An Introduction to the Bansuri - Indian Bamboo Flute.
The Bansuri with its pastoral associations and as the chosen instrument of Lord Krishna, is one of the oldest musical instruments of India : it is mentioned in the Vedas and is depicted in the Buddhist art of 2,000 years ago. One Sanskrit verse credits the Bansuri as the source of Swarajnana - the knowledge of music.
The Bansuri [ bans [ bamboo ] + swar [ a musical note ] ] is a transverse alto flute made of a single length of bamboo and has six or seven open finger holes. There are no keys to produce sharps and flats, therefore all accidentals and microtones, as well as meend [glissandi] and other ornaments, so important to Indian Classical Music, are produced by a unique fingering technique.
Although the bansuri is among the most ancient musical instruments of India, its status as a concert instrument for North Indian Classical music is a relatively recent phenomenon. This favorite instrument of shepherds and folk musicians for thousands of years was brought into the fold of Indian Classical Music by the legendary maestro, the Late Pandit Pannalal Ghosh.
Previously, the bamboo flute of North India had been a soprano instrument usually no more than fourteen inches long and was used for short classical pieces, light music or accompaniment. Pannalal Ghosh's innovations in the development of the bansuri included the creation of a larger instrument of more than thirty inches in length, thus giving the bansuri its characteristic somber-yet-sweet tone and register, so suitable for Indian Classical Music, and the addition of the seventh finger hole, which extends the range of the instrument, while also allowing for the more accurate rendition of many ragas and the development of the bass bansuri. Perhaps Pannalal Ghosh's greatest contribution however was his insightful adaptation of the classical vocal style and its presentation on the bansuri. A consummate artist who's virtuosity was equaled by the depth of his understanding, Pandit Pannalal Ghosh single handedly elevated the status of the bansuri to that of an instrument capable of expressing the sublime and wondrous nature of the classical vocal style. His mesmerizing bansuri was overwhelmingly accepted by both the Audiences and Musicians of India. His success inspired a number of brilliant young musicians to take to this instrument to express their creativity and maintain popularity.
While the credit for bringing the bansuri onto the Indian Classical Stage goes to Pandit Pannalal Ghosh, making it an immensely popular instrument goes to Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia, Pandit G. S. Sachdev, and the one and only Pandit Ronu Majumdar - India's Ace Flautist.
Today - Bansuri Flute Music has become popular all around the World. In Hollywood Movies, World, Global Fusion, Jazz, Meditative Music and the list goes on.
Construction and Playing Technique of the Bansuri. Indian Bamboo Flute.
In principle the bansuri is a simple untreated bamboo cane, closed at the upper end, with one blowing hole and six to seven fingering holes. The pitch of the bansuri varies depending on the length and diameter of the bamboo. The longer the flute, the deeper it's pitch. Most of the bansuris have string wrapped tightly around both ends, in order to prevent a premature cracking of the bamboo and improve the appearance.
It is blown like the western transverse flute. Since it does not have any mechanisms, the fingering holes must be half or fully closed with the fingers very precisely. Usually not the finger tips, but the phalanx of the fingers lie on the holes-only in such a way the quite long low-pitched bansuris can be played. By fluent finger movements the sliding note movements that are so important in Indian Music can be produced.
According to Indian understanding the note which corresponds to the note SA is regarded as basic note. This note resonates when the bansuri is blown with the first three fingering holes closed. In order to avoid misunderstandings, however, we always indicate also the lowest note of the flute.
Full Credit for the Information on this Page goes to David Philipson. www.davidphilipson.com