On July 1st 1938 Pandit Haiprasad Chaurasia, India’s most popular flautist was born in Allahabad.
Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia is an internationally acclaimed musician who surprisingly did not hail from a musical family. His father was a wrestler who wanted Chaurasia to follow in his footsteps. Chaurasia would go to the akhara (traditional clay pit for wrestling) to train with his father for some time, but his heart lay in music. Even though he was not fond of wrestling, Chaurasia credits the sport for the stamina it helped him build, which he found of immense use while playing the flute.
Hariprasad Chaurasia started by learning vocal music from his neighbour Pandit Rajaram when he was fifteen. After a year of vocal training, Chaurasia turned to training on the flute after he heard noted flautist Pandit Bholonath from Varanasi perform. Chaurasia became a student of Pandit Bholanath and trained under him for eight years.
In 1957 Chaurasia joined the All India Radio (AIR) in Cuttack (Odisha) where he worked as a composer and a performer. In 1960, he was transferred by AIR from Cuttack to Mumbai, where he received further guidance from Surbahar player Annapurna Devi, daughter of famous multi-instrumentalist and composer Allaudin Khan and he later left AIR to dedicate himself to music completely and pursue a performing career.
Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia has enjoyed success not only in India, but around the world as well and has performed in cities across the United States and Europe. He is a featured artist in all popular music festivals around the world. Apart from Hindustani classical music, Pandit Chaurasia has also made a commendable mark in composing music for Indian films in collaboration with noted Santoor player Shivkumar Sharma forming a group called Shiv-Hari. The duo composed unforgettable music for many popular Bollywood films like Silsila, Lamhe, Chandini, Faasla, Sahibaan and Darr among others.
Chaurasia has also worked on fusion music together with international composers such as Jon McLaughlin and Jan Garbarek. Chaurasia has also earned praise for his excellence in music by fellow musicians such as Yehudi Menuhin and Jean Pierre Rampal.
One of the reasons why Pandit Chaurasia has admirers across the world is because of his unique style of playing the flute and composing music. He is not hesitant to experiment with new styles of music, which sets him in a league of his own. Chaurasia has also mastered the technique of combining alaap and jod to the flute. Chaurasia an extremely talented and versatile musician has not just limited himself to Hindustani classical music, but has also dabbled with Indian folk, pop music and Western classical music as well.
Hariprasad Chaurasia came out with an album titled Eternity, which combined elements of western music along with those of Indian classical music. Apart from fusion music, in which he enjoyed a lot of success, Chaurasia also released albums of classical music, meditation music, bhajans and other devotional music.
Apart from solo performances, Pandit Chaurasia has also shared the stage with renowned Indian classical musicians like Pandit Jasraj, Ustad Zakir Hussain, Pandit Shivkumar Sharma and Dr. Balamuralikrishnan among others. He has also conducted orchestras with western instrumentalists, like Adi Anant.
Apart from performing, Pandit Haripraad Chaurasis has also opened a school of music in Mumbai and Bhubaneswar where students learn music in a Gurukul environment, where the guru-shishya relationship is maintained. His schools have produces several talented musicians who have gone on to make him proud not only in India, but across the world. One of his most noted disciples is his nephew Rakesh Chaurasia. Apart from India, Chaurasia also teaches music at the Rotterdam Music Conservatorium, where he is the Artist Director of the Indian Music department.
Given his extraordinary contribution to the world of Indian music, Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia has been honoured with many awards and honours such as the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award (1984), the Maharashtra Gaurav Puraskar (1990), the Padma Bhushan (1992), Padma Vibhushan (2000), Ordres d'Arts de Lettres (France, 2008), honorary doctorate from Utkarsh University (Odisha, 2011), and an honorary Doctorate IIT Kharagpur (2011), among several others.
A documentary film titled Bansuri Guru was made in 2013 on the life and musical journey of Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia. The film was produced by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India.
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