Scene One : A little boy runs along he bathing ghats of Varanasi, bidding goodbye to his chums as his father waits impatiently for him. The family is leaving the city for Bombay in search of a better life and to escape from the hardship of a difficult existence.
Scene Two : The boy, now in his late teens, walks 12 kilometers every other day to his guru's house to learn the flute. A sincere disciple, has guru pats his head, encouraging him and telling him to persevere. The long walk home dons not hurt him one bit.
Scene Three : With a string of awards, many albums of fusion music with leading names in the world of classical music, a musical score for the celebrated Hollywood film, Primary Colours, and a Grammy nomination, the boy who is now a man, folds his hands as he accepts tile ovation for being a worthy successor to Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia.
Ronu Majumdar's life reads likes taut script. Not merely a story of a small-town lad making it big but a series of struggles and finally, the sweet smell of success.
"I treasure every moment of my musical quest, right from the days my father initiated me into classical music till this moment". His father, a struggling musician in Varanasi in the seventies, migrated to Mumbai for better professional prospects. Ronu remembers those tough initial years but still says struggle is very important for artist.
Two of Ronu's latest albums, In Search of Life by Universal and Mysticism On Woodwinds by Magnasound are making waves. The first is a jugalbandi with Swiss pianist Christian Seiffert. It incorporates the pure melody of classical Indian ragas with structured western music rendered with remarkable finesse on the piano. The second is a solo recording of the morning raga series where he plays the languorous 'Nat Bhairavi'.
For a classical instrumentalist, Ronu Majumdar is quite avant garde without consciously meaning to be so. He is not unduly worried by the criticisms of puritans who frown on classical pundits dabbling in popular music.
"I think a classical musician is better equipped to elevate the standards of popular music. Of course, this in no way means lowering standards of classical rendition. Do you know that Pandit Hari Prasad Chaurasia played the flute in the film, Hero No. 1 ? Does it take away from his greatness ? The true artist is devoted his music and not to it's context".
He has himself played the flute in Gulzar's award-winning film Maachis in which, perhaps for the very first time, a flautist's contribution in the film music is actually credited in the titles.
The music of the big Hollywood hit, Primary Colours just happened, according to him. Ry Cooder, the Grammy winner guitarist and John Hassels on the trumpet actually recorded the 'Wide Sky' composition in a church in Santa Barbra. It was a part of the album Facinoma. Ry Cooder liked it so much that he used it in Primary Colours for which he was composing the music.
Though involved in fusion music, Ronu has never ignored his classical heritage and often plays at music festivals and concerts in India. 'There are two things I want to emphasize. Fusion music is not about mish - mashing two traditions but enhancing the beauty by complementing each other. Thus fusion is not a style or fad wherein a gimmick is given respectability but it is bridge that serves to bring together musical traditions'.
The other thing Ronu loves is his deep-felt joy when he plays for audiences in India. Whether it is the Harivallabh Sangeet Sammelan, small baithaks or mega concerts or an invocatory recital at the Sankat Mochan temple in Varanasi, Ronu is an eager participant.
"The response in India is amazing," he says and adds, "One of my main concerns is to roach out to the masses to banish 'bad music', the sort of 'promoted music' that is being dished out in the name of popular entertainment. That's why I fully endorse the entry of classical artists into the mainstream music world. Ultimately it will help the cause of classical music and also enrich the mainstream".
Dismissing suggestions of classical music doyens frowning on the likes of Shubha Mudgal's forays on MTV, he feels it is a good Thing. "Even her classical concerts attract more crowds now. How can anyone say it detracts?"
The years of toil seem to have steeled his resolve and he speaks strongly for more corporate involvement in promotion of good music. "Music is not a one-day cricket match but, for a fraction of the money spent on cricket, a world of good can be achieved".
Home for Ronu - Ji is now often a hotel room: he has been living off a suitcase with all his traveling and concert tours.
However when he is home in his Mumbai flat, he is also a cook at times.
Just back from a six-week whistle-stop tour of the UK and the USA, he has a busy schedule ahead promoting his new albums. Yet Ronu Majumdar wears the fatigue and also his success, rather lightly.
Or, as he says, "I am still the little boy running along the Ghats of Benaras".
Courtesy of, The Saturday Statesman. 16, September 2000. Reproduced here for educational purposes only.
Bansuri and the bansuri wallah has always enthralled not only the gopiyas, but the Indians the world over. It doesn't come as a surprise to know that Hollywood to succumbed to the mesmerizing strains of the flute. The mesmeriser behind the flute being none other than Pandit Ronu Majumdar whose compositions added to the spectrum of Primary Colours.
He is not new to world of film music. Having worked with the likes of Rahu1 Dev Burman, from his 1981 super hit, Love Story to another 1993 musical extravaganza, 1942 - A Love Story. During the period, Pandit Ronu Majumdar got to embellish and infuse life, into many of the compositions of Panchamda, with his soulful rendering of the wind instrument like the 'flute'.
The busy recording schedule and other assignments did not desist him from accompanying some of the world renowned artistes, the likes of Pandit Ravi Shankar and others for their 'live concerts' in India and abroad. Which, in turn, enabled him to carve a niche for himself. That of an artiste capable of producing notes and beautifying a composition meant for films, where in the whole essence of the song has to be brought out within a short span, or playing live in jugalbandis and excelling with some of the top virtuosos of Hindustani classical music. But, today, Ronu Majumdar is a elated man. The reason? All for this and much more. Ronu Majumdar has also got to perform and record with the American legend of the guitar, Ry Cooder and trumpet wizard, Jon Hassell. The album of such a great fusion of music, titled, Facinoma, was released worldwide by Water Lily Acoustics of Santa Barbara, U.S.A. And top it all, a major portion of the album Wide Sky, which contains four compositions by Ronuda, has been used for Primary Colours, a Hollywood production directed by Mike Nichols. And the interesting aspect of the film is that it depicts the life and times of Bill Clinton, the President of America.
Comfortably sitting in his music room and putting us at ease, Ronuda speaks with a child-like enthusiasm. It's not as if this is his first tryst with fame and glory, but it is the kind of response and the acknowledgment from a recording company, based faraway, that has gladdened. his heart. The kind of professionalism speaks volumes about the working style of companies of such magnitude. "I was stunned and could not believe the news, when I heard it for the first time. But, look at the fax that they have sent to me," he states with the copy of the matter in his hands.
But the saga of Ronuda's success has his family which has deep-rooted connection with music. Born in the city of Benaras, which is known for its share of music, musician and place of piety, Ronuda had his initial tutoring under his father, Dr. Bhanu Majumdar, who himself was a senior disciple of Pandit Pannalal Ghosh. The whole atmosphere at home and the whole culture of Benaras had it's impact on the young Ronuda. And of course, there were other elements like the coaching by renowned players like Pandit Vijay Raghav Rao, and his tutelage under Pandit Laxman Prasad Jaipurwale, who taught him the intricacies and finer aspects of vocal renditions. All these factors have contributed to the growth of the artist in him.
And at the age of seventeen he got to perform and excel in a performance at the All India Radio. Till that period, he continued his daily riyaaz as well as imbibing better aspects from some of the stalwarts of the Hindustani music world, in him, directly or indirect way. But it was festival that was unique in concept, Flute Festival, Venu Nath Samaroh, in the year 1991, where he got to perform in front of some of the bigwigs of the wind instrument, Pandit Hari Prasad Chaurasia, Pandit Vijay Raghav Rao, Pandit Murudeshwar and Pandit Raghunath Seth. The whole event comes alive in front of us, when he re-lives the whole event - the initial jitters before the performance and finally the performance-in graphic detail. It was this that got him a very good response, and which finally took him places.
His association with Pandit Vishwamohan Bhatt, for the album Song of Nature, got him his first brush with fame on the international level. The album was nominated for the Grammy Award in the year 1996. He was also a part of the grand tours and concerts with Pandit Ravi Shankar at prestigious music festivals like Live in Kremlin or Uday Shankar Festival or at Asiad Festival. Not to be missed his association with Panditji in Albums like Passages, Chants of India or Anti Drug Concert and recordings are proof of that fruitful association with Panditji.
His involvement and rigorous riyaaz and most importantly, chilla katna [a grueling form of riyaaz for forty days] in the nascent days has added the finer nuances to his skills. He is not only comfortable in jugalbandis with the stalwarts of the Hindustani classical music, but can also create fusion music with the bigwigs of Western music with ease. "Fusion is not just a blending of two music, but is a perfect meeting of two cultures, musically. And this is possible if you have ear for the music of the world," he elucidates. Pandit Ronu Majumdar has many plans and ideas to promote Indian music amongst our youngsters. He feels while our music is being appreciated by the lovers of music all over the world why not here. He was associated with the Organizations like SPIC MACAY, which believes in spreading music through the guru shishya parampara.
And his live performances are also a step in that direction of spreading the sweet fragrance of Indian music all over the place. "Music is not meant to be kept to ourselves," he explains. And that is the reason he is heading for a world tour to major American cities in the month of September.
We believe you Pandit Ronu Majumdar. The worldwide recognition is proof to that talent.
Courtesy CINEMA. August 27, 1999. Reproduced here for educational purposes only.