B Vijaygopal started learning flute by the age of four and gave his first recital by six. Today he is a highly accomplished flutist an A-grade artiste of All India Radio (AIR) and an impaneled artist on the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR).
Connected to India caught up with B Bijaygopal who will be performing at the Esplanade Recital Studio on Nov 17, at 7:30 pm during Kalaa Utsavam, Indian Festival of Arts at Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay, which will be held from November 17 to 26, 2017.
Connected to India: How was it to grow as a child prodigy?
B Vijayagopal: Growing as a child prodigy was quite exciting actually given the amount of attention and love i was getting. But my parents were very careful to not overdo it, as it happens in a lot of cases and helped me have a balanced childhood with equal focus on academics and art. I even managed to squeeze in quite a bit of sports too (cricket,in my case)
Connected to India: How did you get discovered? What was the turning point in your career?
B Vijayagopal: I cant really remember how I got discovered, given that I started learning flute, formally at the age of 4. The turning point I would say is Lalgudi Jayaraman sir, hearing me play when I was about seven and telling my dad to immediately shift to Chennai for my music (I was in Kumbakonam at that time.)
Connected to India: How did you decide between music and dentistry?
B Vijayagopal: Music was always my first choice and I knew ultimately I would end up as a full time musician. Academics just happened, I didn't really go out of my way or try really hard. I did my Undergraduate in dentistry and I just got into Post graduation in Orthodontics and dento-facial Orthopedics again without much effort, and having done both I wanted to practise atleast for a few years, which I did for five years and then I knew I had to pick one over the other.
Connected to India: How demanding is it to play flute?
B Vijayagopal: I think playing any instrument is highly demanding. I also sing, and hence can say confidently that playing an instrument is way more difficult. And flute being a wind instrument requires that extra stamina and breath control and unlike some other instruments your head and hands are kind of locked in place, so that has it postural challenges too.
Connected to India: What does it take for an instrument to become popular? Pandit Ravi Shankar played a crucial role in making sitar popular, what with playing it with George Harrison from Beatles, are there instances of flutists jamming with popular western pop artists?
B Vijayagopal: I think the first pre requisite is availability of enough platforms for any given instrument and going by that, the present generation of artists and listeners have equal roles to play in maintaining popularity and taking it forward. Legends like the great Flute Mali and Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia have cemented the place of Flute as a primary instrument in our system of music and brought in a lot of international interest.
Connected to India: What response do you get from Indian diaspora audiences when you play internationally?
B Vijayagopal: I think since the Indian diaspora thirsts for good music since it is not as ubiquitous as it is here (in India, or Chennai for example) and so the response is always very encouraging and concerts often go for much longer than planned. Even in a recent concert tour of mine to Europe, though the Indian diaspora was probably only 30% of the audience, they were so involved with the music that, what was supposed to be 90 minute concert extended to more than two and half hours
Connected to India: How was your experience of working with legendary AR Rahman?
B Vijayagopal: It definitely was a dream come true for me. I've always had that as a top three things to do on my bucket list and the past year gave me quite a number of opportunities to work in his projects. His aura and working style are both inspiring.
Connected to India: What are your plans with taking flute to the international audiences?
B Vijayagopal: I have a lot of different ideas. I have my own world music band, the sound is entirely based on Indian music. Thata one of the ways of taking Indian music far and wide. But the main focus is to take Indian music to as many new places as possible. And with a little bit of an introduction to our system of music, its quite easy to have people hooked on to it. Its interesting times. And organisers like you, from Kalaa Utsavam play a huge role in helping artists like me present this great form of music to a lot of avid music lovers. Thanks for that.