Dhan Bahadur Gurung is a Basuri (bamboo flute) teacher and also a maker. In his 15 years stint as a teacher of the instrument, he has imparted training to thousands of students. But, he is not that happy as he finds only a handful of them gained proficiency. Born in Harmi, Gorkha district in 2041 BS, Gurung has a Bachelor’s Degree in Basuri from Allahabad University, India, and he was the topper in his batch. Initially, he was inspired for this indigenous musical instrument by his elder brother Resham Gurung.
He won the Gold medal in classical music competition in 2064 BS and also received the Award for Young Basuri Player from Kirateswor Sangeet Ashram. Other awards that have come his way include best musical instrument (Basuri player) from Quality Entertainment Award 2079 and best flute player from NEA Award 2079.
Excerpts of an Interview with Gurung who teaches at Kalanidhi Indira Sangeet Mahavidhyala, Pulchowk, by Ishwori Baral, Deshsanchar online:
How do you recall your initial journey with Basuri?
I was fascinated with Basuri since my childhood. Basuri is a traditional instrument that we first came across with; as a kid, I used to hear my brother playing. He used to live in Kathmandu and later, took me there along when I was a grade six student in Harmi. I started studying in Kathmandu and also joined the Basuri class simutanously. Later, I graduated from Allahabad University and this is how my musical journey started.
When and where did you start teaching Basuri? How many students have you imparted the knowlledge so far?
Even though, I have been playing the Basuri since I was young, my formal learning begun in 2059 BS and my teaching carrier started from 2064 BS.
I have engaged in various schools including GEMS. Now, I am teaching full- time at Kalanidhi Indira Sangeet Mahabidhyala. I reached to, perhaps, 10 to 12 thousand students up to now.
Anyone who deliberately excells skill is able to make a professional career. For the best Basuri player, this can be a good profession to make a dignified living.
What are your other engagements these days?
In addition to teaching at Kalanidhi four days a week, I am busy playing Basuri at recording studios.
Do you play any instrument other than the Basuri?
I play both classical Indian Sanahi and Nepali Sanahi. And, I am the only person in Nepal to play classical music in Sanahi.
Could you please say something about the features of Nepal’s original instrument Basuri?
Basuri is a traditional musical instrument and has been played since time immemorial. The specialty of Basuri is that it fits in all kinds of songs and music with its tune full of melody and sweetness.
Is there any difference between Nepali Basuri and the western flute?
The bamboo flute is played especially in Asian countries while the metal one is played in western countries.
The Basuri has twelve scales and each scale requires a different Basuri. Each note has two variations, the base and the high pitches; if all notes are to be tuned in both scale we have to carry 24 Basuri at a time. On the contrary, the western flute can play all twelve scales with a single instrument. However, the Basuri is more melodious than metal flute.
What is the current trend of Nepali youths in terms of interest in learning Basuri?
Basuri has remained popular all the time. What’s more, the interest and engagement of younger generation is in increasing trend. Many people are eager to learn Basuri, but only a few can carry it to professionalism. Constant effort is needed to establish career as Basuri player. Only those who have a greater enthusiasm and passion to keep trying can be a good Basuri player.
In addition to being a Basuri teacher, you also make the instrument. What are the requirements to make a good Basuri?
As earlier said to you, Basuri are made on different scales. A Basuri maker should understand the diameter of the hollo scale and length of the bamboo needed. And to produce right sound, different holes have to be drilled in right distance. To ensure proper tuning the making process requires considerable time and effort.
Where do you get bamboo to make Basuri?
We bring bamboo from Assam, India. Bamboo is found in Nepal also but we buy it from Assam for the reason of quantity and quality.
How COVID-19 pandemic impacted your work?
I utilized the lockdown as an opportunity to study and design Basuri so as to revitalize my knowledge. I also remained busy on online classes for students in France, USA, UK, Korea and other countries.
How is the financial return of the profession?
I would like to share that I am satisfied so far. Anyone who deliberately excells skill is able to make a professional career. For the best Basuri player, this can be a good profession to make a dignified living.