Meet Ranjit Das: The Legendary Flute Man From Barak Valley Assam
Flute is an eminent part of Barak Valley folklore. Flute is a simple and important musical instrument found in the valleys since ancient cultures. Playing a bamboo flute requires a lot of hard work and precision. It takes a lot of hard work, dedication, concentration and patience to master the instrument. The enchanting sound that captivates the audience depends not only on precision in playing, but on the make of the flute as well. The flute is the oldest wind instrument in the world and is one of the first musical instruments ever invented.
A man from the Cachar district in Assam from the bengali community – Ranjit Das over the age of 62 years is a self-taught flute maker and flutist. Lives in a small village near barak river, he has been doing folk music for around 35 yrs, and the swinging flutes were used not only to produce music but also to turn aside nature and wild animals.
Mr. Ranjit Das has learned about and made many different types of flutes, including such as horizontal flute, Meo flute, gourd flute, vertical dongxiao flute and Shakuhachi flute.
A completed bamboo flute takes a lot of effort and time by going through many different stages such as flute billet processing, straightening a flute body, drilling holes, and painting. Mr. Ranjit added – “a flute is traditionally made from a single hollow shaft of bamboo with six or seven finger holes. It is typically between 30 centimeters and 75 centimeters in length, and the thickness of a human thumb. The flute is revered as Lord Krishna’s divine instrument and is often associated with Krishna’s Rasa lila dance”. These handmade wind instruments embellish all corners of his room-turned-workshop and focus on his work and believing that someday his indigenous-crafted flutes will be appreciated by musicians around the world.
Bamboo flutes made by Ranjit are of top quality – technically accurate and aesthetically beautiful. Each flute is made with dedication and passion that is required to turn out the most exquisite and beautifully resonate bansuri flutes. His flutes are much in demand in localities as well as other parts of the state and are played by many renowned artists and top ranking performers. He is a good and remarkable teacher and groomed many students who perform at district level.
Each of his flutes has its own name and song. He utilizes a wide variety of bamboo flutes sweeping from the soprano to bass ranges, all made by his own hand. Many who hear his music praise his ability to imbue his creations with the deep connecting spirit of the natural world. He also makes instruments that are used during Assam’s Bihu festival, which celebrates the onset of spring. He has performed at various prestigious locations including district level as well as state level performances have involved the media which includes many shows in television and all India Doordarshan Kendra.
It is traditionally produced from a special type of bamboo that naturally grows to long lengths between its nodes. These are particularly found in the northeastern states of India. Every glute by its design and construction has a specific key and tonal center, corresponding to sa (shadja, natural tonic) of the swara scale. He cuts the bamboo to size, smoothening and chiseling it, and then using a heated tool to etch floral as well as geometric designs, creating light and dark patterns on the flute with the heat.
Six holes are sufficient to produce the seven basic swaras: sa, re, ga, ma, pa, dha, and ni. The sound of a flute is made by a steady stream of air vibrating through it. The air stream across the hole excites the air inside the resonant cavity of the flute, causing it to vibrate and make a sound. A lot of people believe that playing the flute will be easy but it is not like that. Lots of trouble was faced while playing the flute. They encountered a lot of problems while using flutes of other tone pitches as Black-1, Black-4 & 5 or White-2 & 6, as they caused a lot of strain on fingers while playing.
In demand with exceptional music talent, this bamboo flute player will add a serene and beautiful sound to your event.
Contributed by Jahid Ahmed