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Interviews |  08 Jun 2009 14:55 |  By chiragsutar

Rakesh Chaurasia - "I am always tense when playing with Panditji"

The first time Rakesh Chaurasia went abroad with flautist Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia was when he was just 13 years old for the festival of India in Russia. Travelling with him at such a young age has helped him a lot, he says  You don't get that stage fear, and as you mature, you stop thinking about things like what clothes I am wearing or what the audience is clapping for....

Rakesh Chaurasia has performed alongside many senior musicians from the Indian classical scenario and has toured extensively around the globe. I play for myself now, I have stopped playing for the audience,... he says.

Chaurasia recently released a theme album titled �Morning-Afternoon-Evening meditation music' for Music Today. In a freewheeling chat with Radioandmusic.com's Chirag Sutar, the musician once regarded as a child prodigy speaks about his touring experiences, his anxiety when he's on stage with Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia and a project that he'd like to do with jazz musician Kenny G.

Excerpts-

Speaking about the meditative album – did you record the album in the respective morning - afternoon - evening periods to keep intact the theme and effect?

Yes, I used to reach the studio by 8:30 am and work on the �morning' music … in the afternoon, we would work on the �afternoon' music, followed by the 'evening' music – the next day we followed the same schedule. Recording did not take much time, but the homework does take a lot of time.

Isn't the demand for such albums more in western countries?

I would say the demand exists in India and �also' in western countries. I think people there like to be in a meditative mood – they are more 'ambience' people, they don't have buildings neck to neck. One can find they just have some music going on in the room, in the garden or bedroom – they enjoy music everywhere..

You have performed with many musicians, whom have you enjoyed working with the most?

I like performing with Zakirbhai because he makes it so easy and so comfortable and he is also a kind of experimental artiste – same as Hariji (Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia). He too likes to experiment, so working with them doesn't make you feel that you are performing under pressure or that you are with these big iconic figures – that is something I really enjoy and I'd like to do it more.

Any of the memorable concerts you remember?

Every concert is memorable – we at least try to make it memorable (laughs) but I can remember  a concert in Nagpur where towards the end,  we had no electricity,   but I didn't realise it because I was very engrossed in my playing  It was surprising to see newspapers splashing this fact the next day. I feel, the times when you get engrossed in your playing so much that you forget about everything else happens once in your life time. Normally what happens is that if the sound is gone, we stop, because there's a big drop – but I couldn't recognise there was no sound, the audience too had maintained pin drop silence – so I enjoyed and the audience too enjoyed. There are many such incidents, but this one I remember.

Is touring more profitable than cutting albums?

It's not that touring is more profitable – in classical music, what happens is that there are seasons – in summers, we go out to foreign countries… that is our schedule 

In which countries have you observed a heightened demand for classical music?

In Europe, the demand is definitely more. And since they are exposed to opera and symphony, listening to classical becomes a lot more acceptable, I believe. I think in the UK, places like Manchester, London, Birmingham, Liverpool have more demand for classical music– I enjoy playing there, and if you talk about Greece, you can hardly see any Indians– except the consul and his family maybe (laughs) – it's more of local people. Whereas, in the US, there's a mixed audience 

You have learned under a name synonymous with flute and have also performed with him – aren't you tense when playing with Panditji?

Very much. I am always afraid – it's a big tension to play with him (laughs) but at the same time it's a learning process – you learn a lot of things on the stage. Whenever I get a chance, I make sure I travel with him because it's a great experience – be it onstage or off it.

You come to know things like what to play, how to play, how to judge the audience – What we do in class is a different thing, but learning on stage is a totally different experience.

Do you tell him that you are nervous?

Well, he can make out (laughs) – he's an experienced musician, so his observation skills are beyond our imagination. But he keeps the comfort level very nice, in fact, at times he asks me if I want to play any particular raga for a concert. He is a very different kind of guru – I pray to God that I should be reborn to such a guru!

Any of Panditji's advice you'd like to share?

Practice!! That's what he advises. He practises almost eight-10 hours a day and till the time he doesn't fall asleep – he has his flute in his hands – be it watching television, movies or whatever… he'll still have the flute in his hands. He practices so much, I think he practices on behalf of all his students!! I am not joking - Panditji has that kind of stamina, you know.

What is your practice schedule like?

I prefer to practise in the mornings because it's much quieter – no mobile, no phone calls. With no external disturbances, the practice becomes much more focused. One can focus on every note – you can feel the vibrations, you know.

Is there any musician you'd like to play with but haven't got the opportunity?

I'd like to play with every senior musician. Zakir Hussian and Panditji are always trying to do something different – these are the real musicians. On the international music scene, I'd like to do something with Kenny G – his music is very soothing. I personally like his music a lot 

Do you also play jazz?

Why not? I can play jazz and I can play Indian – besides, we both play wind instruments so it might just turn out good!!

You were recently seen in a fusion video…

I recorded that for Merlyn, she wanted to shoot a video but the director told her that there was too much of flute on track and he would need a flautist who can play it on screen as well, so she called me and asked me if I could do it … She is a good friend…

What are your future projects?

I do a lot of fusion concerts, but there is no out-and-out fusion album that I have done so far. In India, this is not a concert season, so probably I will just enter the studio and record – there's lot of home work I have to do now (laughs).