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An interview with Hariprasad Chaurasia by Ian Gottstein. New Renaissance caught up with Hariprasad Chaurasia, the world's premiere Indian flautist, after his master class in Cosmopolité

by Ian Gottstein 

{mosgoogle}NR: Hariprasad Chaurasia, I am very grateful to you for this gift of your time. Are you touring the world at the moment?

HC: No, at the moment I am just here in Norway. I have had some programs in Oslo and Fredrikstad. On Wednesday I have another concert here in Oslo and in the meantime I was free so I wanted to meet my friends, those who were interested in Indian music.

NR: How long have you been playing music?

HC: Well as I remember, I started my journey when I was nine years old. And this journey is still going on. Now it is about fifty years long. I don’t know how long it will take or how many lives it will take.

NR: Over these fifty years, how have you felt that your music has changed and developed?

HC: I don’t think that I have changed something.

My teacher was not a flute player-fortunately! She was a subahar* player and she wanted me to play a different music, a music that is uncommon on the flute. So I am trying to satisfy my teacher and to satisfy my soul.
I feel that she is not very happy with me and that she will not be happy with me in this life. Sometimes I think that she is right. If she becomes happy then I will not think about further studies and further research into music. I think I am still a student and will be a student for I don’t know how many lives, till I fulfil my teacher’s desire. It is going on still.

NR: Your own CD, Rivers**, brought new sounds and ideas into the mainstream of Indian music. Can you tell us something about it?

HC: That was the record company’s idea. They chose me out of several musicians because my music is very natural. They asked me how would I treat the theme of water.

So, my instrument there is simply bamboo. The sound is straight from nature and it connects me to nature.

A drop of water when you are thirsty gives such relief. The same drop in a fountain inspires you with its beauty. The same water in a dirty drain is repelling. And the same drop in the river makes you want to swim there and take a bath. And when the same water goes in the sea it thrills you with its power.

NR: When you play a raga what are you trying to express?

HC: First of all I choose a raga that gives me musical satisfaction. When I choose that raga then I welcome and invite the raga. To do that I have to meditate on the raga to understand its structure. When I get the structure then I can enjoy playing it. When I play a few beautiful notes, the spirit of the raga feels happy and comes and blesses me. Then the real music comes.

NR: How do you think that Indian classical music influences one as a person?

HC: Whoever gets involved in this field becomes spiritual because the music itself is purely spiritual. The music is a prayer, a rare kind of prayer. Music is created by the Supreme entity (‘Brahma’) so that we can get an understanding or a view (‘Darshan’) of that entity.

NR: What is the role of spirituality in your music?

HC: When I play music, that is my best yoga, the best meditation, the best prayer.

NR: What is music to you?

HC: Music is my love. And because it is my love, music has become my religion.

* a stringed instrument like a sitar
** see review in NR vol.5 no.3

Ian Gottstein was one of the founders of New Renaissance magazine. He passed away in June, 2002.

This article was printed in New Renaissance, Vol. 10, No. 4, issue 35, Winter, 2001-2002  Copyright © 2002 by Renaissance Universal, all rights reserved.  Posted on the web on October 15, 2002