Hello, everyone! It’s great to be here and I’d like to thank Geoffrey for the opportunity to blog on this site. I’m so happy to find such a vibrant community of flute enthusiasts gathered in one virtual place. Let me begin by introducing myself.
I’ve been a musician all of my life, but my journey with the bansuri flute began in 1997 while I was attending Berklee College of Music. Despite my lack of technical ability as a flute player in those early days, I felt deeply that there was a special quality to this instrument, as the intensity of my musical experience was greater than it ever was on the guitar, on which I had a fairly well-developed skill set. How then could I not follow and see where that would lead? I was referred to Steve Gorn for lessons and after graduation, I moved to upstate New York to learn with him. This was followed by two trips to India to study with the great Pandit Raghunath Seth in Mumbai. Both have been inspired teachers, mentors, and friends whose guidance has been invaluable to my growth as a musician and more importantly as a human being. In 2006, I was awarded a fellowship from the American Institute for Indian Studies, which brought me back to India three more times in successive years to study. On my most recent journey, I was staying in the house of Pandit Vikash Maharaj, a great sarod player, and received intensive training from him. It was a great challenge to try and adapt sarod music to the bansuri, one which really helped me improve my technique and expand my concept of what was possible on the instrument (a potential future blog topic, perhaps?). When I’m not traveling, I make my home in Brooklyn, New York, where I work as a freelance musician.
New York City is a place of incredible cultural diversity. What is so interesting is that all kinds of cross-cultural collaborations are taking place here every day. The concept of musical fusion is as old as civilization itself. Throughout history, musical ideas have traveled with merchants, soldiers, nomads, and immigrants to new places where they have combined with native forms to produce new idioms. Indeed, North Indian Classical music itself is the product of a meeting between indigenous Indian music with the music of Muslim invaders. This clash of cultures resulted not only in a new musical style but new instruments as well. Innovation is at the heart of the tradition. In America, Jazz, often cited as “America’s classical music”, is similarly a result of the combination of European harmony and instruments with African rhythms. In today’s ever-shrinking world, characterized by cross-cultural connections on a scale never before seen in history, new combinations and musical forms are inevitable. The ancient and noble bansuri has arrived in modern-day New York. How can we help move it forward in the service of music? This is the line of thinking that inspires me to be creative and push the limits of my art. My opinion is that a solid grounding in traditional training is the best starting point for creativity with any instrument, but to innovate, one must be willing to question the assumptions inherent in any traditional style and conduct experiments, gather data, and draw conclusions about what works. I also believe that it is our duty as musicians to show by example that the way of peace is one of open-mindedness, appreciation, respect, tolerance, compassion, and forgiveness.
As I sat last night thinking about what to write on the blog a few things came to mind. I’d like to share some thoughts about bansuri playing techniques and the wider music scene in general, but I’d also like to hear from the members of this site and engage in a dialog about what you’d like to hear from me. The more interactive it gets, the better it will be for everyone.
Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more!