Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia
by Mohan Nadkarni
Unquestionably the best-known flutist of the present day India, Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia does not come of a musical lineage in the conventional sense. But he was still a teenager when he started out as a singer under the tutelage with Pandit Raja Ram, a vocalist based in his home-town Allahabad. A year later, the budding vocalist chanced to hear a woodwind recital by Pandit Bhola Nath of Varanasi. That changed the course of his future musical career and, in time to come, there emerged a flute maestro known as Hariprasad Chaurasia.
In the early years of his career, Panditji had to work his way up the hard way. Joining the staff of All India Radio, Allahabad, in 1957, when he was only 18, Hariprasadji made his mark both as a soloist and as a composer of uncommon caliber. But he gave up his salaried job after five years to pursue music as a profession. This marked the beginning of his steady rise to fame. And he has not looked back ever since.
His quest of excellence took him to Annapurna Devi, worthy daughter and disciple of the great Acharya Allauddin Khan of Maihar, and it was from her that his music received its magic touch. It would be true to say that Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia picked up the thread where Pandit Pannalal Ghosh, the great pioneer of woodwind music left it, following his sudden and untimely death in 1960. Under the guidance and inspiration of Annapurna Devi, he has carried forward Pannababu's mission towards widening the horizons of his instrument beyond the strictly classical form. Thereby, he has acquired a perfect command over a variety of light classical tunes from thumri to lighter and folk variety.
A classicist by temperament and training, Panditji is also modern in outlook and susceptible to new ideas. he has successfully scored the music for several films in partnership with another great virtuoso, santoorist Pandit Shivkumar Sharma. But the base has inalienably Indian. A recipient of Padma Bhushan and Sangeet Natak Akadami award, he has won unstinted acclaim in major musical events in India and abroad.
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