Where flutes find their tune
Imagine being so passionate about one thing that you make a life and living out of it. This is the relationship between Pramod and flutes
KOCHI: It took Pramod Chandramohan five years to master the art of flute making. Before that, he used to play the flutes he bought from festival markets. When Pramod started out, he didn’t even know the basics of flute making. But, the young crafter, who started playing the flute three decades ago and making them 10 years ago, has come a long way now.
At his front porch cum workspace, the Alapuzha-native has made more than 50,000 flutes. “A decade ago, I ventured into the complex art of flute-making. A flute is not just an instrument with several holes. Back then, no one in my circles knew about them. Even the internet had little information on crafting flutes. All the data was on cutting and cleaning them. A foreigner encouraged me to research further on the making techniques,” he said. He adds that flute making is not magic. Anyone can make one if they have the patience for it. “But it takes years of practice, learning and trials and errors,” says Pramod.
Ironically, Pramod was never phenomenal at playing the flute. But to craft a flute, one needs to know how they are played, he says. “Master Subash Cherthala taught me the basics. When he was busy with shows and events, I would practice at home on my own,” he remembers.
However, Pramod never owned a flute back then. The desire to own one is what drove him to look for ways to make one. Initially, he made flutes out of PVC pipes. Soon, he began sourcing bamboo from nearby places. “Once I began focusing on crafting flutes, I invested more time in sourcing the bamboos even from other districts,” he adds. For the last five years, Pramod has been making flutes from bamboo imported from Assam.
It took Pramod a year to make his first few flutes. He gave it to his teacher for a quality check. “The bamboo was a bit crooked. My teacher asked me to keep making more,” says Pramod. The 48-year-old now make flutes that render Carnatic and Hindustani tunes and the light, six-hole variety for playing background scores. “For proper tuning, the position and diameter of the holes have to be accurate. This changes from artist to artist,” he says.
To carve holes on the surface of the wood, Pramod heats iron rods of 7 to 13mm in diameter. “Once the embouchure is made, I make the artist blow on it to get the scale and notes right,” says Pramod. This is what distinguishes his flutes from mass-produced ones. “Now, I can make a flute in one hour,” he beams. The largest flute he has made is 83cm long.
Pramod’s flutes have buyers everywhere, including flautists, Subash Cherthala, Rajesh Cherthala, and Shahjahan. “It is my dream to craft a fine-tuned flute for the great flautist of all time — Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia,” says Pramod. The artist’s flutes have featured in Malayalam movies as well, including Thanneer Mathan Dinangal and Ramante Edantottam. With each flute he makes, Pramod says he learns something new.