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‘Music is a deeply spiritual practice’: Himanshu Nanda

The Hindustani flautist talks about his online classes, workshops and what music means to him

The Hindustani flautist talks about his online classes, workshops and what music means to him

Music, for Hindustani flautist Himanshu Nanda, is a means to get closer to silence. Can he explain? “It is inexplicable,” he laughs. “If I attempt to, it would dilute the essence of the experience. This is what my guruji (Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia) has taught me,” he says, over the phone from Ottapalam, where he was visiting Nishchintha, a charitable society formed by the parents of children with intellectual impairment. 

Himanshu was in Kochi for a three-day workshop for his students in the city. 

Having performed at various venues across India and abroad, Himanshu says the bansuri (flute) has been a constant in his life ever since he began formal training at 14. Though his initial training was under flautists Narendra Panda and Padma Charana Patra, his advanced learning was under the tutelage of Pt. Chaurasia, for over 13 years. As one of the earliest disciples to live and learn at Chaurasia’s Vrindavan Gurukul in Mumbai, Himanshu has been carrying forward the legacy of his guru’s Maihar gharana. “Hariji had his unique ways. He never asked us to practice, but that made us all the more aware of its importance,” he says, of the five years he spent at the gurukul.

Performance is a deeply spiritual practice for an artist, when he or she delves deeper into the self, says Himanshu, who believes the emotion is conveyed in its truest form only when the art and the artist become one. “It is a dissolution of the ego, of the self. And each performance is an attempt to reach that.” 

And ragas are like companions, they come and go. “A raga comes to you at a certain time and stays with you. But there are a few ragas, which stay with you forever, you feel a connection with them. They are like your constant companions. For Himanshu they are Yaman, Durga, Puriya Kalyan, Maru Bighag, Jog, Malkaunsh, Ahir Bhairav and a few more.

Himanshu is a keen academic as well. The pandemic, which put a full stop to performances and tours, brought out the teacher in him. “We artists were worried about survival, but the pandemic also gave us time to sit and think. I was teaching seven to eight students at the time, but using technology, I was able to reach hundreds of students.” 

Himanshu’s The Mystic Bamboo, an online bansuri academy, which was a pandemic experiment, caters to over 5,000 students today. “I have always been fascinated by technology. And as a student of science (with a PG Diploma in computer science), I see technology as an enabler. Live classes became a possibility during the pandemic. It completely changed the way we looked at teaching and learning, especially music,” he says.

Though he launched The Mystic Bamboo a few months before COVID-19, it was only during the lockdown that he developed it. “I invested a year into it. There were days when I was working 15 hours. But it paid off and I have students from around the world, who have been benefiting from the classes.” 

Having studied the healing effect of music and its therapeutic use, Himanshu has been working with children with autism in addition to his concerts, workshops and classes.

He will be touring Nairobi, Kenya, for concerts from October 2.

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