A famous name attached to this musician; young Rakesh is the nephew and child prodigy of flute maestro Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia. The most accomplished of disciples of his uncle, he shows all the promise to carry the Chaurasia legacy to new heights.
Just like his legendary uncle, Rakesh possesses the right balance of strength and serenity, very critical factors for an exceptional flautist. His dextrous blowing technique coupled with his training of swar and tala exudes adeptly in his emotions through the hollow piece of bamboo. Rakesh has already globe trotted many times over, enthralling audiences at classical and semi-classical concerts in Japan, Australia, Europe, South Africa and USA. He is also an accomplished musician having recorded with most of the leading stalwarts of the Indian film industry. And just like his illustrious uncle, he has composed music and worked with artists such as the Spanish guitarist Marco Salaun, Indian jazz pianist Louis Banks and Percussionist, Taufiq Qureshi, amongst others. VIRA, one of the most successful and highly acclaimed albums on which he was accompanied by Talvin Singh on the table, is released under Times Music label. Soon after its release, he and Talvin were invited to conclude the twenty-four hour live music broadcast to a worldwide audience on the BBC radio celebrating Her Majesty the Queen Elizabeth’s Silver Jubilee.
Despite his experimental work, Rakesh has never deviated from his main goal of becoming a full-fledged classical musician. The winner of Surmani (Mumbai) in 1998, he has regularly appeared festivals like St. Xavier’s in Mumbai, Festivals of India in Russia, Japan and the USA. His growing maturity and status has brought him invitations to perform solo at major events within India and abroad such as the festival of Saint-Denis in Paris with Talvin Singh, Leicester International Music Festival in England, Ashirwadh Sangeet Samaroh in Varanasi, anubhuti in Mumbai where history was made when, for the first time ever, Rakesh, Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia, Pandit Shivkumar Sharma and his son, Rahul, all performed together on stage accompanied by the legendary Usatd Zakir Hussain. Having also appeared in Gwalior, Nagpur, Hyderabad and Bhopal, he has had the distinction of a solo performance in front of a two thousand capacity audience during the prestigious Hindi Sahitya Sammelan in the city of Allahabad.
Modest Rakesh is the first to admit that he has a lot to learn, not just from his legendary uncle and maestro, Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia but his peers too. He is indeed, destined to carve a niche for himself in the realm of Indian Classical Music with the simple yet extremely difficult to play bamboo flute the Bansuri.
The bansuri (or bamboo flute) is the prime devotional instrument of India. In classical Persian poetry, its sound is said to be the mournful cry of the human soul separated from its Divine roots, much as the bamboo is torn from its reed to be shaped into an instrument. The flute of the Hindu God Krishna won the hearts of the restless gopis (or milkmaids) and when they heard him play in the dead of night, they would leave their beds to follow him into the forests of Vrindaban. Lord Krishna’s flute thus becomes a metaphor for the call of the Divine which entices the human soul to transcend all obstacles and follow the dictates of the heart. Essentially a folk instrument, the bansuri has only relatively recently come to form part of the array of North Indian Classical instruments. Largely due to the virtuosity of Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia, uncle and Guru of Rakesh Chaurasia.
The Hindi word “dhun” is a generic term for any kind of tune or melody but it also has a specific meaning in that it can be a lighter composition based on any one of the five hundred or so Indian classical raags (or melodic scales). Within a classical context, a dhun is a looser, more lyrical and effervescent version of a pure raag. Raags are the lifeblood of Indian classical music and permeate every single instrumental piece or song from. The five dhuns on this album are derived from classical raags, the tunes being composed to loosely link into landscape and natural geographical features like rivers or mountains in terms of suggesting certain sounds – in fact, everything in which the devotee can sense the presence of the Divine, all dhuns are n the dadra taal (six-beat rhythm or time cycle) and are performed without a break to suggest the perpetual, unending sound of nature. The continuous, unchanging rhythm is designed to sustain a mood of meditation.
1. Sounds of the Mountains: Raag Pahadi
This is a very popular, lyrical raag which has its origins in Punjabi and Kashmiri folk music. Its clear associations with mountains (“Pahard” means mountain in Urdu/Hindi) makes it an ideal melody for lighter classical songs. The underlying mood of a breathtaking, undulating landscape of majestic mountains also conveys a sense of awe-inspiring devotion.
2. Sounds of the Valley: Raag Khamaj
An immensely popular and sensual raag which lends itself readily to lighter classical and vocal styles. It is also a favourite melody for devotional hymns as well as celebratory songs. This dhun composition is evocative of a song in praise of Lord Krishna where the devotee searches for her unseen God. He is heard in the sound of the flute but remains unseen.
3. Sounds of the Hills: Raag Desh
This is probably the most poignant of the lighters raags, the word “Desh” meaning land or, more specifically the “homeland”. It is a tune that suggests nostalgia or homesickness. But, in the devotional context it alludes to the “homesickness” of the human soul; sentenced to life on earth, while it yearns for its true home with the Divine. The flute is, undoubtedly, the best instrument to capture the many nuances of this bitter-sweet mood.
4. Sound of the River: Raag Pilu
This is one of the foremost raags of the light-classical song repertoire. It is immensely easy-listening but is, in fact, one of the more complex raags of the North Indian repertoire. Most compositions begin in the lower octave on the fifth note which can give a very sombre effect at the starting point although many songs then proceed with a fluidity that is quite light-hearted.
5. Sounds of the Seas: Raag Bhairavi
Bhairavi, without a doubt, is the best-known and most-loved raag of North Indian Classical music and, even for most beginners, instantly recognisable. It can be performed in numerous genres; instrumental and vocal, but has always been a top favourite for devotional hymns. Of all the raags, Bhairavi is the one that allows a performer maximum flexibility in the expression of a wide array of moods.
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