The flute, known as bansuri in Indian classical music, is a recent addition to the pantheon of melodic instruments that enjoy the status of full-fledged concert instruments – this group includes the santoor, sitar, and sarod. Pannalal Ghosh, who pioneered the entry of the solo bansuri to the concert stage in the early 1950s, developed what came to be known as the gayaki ang (vocal) style of the bansuri. According to this style, the development of the raga follows the pattern stylised by khayal vocalism. Around the same time, the Maihar gharana bansuri maestro Hariprasad Chaurasia devised what is known as the tant ang or the style associated with string instruments like the sitar or sarod. This style adopts a sequence in which a raga is developed, like the stages called alap, jod, gat and jhala. Many contemporary bansuri players have been trying to marry the two styles with a reasonable degree of success. One such musician is flautist Narendra Soni from Bhopal.
We recently heard Soni’s rendition of raga Jhinjhoti on an All India Radio broadcast. His alaps in the raga exuded tranquillity and the jod section was spirited. The 55-year-old bansuri player sounded meditative while playing the slow gat composition and picked up the tempo in the later portions, thus ably combining the gayaki ang and tant ang.
In a phone interview from his residence in Bhopal, Soni said that he took up the bansuri 30 years ago, after attending a Hariprasad Chaurasia concert at which Chaurasia was accompanied by Zakir Hussain. “The duo took us to such unprecedented heights that I resolved to take up the bansuri and emulate him in my own little way,” he said.
Soni belongs to a family of jewellers and developed an interest in music thanks to the company of his flautist friend Vinay Kotwal. “I used to play the banjo, but I was attracted to the sound of Vinay’s instrument,” said Soni, adding that Kotwal gave him preliminary lessons. Then Soni began training under vocalist Nand Kishore Sharma from Bhopal, who taught him the intricacies of raga music. Soni also trained under classical vocalist Siddharam Swami to expand his repertoire of ragas. Soni was also drawn to popular Hindi film tunes like “Aaja Re Pardesi” from Madhumati and “Yeh Zindagi Usiki Hai” from Anarkali, which he would play at social gatherings.
Soni will be performing in Mumbai after a considerable gap. He intends to play the raga Gavati in this festival. He will be accompanied on the tabla by Praveen Karkare, an accomplished tabla player from the city.
By Amarendra Dhaneshwar on March 02 2012 2.07pm