Jaipur, Jan 22 (PTI) It was a day unlike any other, when George Harrison, the lead guitarist of the Beatles, stood at flautist Hariprasad Chaurasia’s doorstep to listen to the sound of his flute.
It came as a surprise to Chaurasia to learn of Harrison’s identity, who would be disguised with a long beard. This meeting was just the beginning of a lifelong association between the two legendary musicians.
“One day I was playing and I didn’t know somebody was standing at my door and he was George Harrison, one of the Beatles. He was listening to me quietly and brought a guitar the next day, then he took some ‘bhaang’ and we played together,” the renowned flute player recalled.
“He had a long beard and was wearing a disguise so nobody could recognise him, he would come every day till he was there. Then he would come every year till he died. He loved Indian music, he loved his instrument,” the 84-year-old added.
Speaking at a session titled after his newly published biography, “Breath of Gold” written by Sathya Saran, Chaurasia recalled his friendship that took both the artistes along with the likes of sitar maestro Pt Ravi Shankar, tabla player Alla Rakha and violinist L Subramaniam all over the world on music tours.
“He once took me to his castle in 1970 or so, it was a little far from London. Huge castle, there was a studio and what not. But I loved how a foreigner was so interested in Indian music that he would change his entire getup. But here was a man who would come with your face hidden,” Chaurasia said.
Born to a wrestler in 1938, Chaurasia spent his early years at his father’s ‘akhada’ without any willingness to learn the sport, but at the time “children had little choice in front of their fathers”.
“I never liked the sport in my heart, but I was also afraid of my father. Who would want to get beaten by a wrestler,” he said with a playful smile on his face.
For some time he secretly learned music from his neighbour, a dhrupad singer, but as a child of “nine or ten, the music from the radio was his primary teacher”.
He got his first paid assignment with the radio for children’s programmes, for which he would earn a handsome five rupees, according to the book.
“Once some neighbours told my father that your boy plays a great flute on the radio, that’s when he got to know about it. I got a thrashing of a lifetime,” he recalled laughing.
The journey to become one of the most famous flautists took him from one teacher to another, a job at the All India Radio in Odisha, and eventually the city of his dreams, Mumbai, then Bombay.
While working with the All India Radio in Bombay, Chaurasia received a call from the office of music director Madan Mohan who wanted him to play the flute for the 1964 film "Jahan Ara".
"It was a dream come true for me to finally work in the film industry. My first song was with Talat Mahmood 'phir wohi shaam' and after that Madan Mohan will simply call me to the studio. Sometimes he would have work for me, other times he would pay me without giving any work," the flautist said.
Even though it was his first Hindi song in Bollywood with Talat Mahmood, he had already worked with the singer several years ago for an Odia song. However, the singer failed to recall the flute artist in Mumbai.
"It was not his fault that he didn't remember me, I was nobody back then I am still nobody. Although when we recorded the song in Odisha he tried to touch my feet, and I got very embarrassed and stopped him from doing so," he responded to a question by PTI.
Starting from playing flute for a song here and there, Chaurasia, along with renowned santoor player Shivkumar Sharma, went on to direct music for some of the most famous films in Hindi cinema, including "Silsila" (1981), "Chandni" (1989), and "Darr" (1993).
The JLF will come to a close on January 23. PTI MAH SHD SHD