Hawaian Guitar Maestro (in Hindustani Classical style) Brij Bhushan Kabra was born in 1937. Santoor Maestro Pandit Shivkumar Sharma was born on 13th January 1938. Bansuri Maestro Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia was born on 1 July 1938. These three masters have contributed to the growth of Hindustani classical music since the last five decades or more. All the three masters are nearing 80 years of their life. Hariprasadji and Shivakumarji are still active in music circles. Brij Bhushanji is not much seen publicly.
(With the sad demise of my Guruji, I am left with only such beautiful moments of my discussions with him about these musicians. He revered all these masters with great respect.)
Not just this. All three artists had a tough challenge to prove themselves. And see how they proved!
30 inch Bansuri (Hindustani classical bamboo flute) was never played with such ease and range. Hariprasadji had an additional challenge of proving himself a musician, as otherwise, he was supposed to become a wrestler, carrying the family tradition. Hariprasadji had a divine blessing. So he could master the Bansuri. Even now you can see him blowing it without break for more than one minute. He used his wrestling DNA to pump air into the wood.
Playing classical music on Santoor, Kashmiri folk wireframe instrument was as good as creating history. Shivakumarji took it seriously. The precise resolution between two notes is the hallmark of his renditions. Sometime he takes more than 45 minutes to tune his instrument, and the public address system. Once set, you can simply forget yourself and immerse in the musical waves. He can play even most demanding alaps on Santoor. Silence is his symbol. Respect pin drop silence in the audorium and he delivers the best.
I have listened to the albums of these two great artists to a great extent. I have attended many live concerts. They never fail to mesmerise you.
Brij Bhushanji has a reclusive nature. If you listen to his live Marwa rendering (which I have listened to few dozen times), you will feel his high calibre. His greatest fan is his best disciple Debosis Chakroborthy, who has uploaded most of the available albums. I had a chance to chat with Debosisji a couple of years back. I am waiting for a chance to have Brijbhushanji’s darshan. He mastered sliding Guitar (the Guitar without frets), the western musical instrument, and brought out Hindustani music out of this imported instrument.
Thus, these three musicians made their own mark; brought some unheard instruments to Classical Music. Not only this, they came out with a album which is fresh, creative, unique and yet historic : Call of the Valley. All these artists were around 30 years of age when they came together. It was a watershed not just in Indian Classical Music, but also in classical fusion. Even today, except for some jugalbandis like Pt. Jasraj-Chaurasia, Rajam-Bismilla, no album has come even near to this classical fusion. Fifty years on, the album still reverberates in our hearts. It uplifts your mood, takes you to the unknown valley of the Himalayas and blows around like a gentle breeze. This album created ripples in the western world. It is still rated as one of the finest albums to listen before you die.
The original album includes Ahir Bhairav/Nat Bhairav, Rag Piloo, Bhoop, Rag Des and Rag Pahadi. The revised version has three bonus records: Ghara-Dadra, Dhun-Mishra Kirwani, Bageshwari. Pick it from your nearest musical store and get yourself the live Moksha!
Among all these, if you wish me to rate, I will rate Hariprasadji and Shivakumarji the best. They have given this world all it craved for. Still, Brijbhushanji is the best among the three, with due respect to the other two masters. If you have already listened to the two, then you can imagine the depth Brijbhushanji might have. Of course, this is my personal view and can be contested!
And I must submit here: Ali Akbar Khanji brought fame to Sarod, Sultan Khanji and Ramnarayanji brought Sarangi to the fore, Bismillaji the divine Shehnai and Nikhil Banerjee the Sitar. We are not lucky to listen to the foremost player of Surbahar, Smt Annapurna Deviji (Chaurasia also learnt from her). All these masters have made our life bearable. They just breathed music.
As a junior student of classical music, I can only say that when everything fails, hindustani classical music provides solace. Be it Brijbhushanji’s Marwa, or Ajoy Chakravarthy’s Malkauns – every piece by such masters fill the vacuum in our lives.
If you have music in your heart, you have everything in your life.