The journey of the humble bamboo flute from folk music to Indian classical music is not a very old one. The transformation took place due to the pioneering efforts of Pandit Pannalal Ghosh (1911-1960), who identified its possibilities, developed a range of techniques and introduced it to the world of Indian classical music for the first time.
In this interview, Pandit Nityanand Haldipur brings a rich bouquet of information about how, through the efforts of Pandit Ghosh, the flute had transformed its genre and acquired the status of a solo Indian classical instrument.
The bamboo flute is an intriguingly simple musical instrument in the complex pantheon of Indian classical instruments. It is made from carefully selected bamboos that have no nodes and are of medium thickness. The most preferred geographical location for selecting bamboo reeds for flutes is Assam, a north-eastern state of India full of moisture-rich alluvial and lateritic soils.
In Indian classical music, the art of bringing the instrument as close as possible to the human voice is known as ‘gayaki’, whereas the application of the techniques of a plucked instrument is known as ‘tantrakari’. Pandit Haldipur explains that gayaki can be produced best in a flute because of its closeness to human voice. However, before the efforts of Pandit Pannalal Ghosh, no one had thought of playing an Indian classical solo concert on the flute.
Pandit Ghosh’s profound research and development of blowing and fingering techniques had, for the first time, made it possible for the entire Indian classical music fraternity to recognise and accept the versatility of the flute as a solo instrument.
One of India’s leading and respected flautists, Pandit Haldipur is known for his introspective and contemplative renditions. He learned from his father, Niranjan Haldipur, who was a disciple of Pandit Pannalal Ghosh. After 1986, he was accepted by the genius sitar and surbahar player, Annapurna Devi, to train in the hallowed tradition of the Maihar gharana for many years. He is a contemporary of Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia and both have served as disciples of Annapurna Devi around the same time.
Against a reposeful and restrained rendition of Raag Marwa playing in the background, Pandit Haldipur speaks about the contribution of Pandit Ghosh and also shares his thoughts about ‘taalim’ (learning). According to him, the attributes of a gharana and its musical values are vital in shaping up a musician and his creativity.
Immersive practice (riyaaz), he says, is like the process of chanting the same hymn every day. One cannot expect immediate results from it, but with regularity, one will be able to notice marked changes and development in one’s playing. He further adds that the musical refinement of an artist takes place when the student uses his imagination and develops the seed of an idea given by the guru into a solid structure.
This interview was recorded at the Darbar Festival in 2014.