PRESERVING SHEHNAI CRAFTSMANSHIP :
Shehnai -Bhajantri( Karnataka) Vajantri ( Maharashtra) is a community famed for the Shehnai Vadan and crafting skills.
1. Nurturing generations of Shehnai performers ,
Pt.S. Ballesh has significantly contributed to preserving the Shehnai, an endangered musical instrument, by inspiring and nurturing new talent by training in the gurukula mode .
Nurturing the legacy of UstadBismillah Khan Saheb and keeping the ShehnaiVadan tradition alive , by training younger musicians :
In a milieu which academic and corporate pursuits are preferred over music as a career, Pt. Ballesh has inspired his three sons to take a musical career even after qualifying in professional spheres like engineering and Management and holding corporate positions .
All three are accomplished Shehnai players & vocalists .
His son Surmani Krishna Ballesh apart from accompanying, has also grown into a solo performer, following in his father’s footsteps. PrakashBallesh and ShivanandBallesh are also accomplished artistes who accompany their father and other renowned musicians with Dukkad, Harmonium ,tabla etc.apart from playing the Shehnai and vocal.
2. The Village Mugut Khan Hubballi from where PanditBallesh hails, has over - 20 scholars with different levels of proficiency - who have learnt shehnai vadan art from him and are performing artists in local and national arenas.
RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT IN HANDCRAFTING THE SHEHNAI :
1. With every endangered art , the other aspect is preserving the instruments.
Pt.Ballesh is also a renowned Shehnai Craftsman, making his pipes from the finest
sesham. burma teak , ebony and rosewood to the Benarasi reeds bringing alive the mesmerising sounds of Shehnai.
2. The process involves preparing the wood, whittling it to fashion a pipe,
preparing the “Nali '' i.e. silver pipe which involves tempering the silver metal to right thickness, soldering the silver to the wooden pipe , drilling the holes, attaching the Shehnai Pyala made of bronze which gives the unique sound.
3. Uniquely hand-crafted the Shehnai has the best reeds from Ganga - conditioning it to get the right tautness and stretch for the wind instrument Specially made Sui- or needles for opening reeds made by bronze metalBamboo - used for flattening the reeds.
4. The Bronze cups or Shehnai kaRyalaya- has come about after years of research and development and are designed for melodic output and tone. The tone varies with the diff cup size.
5. All this is made with specialised handcrafted drilling rods and tools to create the unique sound
6. The crafting skill is also passed from generation to generation .
7. Many of the Shehnai Vidwans in the country use the handcrafted Shehnai made by Pt. S. Ballesh, Having mastered the art, he is the only player to use ebony shehnai - a rarity in this field.