Bamboo flute is the simplest of musical instruments. Its legendary association with Lord Krishna makes it a popular Indian musical instrument. In Hindi, bamboo flute is known as bansuri which is made up of two words; baans meaning bamboo and suri that means a musical note. The Indian flute is melodious and a wide range of notes are possible by calibrating the air column in the bamboo.
In Pilibhit district of Uttar Pradesh, the community of craftsmen produce bamboo flutes. It is a hereditary family enterprise. The bamboo is sourced from Silchar in Assam. The range of products includes large sized flutes for professional artists to small toy flutes. The professional flutes are made with seasoned bamboo which is carefully selected and stored. The Great musicians source their instruments from here. The large population of craftsmen produce inexpensive small flutes sold all across India.
Only few master craftsmen know the secret of indexing musical notes precisely. The indexing is done through piercing the holes in to the bamboo for placement of fingers. Holes are created through red hot metal pokers and all markings are done with special scales and tools. Once the holes are pierced, there is no scope for correction. Careful calculation and precision is required while marking the holes. The craftsmen make small holes initially and then check the notes, then gradually increase the hole to required level.
Indian flutes range in length from less than 12 inches (called muralis ) up to about 40 inches (shankha bansuris ). 20-inch flutes are common. Another common and similar Indian flute played in South India is the venu, which is shorter in length and has 8 finger holes (This type of Indian flute is played by the famous Carnatic Musician Shashank Subramanyam).