Flutist duo promises an evening of ethereal melodies

Bivash Mukherjee
Two Indian flutists hope to enthrall Shanghai audiences with their renditions of classical music performed on the bansuri, a type of side-blown bamboo flute.
Bivash Mukherjee
Flutist duo promises an evening of ethereal melodies

Pandit Rupak Kulkarni

Flutist duo promises an evening of ethereal melodies

Pandit Rakesh Chaurasia

In the 1963 classic, "Buffalo Boy and the Flute," a little boy tends to a water buffalo while playing the flute.

In a memorable sequence from the animated film, the boy dreams of being lost in a windy bamboo grove and making a flute out of a hollow stalk.

The Shanghai Animation Film Studio-produced short film uses traditional water-ink Chinese painting to portray an idyllic rural setting. But it is flutist Lu Chunling's mellifluous notes that stay with us in this rather simple and pleasant tale.

The traditional flute has long been a part of global folklore. Flutes, along with drums, were likely among the earliest instruments known to mankind. Over time, they have been associated with myths and legends, with the simple, hollow tube with its soothing and calming sound becoming the voice of the gods.

In India, for example, one of the most prominent mythical figures, Krishna, is invariably depicted with a flute. Similar tales can be found in ancient China, Egypt, Greek mythology, and across Europe.

Over the course of history, the ubiquitous flute has undergone a process of evolution. It rose to prominence during the Baroque period, but it hit the high notes during the Romantic period, becoming the instrument of choice for lovers to express sweet nothings.

The English flute makers refined the instrument by adding keys to finger holes, and by the late 17th and early 18th centuries, flute virtuosos played the baroque flute, the forerunner of the contemporary flute. It was a matter of time before it became part of the concert repertoire.

The woodwind instrument holds significant cultural symbolism in China, particularly in relation to the concept of harmony. Within the realm of traditional Chinese music, the dizi, a type of flute crafted from bamboo, has enjoyed considerable popularity. There is evidence suggesting that the presence of rudimentary transverse flutes in China dates back over 9,000 years.

In addition to the diverse array of transverse flutes found in China, the country also boasts a selection of end-blown flutes, fipple flutes, and free-reed flutes.

Flutist duo promises an evening of ethereal melodies

Rishabh Dhar

Given the flute's rich heritage, expect a lively and enthralling evening when two of India's finest flutists, Pandit Rupak Kulkarni and Pandit Rakesh Chaurasia, perform at the Theater YOUNG in Yangpu District on Wednesday as part of the Chaiti Arts Festival.

The two musicians are highly regarded practitioners of bansuri, a type of side-blown bamboo flute, and aim to captivate the local audience with diverse renditions of Indian classical music, including the highly anticipated "jugalbandi."

The term "jugalbandi" refers to a musical performance characterized by a duet or a light-hearted competition wherein two primary performers, who may be either vocalists or instrumentalists, engage in spontaneous improvisation.

In this case, both happen to be flutists, holding out the possibility of an engaging and captivating musical confrontation.

"Music is something you can feel. Everybody can enjoy music. It has no religion, no caste," remarked Chaurasia in a video message.

"The appreciation at the end of the concert is the only language we understand."

Kulkarni believes that music is a language in itself.

"It can reach all people and every culture in the world. Music is the best thing to have happened to mankind," Kulkarni insisted, dismissing apprehensions that Indian classical music may be difficult for the Chinese audience to comprehend.

Chaurasia said the evening's performance would very likely depend on the local audience.

"It is all about packaging. A young musician can see the audience or can imagine what the audience is expecting. I have seen my guru decide something else in the green room while performing another set on the stage. We musicians are also performers."

Flutist duo promises an evening of ethereal melodies

Arkodeep Das

The flute is known to be a highly adaptable instrument that is capable of performing a diverse array of musical genres and evoking a wide spectrum of emotional expressions.

Kulkarni asserts that Indian classical music draws inspiration from the natural world.

"We have so many ragas (a melodic framework). We improvise based on the ragas. How much we want to explore depends on the artists, but the main essence is nature.

"Our body is inspired by nature. It reacts differently to morning and afternoon, and accordingly, our ragas have evolved," said Kulkarni, who has performed at concerts around the world.

In short, "our ragas are very meditative," said Chaurasia, who is the nephew of flute maestro Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia and is considered a child prodigy. "It is difficult to define, but you can feel it. There are ragas for every mood and every season …

"Just like jazz, they have chords, but it is largely improvised. The same is true for Indian classical. Playing the raga for five minutes or five hours is improvisation at best."

The two flutists will be accompanied on stage by percussionists Rishabh Dhar and Arkodeep Das. Dhar will play the pakhawaj, the Indian double-headed drum. His band, "FINGERPRINTS," is well-known for its innovative fusion of musical styles. The combination of the Indian tabla with African drums and Latino vibes has captivated listeners around the world.

Joining Dhar will be the up-and-coming young tabla player Arkodeep Das.

Chaiti intends to adorn the stage with Gond art, a type of indigenous artwork originating from the Gond tribes of central India, to create a thematic atmosphere centered on folk art.

The elaborate and vibrant artwork mostly portrays elements of the natural world, including animal species and the cultural practices of indigenous communities. Gond painters employ a distinctive artistic style, frequently distinguished by elaborate patterns and the application of dots.

The humble flute has principally served to create the mood. The soft, sweet melodies of the gentle instrument are what we expect to take home from the evening.

Performance info:

Date: October 11, 7:30pm

Venue: Theater YOUNG

Address: 1155 Kongjiang Rd


Ticket: 100/180/280 yuan

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