Flute Sisters | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, March 14, 2011 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, March 14, 2011

Flute Sisters

Striking a high note


They call themselves "flute sisters". Aptly so as they are siblings and adept flautists. Meet Suchismita and Debopriya who performed the other evening on International Women's Day.
Their timing couldn't have been better. The duo are the only females flautists in the Hindustani classical music firmament though women do play the bansuri in the Carnatic music tradition of South India. What's more, Suchismita and Debopriya have trained under famous guru, Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia for 15 years now.
The sisters' story goes back to their childhood. Though the obvious choice for women was singing or dancing at the time, Suchismita and Debopriya Chatterjee's parents encouraged them to play a different tune. The choice of vocation was easy to understand. Their parents were musicians in Allahabad.
The sisters first began training under Pandit Bholanath Prasanna and later went on to take flute lessons from the Mumbai-based Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia. Their gurus happened to be acquainted with the young girls' parents and that may explain how they came to take lessons from Prasanna and Chaurasia.
The sisters now in their early 30s have fond memories of their early training with Chaurasia. “When we were teenagers we would go to Panditji on weekends. He would make us feel special,” recalls Suchismita. “Even today we are under his shadow,” she adds.
“Panditji said the more he understood music, the greater he realised that there was much more to achieve. You can imagine where that places us. He is like an oak tree and we, mere saplings,” says Debopriya on a lyrical note.
Both sisters assert that there is no competition between them when they take the stage. As Debopriya says, “We complement each other.”
The undoubted harmony between the siblings was apparent at the recent concert. Suchismita and Debopriya began the evening with Raga Yaman which the former describes as a “Sampuran or complete raga. It is like a woman -- beautiful, simple and complete.” The concluding piece was Raga Pahari, the signature tune of Chaurasia which he always plays at the end of a concert. “Pahari raga is a very popular folk tune and the audience always calls for Panditji to play it,” says Suchismita.
The sisters' achievements are all the remarkable as they live in different towns and cannot practice jointly as much as they would like to. Suchimismita is based in Pune, Debopriya shuttles between Mumbai and Muscat, where her husband is posted. Both point out that as married women with domestic commitments, it is not easy for them to pursue their calling.
Such obstacles only seem to make the siblings more determined than ever. They have been honoured with the Surmani title as well as the Ustad Bismillah Khan Yuva Puraskar by Sangeet Natak Academy. They are graded artistes of Aakashwani (also known as All India Radio) and have performed extensively in India and overseas. They have also cut two commercial CDs: “Guru Shishya” by Sense World Music and “Beyond Dusk”.

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