Master musician Manose performs ancient meditation music from Nepal that evokes the spiritual majesty of the Himalayas. These improvised melodies were performed entirely on a solo acoustic bansuri, a traditional bamboo flute that embodies the rejuvenating simplicity of breath.
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Spa Song Bansuri Essay by Marlene Lipson and Maya Watson
Making a trek through the Himalayas of Nepal is a timeless journey. The path begins gently in the terraced steps of the Kathmandu valley, moves into foothills, and wraps its way higher and higher into the mountains. Travelers pass through villages rich with temples and statues, into unspoiled rhododendron forests, bamboo jungles, alpine regions, and finally, snow.
In ancient times, the trade route from the sacred Hindu pilgrimage site of Pashupatinath to the town of Sankhu was known as the domain of siddhi (supernatural powers), where wishes were granted. The most important landmark along this passage was - and still is - the great Boudhanath shrine. Boudhanath is generally recognized to be the most sacred Tibetan Buddhist stupa outside of Tibet, and the surrounding town of Boudha has become a refuge for Tibetan exiles. Nepalese and Tibetans of every category live together there in harmony: Hindus and Buddhists, teachers and merchants, monks and musicians.
In this place where so many come together in peace, the sounds of ancient cultures are alive in the air. Numbering among them is the plaintive voice of the bansuri. One of the oldest instruments in South Asian music, the physical form of the bansuri is elegantly simple. Artisans carefully choose and harvest long, straight stalks from the mountain bamboo groves of South Asia to create flutes of varying sizes and keys. A transverse flute, the bansuri has no reed, no finger pads, or valves. Instead, it depends solely upon manipulation of the breath and fingers to coax out its song. It is considered to be amongst the most "human" of instruments, with a complexity of range, and richness of timbre suggestive of the human voice.
Although revered in mythology as the chosen instrument of Lord Krishna, mentioned in ancient Hindu scripture, and depicted in Buddhist art for the past 2000 years, the bansuri has spent most of its history in the hands of shepherds and folk musicians. In the mid nineteen hundreds, the great Indian artist Pandit Pannalal Ghosh is credited with bringing this instrument into its own as a respected vehicle for classical Hindustani, or raga music.
The raga system of music can follow its roots back to the dawn of Hindu thought where musical expression was a form of worship. The term "raga" itself derives from the Sanskrit word for "to color" and was defined for the first time in about 800 AD when a Sankrit scholar wrote that, in the opinion of the wise, raga was "that particularity of notes and melodic movements. . . .by which one is delighted." To this day, ragas remain in this enchanted realm between scale and tune, much more exact and emotionally rich than the former, and much freer than the later. It has remained true that it is not enough for a raga simply to contain certain notes, and move in certain ways: it must also be a thing of beauty with the power to touch the heart of the listener. A belief in the divine nature of sound itself has also remained intertwined with the practice of raga music. "By adoring sound" proclaims one Sanskrit prayer, "we are also adoring the Gods. . . .for they are the embodiments of sound." Throughout the centuries, raga has thrived and changed, weaving into itself the colors and patterns of the vibrant folk traditions of the Indian subcontinent, and in more recent times, flourishing in the sumptuous halls of the Mogul kings. Today, it continues to provide the warp and weft for both the classical and popular music of India, Pakistan, Nepal, and Bangladesh.
Ragas and their compositions traditionally were passed down from teacher to student through the rigorous practice of shiksha, diksha, and pariksha, or learning, dedicated practice, and evaluation. Traditionally if a student is accepted by a teacher, the student will live with the teacher, serving his guru and sitting at his feet to learn. Manose was only eight years old when a little flute became his constant companion, and not much older when he found his way to the feet of his first teacher, shenai player Madan Dev Bhatta, a disciple of Ustad Bishmilallah Khan. Manose would come to learn from his guru in Kirateshwor temple on a hill above the sacred Bagmati river. Slowly Bhatta began to unfurl the mysteries of raga music to his young and eager student. As his abilities increased, Manose would perform his diksha late into the night beneath the eves of the Kirateshwor and Pashupatinath temples - or in the moon shadow of the great Boudhanath shrine.
Manose was lucky to have arrived in this world at a crossroads of sorts, a time when the old teachings were still alive, and when the chorus of a global music was at the same time accessible to him. Far from squandering his good fortune, he has used it to develop a playing style that is informed by an intimate understanding of the raga tradition, but which also draws from outside its borders in the quest to create beautiful and moving music.
Even when he is not in concert, Manose finds the voice of his flute comforting and restorative. He plays every day, often upon waking. But Manose is not an artist living in ascetic isolation. His music finds many outlets, and he is considered by many to be the leading flautist of Nepal. Manose has found a multitude of bold and reverent ways to share his musicianship with others. He performs and records with artists such as Grammy-nominated artist Jai Uttal, singers Krishna Das and Deva Premal, tabla maestro Swapan Chowdary, and Grammy-winner Peter Rowan. He performs all over the world and remains an ambassador to Nepal wherever he travels.
For this album, in this moment, Manose begins by fondly retracing his earliest paths. He pauses along the ancient trade route, takes a breath of mountain air, and turning to the teachings he first received in the Kirateshwor temple, offers forth a collection of raga-inspired pieces that have an undisputable power to delight the soul. This recording fulfills his intention to create a music that brings peace to the heart, and pleasure to the ear. It is a testament to finding your home within, and carrying it with you wherever you go.