Lot to learn from experimental music, says Rakesh Chaurasia


By Swetha Kannan

Rakesh Chaurasia, nephew of flute maestro Hariprasad Chaurasia, has the tough task of living up to a renowned surname. Even as he gracefully carries on the family tradition, Rakesh has also managed to carve a niche for himself, reaching out to the youth through his experimental music band Rakesh and Friends. The well-travelled flautist from Mumbai also loves collaborations with musicians worldwide for the “challenging” experience they provide. However, ‘fusion’ music does not mean diluting the core; compositions in fusion music are still based on ragas, says Rakesh, over a telephonic chat with Twaang. More from the man with the magic bamboo wand…

How does it feel to carry on the bansuri tradition of the Chaurasia family? It is tough for me to carry such a heavy weight name. People have a lot of expectations from me. But I take it positively as this keeps me on my toes. I have to keep on practising. Even if I cannot take the name further, I have to keep it at the same level at least.

You are an experimental artist. Are you not worried it will take you away from classical music?

All compositions of my band Rakesh and Friends are pieces in classical ragas. Fusion does not mean confusion. It is a healthy and positive exchange of music between say Indian classical, western classical, and sometimes jazz and swing. Fusion music gives so much liberty and freedom. The problem arises when it doesn’t gel, because you have not rehearsed. The important thing is to sound one. Artists should not sound different from each other on stage. My guru Hariprasad Chaurasia has done everything, from classical to film and fusion music. He is so open to experiments. Artists must do it and then decide if they like it or not. Sticking to one thing can get boring. Apart from fusion, I have also worked for the film industry. This helps you learn when to switch on and off. Experimental music gives you a lot to learn. Besides, fusion music helps you reach the masses and the younger audience, which generally believes classical pieces are too long. The interest has been created. So, nowadays I see the same young faces in classical concerts as well.

How is it collaborating with other artists in the industry? (Rakesh has collaborated with Anil Srinivasan, Zakir Hussain, Abhijit Pohankar, Talvin Singh and international artists such as Edgar Mayer and the Celtic musicians).

All Indian artists fall under the same pocket of classical music. But the western artists do not know what our music is. They have a different style. Their pieces are such that it is so tough to remember everything. It is challenging. The western artists are thoroughly professional. With them, you rehearse from morning after breakfast till you get on to the stage. We Indians are not used to rehearsing so much; we generally see what happens on stage. Of course, sometimes, this extempore helps.

How is the Indian listener different from the western audience?

Unlike in India, there is not much piracy in the West. The western listener still pays money and buys CDs to listen to good quality music. In India, we squeeze everything into MP3s and spoil the music.

What is your take on digitisation of music? Digitisation helps music reach more people. All artists should do this so that their music reaches people properly. The problem with CDs today are that of reach, availability and accessibility. With digitisation, people can listen to music anytime, in the car, on the go, at peace.

Have your children taken to the flute?

They do, as a hobby. I am not pushing them. While playing a traditional instrument, it is important to sit cross-legged etc. But it is hard to make this generation sit and play. This generation is so hyper.

Image courtesy: http://www.rakeshchaurasia.com/gallery.php

Listen to the flute and piano come alive in a collaborative effort by Rakesh Chaurasia and Anil Srinivasan on Twaang.


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