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Krishna's instrument: The Bansuri and the "divine tone"

Christian Lärchenwald plays Bansuri Christian Lärchenwald plays Bansuri

The Bansuri bamboo flute is one of the best-known Indian instruments. Owing to the fact that the flute was played mainly within the context of Indian folk music, it has been part of the canon of instruments of classical Indian music since the last century. The word bansuri is composed of the Sanskrit words "bans" (bamboo) and "sur" (melody). The instrument is historically tied to Indian mythology.

The Indian bamboo flute, bansuri, was first mentioned in Vedic texts from the 6th century before Christ . The Bansuri belongs to the most sacred and oldest music instruments in India. It is connected to the Indian God Krishna. Krishna is shown cross-legged and playing a flute in many depictions. The sound of Krishna's instruments is said to have had beguiling effects on people and animals.

In Buddist representations the Bansuri is played equally by human and godly beings. It accompanies singing, but also appears as part of ensembles. For centuries, the Indian flute sounded on religious occasions. There are different types of Bansuris that were played on different occasions.

Professional Bansuris by Partha Sarkar in the DAN MOI Shop Professional Bansuris by Partha Sarkar in the DAN MOI Shop

As well as the cavity one blows through, the bansuri boasts six, on some instruments even seven more holes, set out in a line which are opened and closed using the fingers of both hands. By blowing the flute and by moving the fingers you control not only the sound of the instrument, but also the tones and pitches. To play the flute, it is held laterally in a horizontal position with the instrument pointed slightly downwards. The thumbs hold the bansuri in position. In classical Indian music, these flutes are now often gladly used because they allow better control of sound and tonal variety. There are also bansuris which are longitudinal flutes. They are mostly played in Indian folk music.

The bansuris are originally tuned to the "divine tone" A = 432 Hz. Therefore, all tones of the instrument sound a little lower compared to the concert pitch A = 440 Hz. This somewhat lower tuning is sometimes described as the "better frequency". To some people's ears, instruments tuned to 432 Hz sound more relaxed, peaceful and centered. This perception also corresponds to number cosmological contexts.