Born on the 1st of July, in the year 1938, Hariprasad Chaurasia is a widely renowned Indian flutist whose reserves are in the Eastern Classical music. He is an orthodox and groundbreaking musician. He was born in the city of Allahabad, in the North Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. Unlike many other musicians, Chaurasia was not born into a family of musical exponents. He was the son of a wrestler. He was not lucky enough to receive motherly affection, for his mother died when he was about 6 years old. His father, like him, wanted Chaurasia to become a strong wrestler and therefore, Chaurasia had to study music without his father’s knowledge. Though he secretly started to learn music in his friend’s house, he also did go to the Akhada to practice wrestling for some time with his father. Even though Chaurasia did not wish to learn wrestling, he does feel thankful for having learned it. These very words of Chaurasia reveal that he does regret learning wrestling:
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“I was not any good at wrestling. I went there only to please my father. But maybe because of the strength and stamina I built up then, I’m able to play the Bansuri even to this day”.
— Hariprasad Chaurasia
As mentioned earlier, Chaurasia started to learn vocal music when he was about 15 years old from Pandit Rajaram, one of his neighbors. Along with the passage of time, his interest shifted to learning the Flute. Hence, he started to learn to play the Flute under the guidance and training of Pandit Bholanath Prasanna of Varanasi for a period of about 8 years. Later in the year 1957, he joined the All India Radio in the city of Cuttack in Odisha. There, he worked as both a performer and composer. After many years, while he was still working for the All India Radio, he got an opportunity to receive guidance and training form the daughter of Baba Allaudin Khan, a reclusive Annapurna Devi. Nevertheless, it was no piece of cake for Chaurasia to make Annapurna Devi to be his guru, for she agreed to train him only if was ready to forget all that he had learnt until then (so that it would be easy for her to train a student free from any pre-existing errors). According to another version of this story, she only ready to teach him if he was ready to switch from being a right-handed flute player to a left-handed flute player. It is believed that Annapurna Devi wanted Chaurasia to prove his commitment to her as a student. It might have been this influence of Annapurna Devi that he plays the Flute with his left hand until this day.
Apart from being an exponential Classical musician, he has also created for himself a reputation as a music director. He has composed a number of songs for many Indian films. He, along with Shivkumar Sharma formed the group called Shiv-Hari. With Pandit Shivkumar Sharma, he composed musical pieces for a number of famous Hindi films such as Silsila, Chandni and Lamhe. He has had much international collaboration with exponential musicians. He even worked with world musicians in the experimentations of the cross-cultural performances, which also includes Shakti, the fusion group.
Chaurasia holds the privilege of having been collaborated with a number of Western musicians, which includes John McLaughlin, Jan Garbarek and Ken Lauber. He even composed music for Indian films in collaborations with these musicians of international renown. He has performed in a number of concerts all across the world. He has won acclaim from different audiences and even from his fellow musicians, which includes Yehudi Menuhin and Jean-Pierre Rampal. Chaurasia holds the colossal privilege of having had the opportunity to play with The Beatles’ 1968 B-side “The Inner Light”, which was written by the musician George Harrison.
Chaurasia worked in the World Music Department. He now serves as the artistic director at the Rotterdam Music Conservatory in the Netherlands. He holds the privilege of having founded the Vrindavan Gurukul in Mumbai (opened in the year 2006_ and the Vrindavan Gurukul in Bhubaneshwar (opened in the year 2010). Both of these renowned institutes are musical schools that are dedicated to guide and train the students in the Hindustani Bansuri in the ancient Guru-Shishya tradition. Even in his late 70s, he continues to entertain the audience.
Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia has given the possibilities to several innovative ideas in mastering the art of playing the flute. He has opened many scopes to expand the emotive and expressive possibilities of the North Indian Classical Flute through his artistic techniques.
The Indian government has honored him with several honorary awards for his outstanding and inestimable contribution in the field of Indian music. The Sangeet Natak Academy – 1984, the Konark Samman – 1992, the Padma Bhushan – 1992, the Yash Bharati Sanman – 1994, the Padma Vibhushan – 2000, the Pandit Chatur Lal Excellence Award – 2015, the Hafiz Ali Khan Award – 2000 are few of the many honorary awards received by Hariprasad Chaurasia.