100 musicians in the city.
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Updated on Jan 30, 2011 03:01 PM IST
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Hindustan Times | ByMegha Mahindru, Mumbai

The enchanting melodies of the Pied Piper of Hamelin may appear pale when compared to the sound produced by over 80 flautists, who were seen playing in unison at Thane recently. The fourth edition of Bansuri Utsav presented a flute symphony featuring three generations of flautists, led by celebrated flautist Pandit Hari Prasad Chaurasia.

The brainchild of Chaurasia’s disciple, veteran flautist Vivek Sonar, the idea behind the concert was to make the flute more accessible. “I felt this was the best way to make this ancient instrument popular among the masses,” he says.

While violin symphonies are common in the West, putting together a symphony of bansuri players is simply unheard of. “We utilised Western harmonic concepts and played several notes and counter-melodies at the same time,” says Sonar. Over 1,500 music lovers came to see 81 flautists, who kick-started the show with a fusion piece, supported by saxophone players, trumpeters, keyboard players and a drummer.

“The flute has many facets to itself and I wanted to bring out these nuances of the instrument,” explains Sonar. “Bansuri is a difficult instrument to master. And bringing together and tuning so many flutes is not easy. A single sound can make the whole symphony go awry,” he adds.

The varied flute players have been rehearsing for months. “Every student has his/her own limitations. My job was to put them in groups according to their expertise and synchronise the sounds, so as to avoid any chances of mistune,” adds Sonar.

This year, with the youngest flautist in the ensemble being 8-year-old Anudip Malvi and the oldest being 85-year-old Urmila Vaidya, Sonar’s band of flautists saw an exponential growth from the past. “This was the first time I really enjoyed playing with so many musicians. We started by playing raga number two, which I have been practising for months,” says little Malvi about the Guru Vandanam based on raga bhinna-shadja.

Among the proud spectators was Manisha Malshe, whose octogenarian mother was one of the participants. “The concert was marvellous and I was thrilled to see my mom perform with people of all age groups,” she added.

With this success, the flute festival will soon be seen moving out from Thane and making its way to Nashik and Dubai this year. “We have been approached by groups in Italy, Boston and Muscat to perform, but we are still in talks with them,” he adds.

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