Ronu Majumdar’s Classical Traditions: The Indian Bansuri

cover art for The Indian BansuriPandit Ronu Majumdar is a globally renowned, Grammy nominated, multiple award winning player of the bansuri flute of Hindustani classical music. He’s a pioneer in the instrument, following a tradition that included his father, and influential to a younger generation of musicians. The part of his background that might mean the most to Western fans of the music is his stint in the touring and recording orchestra of Ravi Shankar, whom he views as his guru, in the 1980s.

Majumdar’s music is rooted in the Maihar gharānā – a distinctive style of Hindustāni classical music that originated in the northern parts of the Indian subcontinent in the 19th century. Other renowned musicians in this tradition include Ravi Shankar and Ustad Ali Akbar Khan. Born in Varanasi, Majumdar began playing the bansuri at the age of 6, under his father Dr. Bhanu Majumdar and later by the renowned Indian flutist Pt. Vijay Raghav Rao. (His father was a homeopathic doctor by profession, but was taught to play by Pannalal Ghosh, who was the first to introduce the flute to Hindustāni classical music.) He also has vocal training from both Shankar and the late Lakshman Prasad Jaipurwale; although he does no singing on this album, I’m sure such training is helpful to a flutist.

Besides his classical music, he has also been a major innovator in New Age music, and composed music for the Hollywood film Primary Colors and India’s first IMAX film, Mystic India.

I cribbed all of that from the press release and liner notes of this wonderfully peaceful collection of music. I truly can’t write knowledgeably about Hindustani music, but I’m a fan and know what I like. And I like Ronu Majumdar’s The Indian Bansuri very much indeed.

The three pieces here, two long and one short, are all adapted, I think, from works that were originally vocal ragas. The first, “Raag Jaijaiwanti,” is essentially a solo piece, Majumdar’s flute accompanied only by the droning tambura (or tanpura). It’s a deeply meditative piece for most of its 24 minute run, with some faster passages in the final third. His breath control is impressive throughout, but his mastery of technique including octave leaps, really comes through in these more rapid parts.

The other two, “Bandish In Rupak Taal” and “Dhun Mishra Shivaranjini,” both add a masterful tabla to the bansura and tambura. The former runs just seconds shy of 30 minutes, but thanks to the masterful interplay between tabla and flute and the way it moves fluidly through many different phases, my interest in the piece never flags. The latter at just 7 minutes is delightfully meditative and focused.

You can find Ronu Majumdar’s music on Spotify curated playlists: Ayurveda Yoga, Healing Ragas, Ragas for Yoga, and Focus Ragas.

This is the second release in Naxos World’s new Classical Traditions series, following Classical Traditions – The Turkish Oud. Hear samples and learn more on the Naxos World website.

(Naxos World, 2021)

Gary Whitehouse

Gary has been reviewing music, books and more at the Green Man Review since sometime in the previous Millennium. He lives in a mostly hipster-free part of Oregon, where he enjoys dogs, books, music, the outdoors, and craft beer, cider, and coffee.

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