Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia: “You must surrender yourself to music”
Videos with his music have more than one million views on YouTube. He has collaborated with artists such as The Beatles and Aquarium. He is the founder of two gurukuls in India and is the Artistic Director of the World Music Department at the Rotterdam Conservatory of Music. Не is the main hero of the documentary film “Bansuri Guru” (2013) . Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia is a legendary figure. On May 18th visitors of the Diaghilev festival could witness his performance at the Perm Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre. We decided to find out what he thinks about music, the modern world, destiny and other questions that are of big importance for everyone.
Photo by Nikita Chuntomov
You must surrender yourself to music if you wish to become a master. For me music is a kind of religion. The mood of Indian Classical music is spiritual. Everybody likes to listen to spiritual music. They lose themselves when they are listening to it. It is like yoga. It is like meditation. Music is also a meditation. When I play I meditate. I close my eyes and do not read notation paper. It’s a different kind of feeling. My music has become like a universal language. People come from all over the world to India to learn our music. It is a special language; there is nothing you can add to it. Hindi is pure, Russian is pure – they do not influence one another, although there are some common words, such as “chai”. Every language has a different kind of sound and beauty. Music is about peace. It gives you peace. Once you become musical, you don’t want to fight. You want peace in your family, outside your family, with your friends. You want a peaceful life.
Music should be convincing. It should charm you. Once it charms you it will charm everyone. What you have learned, what you have practiced and achieved in your life – that impresses everyone. If I play just one note, but it is very soothing and nice – everyone will love to listen to that one note. You never know what the effect of music is. Modern music can charm as well. The old composers – Bach, Beethoven – can charm. They’re real. But I’m also talking about someone who is humming. Just like a mom who is singing a lullaby. You don’t know what it means, but it touches you.
This is my first visit to Perm. I have performed in Moscow and other Russian cities before. I was the first Indian musician that played in the Bolshoi Theatre. It was the year of the 30th anniversary of India’s independence - 1977. We were living in the hotel “Moskva” and so many people were willing to see us. Young girls and children were welcoming us with songs of Raj Kappor. (Mr.Chaurasia hummed the song “Avaara hoon” from the famous 1951 movie “Awaara”- “Vagabound) That was a beautiful time that I enjoyed really much. I used to love listening to Russian folk music. I even took recordings of local musicians. Their singing was astonishing – no instruments, just the voice. There is soul in that. That is the real music. Russia was real, without American influence. Now people have changed a little bit. But their interest in Indian culture is growing. I have students from Russia. They are very-very good and pick up so well. They love the Indian language, music and food. Indian cuisine is becoming popular in Russia. Even here in Perm my group enjoyed a meal yesterday at an Indian restaurant not far from our hotel “Ural”. Russians love India. And in India we love Russia.
Whoever wants to make music beautiful must first find a proper teacher, guide. It takes time. But everyone should have a teacher according to their thought of music. Your Teacher should always free for you. If you live together – that would be very nice. When you find a new family member, you try to follow their activities if you like them. How you do pujas and behave with people and music, what and how you practice in music, what you eat and how long you sleep – all of that means a lot. In India I have two gurukuls - not schools - where I stay with the students. The students are with me all the time. I take care of them and they take care of me. From six o’clock in the morning until nine o’clock in the evening they practice music, listen to it and write about it. We speak about it. To be accepted to the gurukul you have to show everything you know. You have to prove that you will work for music. You come and surrender yourself to music. I still feel like a student and feel that I have to learn more. I never think of myself as a master. I learn wherever I go.
Health is very important in life. Once you are healthy, you can do anything nicely and then your music becomes healthy. Blowing the flute is also a kind of yoga. What do you learn in yoga? Breathing. So we are doing yoga all the time while playing, practicing and teaching the flute. If you are an artist it doesn’t mean that you can lead an unhealthy lifestyle. If you go to sleep late at night and get up late in morning that really affects you, your friends and your family. Thank God if you aren’t smoking or using drugs! When you follow those kinds of things, you become spoiled. You will never make music beautiful if you lead such a life.
What do we see in the news today? People are killing each other, fighting. What is happening? I don’t understand why it is so. What does the world get out of all this violence? Remember the song “Imagine” by John Lennon? When you listen to Indian music, you come close to that kind of life. Now because of television and different programs from outside many Indian people try to follow the west. If I follow your language, your beauty, your thoughts – it’s okay. If I follow someone who is drinking or fighting - that’s a bad kind of following. In America now children are carrying guns to schools. If my children will follow that I will not like that. Follow good things; try to speak Russian, for example.
People want to make money so they put everything in movies – the worst and the best things there are in life. But why not show something precious, like how to make beautiful paintings and improve the environment? Those are good stories. Unfortunately today the younger generation does not always have an idea how to select the story, how to select the script, how to make a movie beautiful. They have money to produce, but they don’t have time to choose the subject. You mention “Slumdog millionare”- this film was produced by a guy from London. Outsiders want to show that India is a little bit…you know… (DT- perhaps Hariprasad implied the phrase “a third-world country”) They want to show something very ugly and cash it. However India is a very big and rich country - financially and intellectually- in every field. There are good movies though that you should definitely watch. You will never forget these films: “Dangal” (2016), “Baahubali: The Beginning” (2015), “Anarkali” (2015), “Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India” (2001).
Since I was little I loved music – first to listen. I used to listen to music, but my father wanted me to be a wrestler so I would make him happy and went to wrestling classes. But I never liked wrestling. Sometimes you have to decide what you will do in life, sometimes your parents decide. It depends from person to person. You think about different things, but God makes the main decision for you. Even those who are sitting on the borders and waiting for enemies – that is Gods decision, who must be there. Your soul will lie to what you are destined to do.
Everything should happen according to your soul. That way you will be satisfied your whole life. Whether you become famous or receive a lot of money – it doesn’t matter. If your soul is satisfied – everything is fine. I think I am the happiest person in the world. I run around everywhere and have time to care of my two gurukuls, my students, my guru – everyone is happy with me, so I am happy. Everything happens according to my soul.
Finding a guru is like finding a mom. It took me about fifteen years to get a proper teacher. She is still there for me. I love her and she loves me. Whenever I have time, I go and visit her. She is more than 80 years old. I always bow my head and want to learn something from her. It takes time to find such a teacher. Similarly it takes quite a while to find a boyfriend/girlfriend. If you are quick, what you find may not give you satisfaction (or give satisfaction just for some time). If you are very serious, you will take a long time to search and find the person that is right for you.
Darya Tcherkassova, press-office of the Diaghilev Festival