Pandit Keshav Ginde is one of the biggest names in Indian classical music, known for his passionate approach to flutes and contribution to the music industry. The renowned flautist has been conferred this year’s prestigious Bharat Ratna Pandit Bhimsen Joshi Lifetime Achievement Award for Classical Music. The announcement was made by the State Cultural Affairs Minister, Vinod Tawade. The annual award, instituted by Maharashtra, honours maestros in classical music and singing, and carries a cash award of Rs 500,000, a memento and a citation.
Talking to the maestro, we find out more about his journey, the benefits of being a flautist and the millennials’ approach towards Indian classical Music.
Born in Belgaum, Karnataka, Pt Ginde spent most of his childhood in the company of music and musicians. “While growing up, I was always surrounded by music instruments. Right from a young age, I knew that my heart lies in music,” he recalls, adding that he was however heartbroken by the fact that no one would let him practise on their music instruments, let alone touch those. “However, my mother really encouraged me to follow my passion even when I could hardly even reach all the holes of a flute with my tiny baby fingers,” he says.
Although he never got a chance to meet the legendary flautist Pt Pannalal Ghosh, he got the opportunity to listen to him play on the radio several times. “This was the beginning of my journey. I started participating in the prayers of the family deity, Lord Krishna,” Pt Ginde says. He was popular in his school days as he would play the flute on various special occasions like Independence Day and Republic Day. It was his mother who dreamt that one day he would become a master flautist.
Later, Pt Ginde shifted to Pune and joined the Fergusson College where he acquired lessons in general music before his advanced training under Pt Haripad Choudhari. He also completed his doctorate in music. His flute rendering resembles Pt Pannalal Ghosh’s style, and he is equally adept at tantkari or beenkari style of playing.
He played the flute for four decades on All India Radio (AIR) and Doordarshan. In 1984, he invented the ‘Keshav Venu’ flute, a 42-inch long flute which can produce 3.5 octaves compared to the maximum 2.5 octaves by regular flutes.
THE BENEFITS OF BEING A MUSICIAN
“Other than sounding soulful to the ears, the flute is beneficial for physical and mental health too,” Pt Ginde says.
While playing the flute, the first thing that he understood was the importance of healthy lungs, says Pt Ginde. “Control of breath is so important when it comes to playing the flute, because of which it is extremely important to do the Pranayam on a daily basis,” he adds.
We talk about the posture that a flautist needs to sit in while performing. “The posture is very vital for the spinal cord; in fact, it is a yoga pose,” the flautist says.
The conversation then turns to the benefits of his passion and profession. “It is said that when Lord Krishna used to play the flute, animals would gather around him. This was possible only because the sound waves created by his flute were appealing to the animals and humans alike,” he says.
He is of the opinion that music has such power that it can heal a person and take care of his wellbeing. “I played the flute for a group of special students. They usually don’t sit still for a very long time in one place, but when they heard the flute, they calmed down, sat quietly and truly enjoyed the programme,” he says, mentioning that the teachers and parents of these students were impressed by it.
MILLENNIALS AND CLASSICAL MUSIC
These days we come across a lot of young adults who show interest in drums, keyboard and guitar. That gives us a feeling that the young generation is not interested in Indian classical music. But Pt Ginde is of the opinion that it is not the case, “From my own experience, I can tell you that a lot of young girls and boys approach me to teach them how to play the flute and that is not because they are under peer pressure or want to look “cool” but because they are drawn to the sound of the flute, the feel of it and the emotion of it.”
He believes that these youngsters are as dedicated to the art form as other musical maestros, and judging them just on the basis of their age is wrong.
“However, what many people don’t believe is that being a flautist, or any other Indian classical musician for that matter, is an established career, one that pays you well,” he concludes.