Bansuri music lovers’ delight, Says Surendra Swarnkar

Bansuri emits mellifluous notes which tickle music lover’s ears and hearts. Hearing its’ soulful and heavenly delight one feels hypnotized and enticed. Having said that playing Bansuri can be an uphill task as it required well- measured and calculated restrain of breath. However, it is a piece of cake for Surendra Swarnakar, a prolific and a devout player of Bansuri. Blessed with the patronage of His master Pt. Hari Prasad Chourasiya, this artistic genius has notched up innumerable accolades under his belt. This week we held a dialogue with him where he elaborated upon many facets of his passion and struggle he endured as a part of his successful journey.

How did you recognise or develop keenness towards Bansuri?

Well, it all started in my early childhood. My father was a trained Bhajan Singer and even my mother was an amateur vocalist. Having had the pleasure of such gifted guardians, unknowingly i took to singing as well and began to sing Bhajans and other film songs. My father had a bronze Bansuri and often he used to play at our home. When he played, we would all sit and relish his performance. It used to be a matter of great rejoice for all of us, then. Something magical was in it which swayed my attention and drew me into it. I would also feel tempted to play it but retreat and console myself by giving self-talk about not having the requisite knowledge.
Then one day, i wished that i would like to master this art. My father, knowing that i want to follow his footsteps, readily agreed to pass on his most loved and cherished knowledge to me. He bought and handed me new Bronze Bansuri and shared with me every nuance he could about it. Afterwards, i kept practicing it for years and with sheer determination i mastered it. In order to establish myself as professional Bansuri player, i shifted to Ujjain and gained further insights under the mentorship of my first Guru Smita Shinde. So my parents and my mentors have an indelible mark and profound influence in the development of my skills.

How did you get to meet the eminent Pt. Hari Prasad Chourasiya?

My Guru Pt. Hari Prasad Chourasiya believes in simple living, high thinking. He is very simple yet very enlighted soul. With a view to flourish my skills even further, i visited his Gurukul in year 1999 which is located in Andheri-Varsova road in Mumbai. The most fascinating thing about him that he does not charge a single penny for teaching Bansuri and shares his pearls of wisdom with all his disciples and pupils with affection and endearment. He always urges us to expand the realm of all the ‘Ragas’ and exhorts us to take holy dip in this heavenly delight.

Could you please share your struggling days you spent in Mumbai?

We all know how difficult it is to survive in Mumbai. Even if the need of the food is taken care of yet lodging can pose a real trouble. I had no place where i can stay and even i had no job. I took some money from home but that too, finished in no time. In order to survive, i started working in a S.T.D booth on a salary of 20 Rs/- a month. It was too small an amount to arrange a rented place in Mumbai. I requested the owner of the booth to allow me to sleep in it. Every night i would sleep on the floor and go to public toilets to get fresh. Even, i would change the clothes in 15 days. However, after initial struggle, fortune smiled on me. I befriended a very kind and benevolent person called Kamlesh Ghandhi who later became my close companion during my stay in Mumbai. He arranged a place for me from where i would commute every day to Gurukul to learn Bansuri .

Is playing Bansuri a tough job compared to other musical instruments?

I think whatever instrument one plays it requires years of practice and hard work. You have to very precise with your art. Having said that, playing Bansuri is comparatively a tough job as it synchronization of breath along with movement of fingers and their angles on the holes is the pre-requisite of this art. Sometimes blowing air continuously to emit melodious notes through high-pitched and low-pitched Bansuries can be very cumbersome and tiring job.
Why younger generation is not as much interested as it is inclined towards other playing foreign instruments?
Perhaps, they are not well-versed with our erstwhile culture and heritage. I think western music and pop culture can’t go on forever as it has no soul whereas our Indian music is evergreen as it is based on ‘Ragas’. No matter what happens Indian culture, music and arts forms are here to stay.