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“If given a choice I would be a full time Indian classical musician” – American bansuri exponent Nash Naubert

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One of the most unadulterated music instrument is the bansuri. Its six holes produce the seven basic swaras: sa, re, ga, ma, pa, dha, and ni. When all holes are closed, it produces the bass scale, the root note of the bansuri (pa). Its organic sound is considered to be one of the sweetest to the ears.

“The sound of the bamboo is all I need,” exhaled American flutist Nash Naubert.

For an Indian classical musician whose forte is the bansuri, Nash is an interesting case of falling for the instrument and the genre. Thanks to a multicultural lifestyle as a teen, his passion for literature, culture and music saw him take up a 2 week course of ethnomusicology, a study of world music. He learned some of the basics and the structure of Indian classical music there before moving towards Japanese and African music.

The intricacies and the scientific approach of Indian classical music was something that drew Nash. Although a classic rock music fan, he would fiddle on the piano trying to play some western classical music. Exchanging his bicycle with his friend for a didgeridoo, brought him his first musical instrument.

It was at Pandit Ravi Shankar’s live concert that Nash had his first true experience of Indian classical music. But this was not the incident that enamored Nash.

Getting enchanted by the bansuri

“I was in India just to travel and experience the culture. At one point when I was in Dwarka, Gujarat I attended an all-night ‘baithak’ where a bansuri player was performing and that was it. The surreal atmosphere, and the soothing sound of the bansuri just blew me away. My next stop was Mumbai. I picked up my first bansuri there. I met a proper flute teacher in Varanasi and learnt from him only for a month as my visa was expiring,” smiled Nash.

Adding,

“When I was in Varanasi I witnessed many giants of Indian classical music play live and was mesmerised. The way they dressed, conducted themselves and reacted to the way the audience revered them made me feel connected to the music immediately.”

Nash would go on to learn music under the tutelage of one of the greats he saw in Varanasi, Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia.

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Just like his music, Nash is a spiritual man. Maybe that is the connection that bought him to the ancient city in India. Varanasi is the fulcrum of Indian culture, music and spirituality. Nash feels Indian classical music is directly connected to the spiritual world. He aims to be in a zone where music just flows naturally. But this is not always possible due to various factors. Indian classical music is often considered to be akin to a living being. Sometimes it is exciting and at times it is boring.

“That is the wonderful thing about it. It’s not a pre-composed set of verses just like jazz so they both are free flowing. You don’t repeat your performance. It is not something that will blow your mind but can linger on with you for days,” asserted Nash.

‘Nash and Indrakali’

An artist would always want to perform his preferred genre. However we don’t dwell in a perfect world and classical musicians have their work cut out. Musicians now have to experiment with genres to be relevant. Whatever be the reason, may be it is about paying bills which is important.

Acceptance of fusion music by the audience has opened avenues for artists to expand their musical horizons. Nash fronts a fusion band called Nash and Indrakali where he collaborates with other soloists incorporating instruments like sarangi, violin, saxophone, tabla, pakhawaj, cajon, djembe, didgeridoo, congo and even a western drum kit. Keeping him company in the band is his ballet dancer wife Gaysil Naubert and her troupe.

“If given a choice I would be a full time Indian classical musician but it is not easy. My focus is to be a solo musician so I don’t really work much with other ensembles,” said Nash.

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