is about as simple as it gets.
A piece of bamboo with just a few holes...
Wind flows in as breath of life
Lo and behold!
Breath of life becomes sound celestial.
Warming and melting the hearts of one and all.
A few sound samples played by the inimitable bansuri virtuoso Pt. Deepak Ram
History of Bansuri is said to be as old as humanity itself. Perhaps first discovered by our ancestors .... wind blowing across some termite chewed bamboos...wow! What is that? Who is whistling? God?? And then God residing as intelligence in man came forth ....man took a hint and used his breath on the bamboo...and was born Bansuri magic! At least, I guess that's how.
If there is a single ancient bansuri player to be named who else could it be but Krishna. Bhagvan Krishna is said to have walked the streets of Vrindavan in India some five thousand years ago. Mention of Krishna's name, an avatar of Vishnu, brings to mind two words- Bansuri and Bhagwat Geeta. Bhagwat Geeta being the great sermon delivered in the battlefield of Kurukshetra by Krishna later in his life. And, of course, Bansuri being the ancient and deceptively simple side blown bamboo flute that produced mesmerizing melodies on Krishna's lips. Hearing his bansuri lost cows would find their way home and damsels of the village would forget all and run to see him! This how the legend goes.
The word Bansuri (बांसुरी) is actually the conjunction of two words - Baans (bamboo) + Sur (musical note). Bamboo used in making Bansuri's is of a very special variety found mostly in the north eastern and southern regions of India. This bamboo is special in the sense that it fulfills the requirement by having sufficiently long sections between the nodes. Also the wall thickness of this variety is quite low as compared to the bamboos used in making flutes in other cultures e.g. Shakuhachi in Japan.
So inherently organic is Bansuri in design that it is easy to mistake it for something archaic, of value to just folk music perhaps. In the hands of a maestro like Hariprasad Chaurasia ji it attains an astounding range of three octaves and paints the landscapes unseen with 22 microtones (Shruti's), not to speak of the nuances which are prior to words!
Bamboo, being a naturally shaped material, has variations in bore size, bore geometry, bore roughness, density etc., from piece to piece and often within the same culm. This precludes standardization and during bansuri making each of these natural variations must be tackled individually and very fine adjustments must be made in the tuning process to establish balance between acoustical parameters of each of the notes.
As a consequence, mass production techniques cannot produce a quality bansuri. With my ongoing theoretical studies and practical research, I am working toward developing a better understanding of how various parameters and dynamics affect color, balance, and minute harmonic variations in the sound produced by this magnificent instrument.
Simple and yet full of intricacies. That is Bansuri. For a beginner even to make a sound on it can be challenging. But a little bit of perseverance and it starts singing. To make the whole process of learning how to play bansuri easy, understanding of right fingering technique and holding technique is essential.
...more to follow
page updated on October 16, 2016