IN CONVERSATION

‘TEACHING IS AN INTEGRAL PART OF ME’

One of the senior-most disciples of bansuri* maestro Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia, Himanshu Nanda’s made an exemplary career out of playing the flute. A Sangeet Visharad, Nanda is a prolific performer as well as music educator. He has toured the world to perform and won recognition: The title “Sur Mani” was conferred on him by Mumbai’s Sur Singar Samsad. He is the founder director of The Mystic Bamboo Academy in Pune and the co-founder of Chinmaya Swaranjali — the music wing of Chinmaya Mission worldwide. Nanda will be conducting a three-day bansuri intensive as part of Attakkalari’s Way of the Masters series. In this conversation with Attakkalari, Nanda reveals what he has in store for students of the bansuri intensive. Edited excerpts:

*Bansuri = Side blown flute made of bamboo originated in India and used predominantly in Indian classical music

Q.  Let’s begin the conversation with the Way of the Masters series. How did this collaboration with you and Attakkalari come about?

Himanshu Nanda: Let’s rewind a bit to 2021. We got to know about Jay ji (Jayachandran Palazhy) and Attakkalari last year, when we collaborated with them for my music album, Antarnaad. We worked with them on a music video for a piece called Dance of Saraswati. We liked working with the team and it turned out to be a good experience for the both of us. Furthermore, we have been planning to extend our base in Bengaluru for our online music academy, The Mystic Bamboo. So when Attakkalari approached us with the proposal for the Way of Masters series, we thought, ‘Why not?’ It’s always good to collaborate with professionals. It started out informally and Shailendraji (Founder member of The Mystic Bamboo) made it happen. He is the sutradhar for this.

Q. You run The Mystic Bamboo Academy and co-founded Chinmaya Swaranjali. It’s easy to decipher that besides performing you also enjoy teaching music. What do you like about the educational aspect of it?

Himanshu Nanda: Teaching is in my blood. It runs in my family. My mother is a teacher, my aunty is a teacher, my uncle was a teacher, and I myself was a teacher before I moved to Mumbai to learn bansuri. I used to teach Math and Science in high schools. That is one part of the story. The other is that I firmly believe that music with its complex aspects tends to convert every musician into a teacher. Observe any musician and you will notice that he somehow ends up teaching it (laughs). Now, this brings me to share a personal experience with you. In 2001, I got an opportunity to work in IIT Mumbai as a visiting faculty in music. That opportunity was also a challenge because it was the first time I was teaching music to engineering students. The class had 25 students and I remember feeling stumped about how I’d teach music to the 25 of them and that too for 45 minutes! That set my thought process going on how to dissect and simplify the technical aspects of music. That was the trigger for everything that followed. Overall, I’ll just say that teaching is an integral part of me.

Q. What are the memories you have from your student days with Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia?

Himanshu Nanda: I spent almost 13 years with guruji. I came to Mumbai in 2000 and from then to 2005, I used to go to his house to learn. Then around 2004-05, he started his school (Vrindaban Gurukul) and I was in the first batch of students. I remember I was at the peak of my profession at the time and he asked me to leave everything. I said, “Okay, I’ll leave everything.” I stayed in the gurukul and concentrated just on music. I’ll say that that span of five years when I stayed there was the best time of my life. The best part of it was that he provided everything for his students. Talking about guruji, if I were to describe him in one line, I’ll say he is like the Sun. Just like the Sun that does not discriminate but shines brightly on the house of a poor person as it does on a rich man’s, guruji paid equal attention to all his students. He never gave one-on-one classes. He taught us all in a group. I used to maintain a daily diary where I’d chalk a schedule of what to practice, how to practice etc. Now, when I go back and review, I still find them so useful. I used to practice for eight to nine hours every day.

Q. What’s an advice from him that you hold dear?

Himanshu Nanda: This anecdote that I am going to share with you holds the core of his teaching. In Hindustani classical music, there’s a mystical practice called ‘chilla’ where the artiste takes a vow and practices music in complete seclusion for 40 days. It is a rigorous practice and I keep doing it. When I was in the gurukul, I was readying to do my second chilla. I went to guruji to get his blessings. I asked him for some advice and he said ‘I have never done this!’ He encouraged me to do it and then asked me how long it would be for. I told him ‘40 days’ to which he asked, “Why not do it for 40 years?” That statement stunned me. I realised at that moment that for him, music practice is a daily, ongoing chilla. That is the essence of guruji’s music philosophy. See, this is also the best part of our guru-shishya parampara. You never know at what moment your guru could utter something that’s so profound and life-changing.

Q. Coming back to the three-day intensive in August, what should students come prepared for?

Himanshu Nanda: Based on our experience and what we have seen, what is missing in bansuri teaching today is the technique of playing the instrument. And that is the core of our programmes. The intensive is meant for students who have been learning the instrument for a minimum of six months to a year. The curriculum will incorporate various aspects starting from how to hold the flute, the prana aspect, the art of improvisation and learning the rudiments of one raga. Students keen on attending it can think of this programme as one that will show them a path forward to learning the bansuri. It is going to be three full days of teaching. It will be intense. Come prepared for that!

The Way of the Masters Bansuri Intensive with Himanshu Nanda will be held from Aug 13-15, 2022. 

For details or other information, contact: +9199729 50973. To register click below: