Bridging the east-west gap

Dedication:  Flautist from New York Carin Marcello (centre) learns the Indian classical flute from Ravi Shankar Mishra at his residence in Mysore as Anupama, another student of Mishra looks on.  DH Photos by Prashanth H G When 26-year old Marco Anthonio Bautista Alonso plays sitar, it makes any Indian raise his eyebrow with awe. The Mexican’s dexterity on the strings of Indian classical instrument is soothing ­– as he plays at the modest home of his master Ravi Shankar Mishra at Saraswathipuram here.

So is New Yorker flautist Karin Marcello whose playing of classical Indian flute impresses, as she tries to understand the nuances of the Indian instrument and makes her notes perfect honing her skill on the Baansuri (flute).

As the duo begins to search the mystical with their instruments enter Alex, a guitarist and a youth from Slovakia – wanting to learn sitar in Indian classical style. One after the other, students, both international and national, get their music lessons from Mishra. 

If you thought, the city is becoming a destination for yoga, there is more. To add to the city’s glory, scores of budding and professional musicians are finding solace in the cultural capital – learning Indian classical instruments from dedicated teachers like flautist Ravi Shankar Mishra. The city is fast becoming the destination or a second home for young musicians from all over the world if gone with the nationalities and cultural backgrounds of the students of Mishra.

“Our city has a right ambience and a right environment for learning music,” Mishra tells City Herald.

A graduate in journalism from Maharaja’s college, Mishra, through his more than two-decades of practise, has earned a reputation as flautist and flute-maker par excellence. From his modest rented home at Saraswathipuram, this flautist has linked Indian culture to the world diaspora  – promoting Indian classical music and instruments.

“Music learning is endless. I still learn from my master Pandit Nityanand Haldipur in Mumbai. Flute is a fascinating instrument. It is played all over the world in different forms which makes it very unique,” says humble Mishra, who balances his day’s time teaching, practising flute and other instruments and in making flutes. He learnt his basic lessons in playing and making flute from his father Dinesh Chandra Mishra, who runs a small stationery in city market and later gained perfection from other teachers.

He is the recepient of Sur Mani, a title given for a young talent in music, bestowed by Sur Singaar, an academy of musicians from all over the country. Mishra has been giving performance world over – from UNESCO music festival at Paris eight years ago to the recent charity concert at Satyagraha, an ashram named after Mahatma Gandhi in Bali (Indonesia) and an Indian musical concert organised by the Indian community at Hongkong in China and Bangkok in Thailand in this August. He has also travelled to United States, South America (Mexico), Europe, Singapore and France.
 
“I feel my biggest day was when I played with Grammy award winner Pandit Vishwamohan Bhat in Mumbai. It was a proudest moment for me,” says Mishra, who has also mastered the craftsmanship of making flutes – a skill that has got him a pat from his master Pandit Nityanand Haldipur. Interestingly, Haldipur prefers and likes to play with the flute made by Mishra in his big concerts.

As Mishra works on his album with American jazz fusion mix with artist Peter Andrew, his students, Karin Marcello and Marco are also making news in the field of music in United States and Mexico.

Karin is a popular flautist amd teacher in New York. She works on healing musical retreats and album.

“There is a big difference between western flute and Indian Bansuri.  Our flute is very specific and precise and easier to make details of notes. But, Indian flute has more freedom to play with while it gets harder to get the minute details. However, it is more peaceful and meditative,” says Karin. For Marco, playing Sitar is paying an obeisance to Lord Krishna. Basically a guitarist running his own music band in Mexico, Marco Anthonio says he feels he has to offer his best to the deity.

Indian classical instruments give a sense of more deep inside the player. Back home, I play Indian and Mexican classic fusion, says Marco, who is learning Sitar in Mysore since past three months. Amidst the professional students, Anupama, a Kuwait born Calicut girl tries to crack the different raagas on her flute. As a post graduate student in yoga in Bangalore, she came to Mysore to learn yoga, but was fascinated by the flute at a concert – took admission with Mishra, says Anupama.

To know more about Ravi Shankar Mishra, his music and flute-making, visit www.bansuriworld.com

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