Indian Flute

The word bansuri originates in Sanskrit: bans [bamboo] + swar [musical note]. Bansuri is the very first melody instrument invented by human being!! A naturally growing bamboo piece in forest got drilled by insects and wind blown from it made a beautiful sound. This sound fascinated human beings and an instrument ‘Bansuri’ took birth! There are two varieties of bansuri: the transverse, and the straight one. The straight variety is usually played in folk music and is easy to blow. Because of the flexibility and control the transverse variety offers, it is preferred in classical music. The bansuri is an Indian wind instrument made of a single length bamboo piece with one blow hole along with seven open finger holes. It is closed naturally on one end. Blowing hole is made very much near to this end slightly away. So, bansuri is totally a natural instrument. The North Indian bansuri is typically about 32 inches long (E scale). Bansuri can produce notes in two and half octaves.

Pt. Pannalal Ghosh (1911-1960) elevated the Bansuri from a folk instrument into serious classical music. He improvised on the length and number of holes and eventually came up with longer bansuris with big diameter bores. Longer bansuris provided better sound in the lower octaves. In next generation, Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia popularized to bansuri in international music world. His unique blowing and fingering techniques changed the bansuri sound dramatically.

Bansuri is fundamentally different from western concert flute though the concept of blowing is same. Western flute consists of number of keys to operate finger holes, bansuri holes are closed by bare fingers only. In western flute, there is a mouth piece specially made for ease in blowing whereas in bansuri, no such artificial arrangements are done. Western flutes are made from metals like silver, brass etc. producing metallic sound whereas Bansuri is made of bamboo producing natural bamboo sound which adds natural beauty. Each bamboo has its unique texture so each bansuri sounds different from each other.

Western flute is typically tuned in C note. Other types of flute include the piccolo, the alto and bass flute. Bansuris comes in various scales. Each note can have separate bansuri like A, A# scale bansuri etc. Also, each note can have separate octave bansuri like A middle octave bansuri, A high pitch bansuri having small length and small diameter bamboo piece etc. Because of keys, sliding notes are not possible in western flute which is possible in bansuri. Also, a special 'gamak' effect is also possible in bansuri.

Western Flute