Well, folks, it’s that time again. I’m heading off to travel around the misty isles of Britain and Ireland again, so don’t expect any more posts for a while. But I thought I’d leave you with this special treat to savor while I’m away. I really shouldn’t have to say anything to convince you this is wonderful music. The names speak for themselves. Two of the greatest slide guitarists in the world produce one of the greatest works of East-West fusion. Sweet and spicy, like a good curry. Like Ry Cooder & Vishwa Mohan Bhatt’s grammy-award-winning album ‘A Meeting By the River’, but better. Mmmmmmm…..!
Bob Brozman’s journey into India and its music began with Debashish Bhattacharya, who Bob considers the greatest slide guitarist of all time in any genre. Bob first encountered Debashish in 1996, when Bob, Debashish, and Martin Simpson all had recent concert video releases with Stefan Grossman’s Vestapol videos. Stefan suggested getting together for a “World Of Slide Guitar” US tour, and the very first show in Vancouver, BC was the moment the that the three actually met, having arrived from different destinations. Debashish arrived from India with his brother Subhashis, master tabla player; Bob came in from Europe; and Martin arrived from California. There was no time for any rehearsal. The opening notes of this tour began with a simple agreement to play in D minor. From that point, only attentiveness, communication, and emotion built the music. Several cities deemed this concert to be their concert of the year. The 1996 tour included the West coast, Midwest, and East coast. The trio toured again in 1997, this time on the West coast, Canada and Hawaii.
In January 1998, Bob went to Calcutta for a residence and recording with Debashish and Subhashis. Being in Calcutta is a very intense experience, recommended for all Americans to witness how much of the world lives. SUNRISE was the result of a recording made in stifling 110-degree heat. The compositions on this recording were created to give the listener a true mixture of east and west. Drawing on Debashish’s roots in Indian classical and folk music, and Bob’s roots in blues, Hawaiian, Caribbean, jazz, and African music, these two guitarists employed both their cultural differences and their philosophical commonalities to compose a variety of completely new music. SUNRISE was released in 1998 in India only, and remains difficult to obtain.
Calcutta, India’s Debashish Bhattacharya started learning Indian music from his parents before he learned the alphabet. In his childhood he mastered many Indian classical instrumental styles as well as vocal music from different musical teachers in Calcutta. He became a disciple and student of Brij Bhushan Khabra, the father of Indian classical guitar, for 10 years, and also trained under Ajoy Chakraborty, the eminent Indian vocalist. He has also studied with Ustad Ali Akbar Khan.
As a performer, Debashish gave his first guitar recital at the age of four on the All India Radio, and in a public concert. In his twenties, he evolved a unique style of playing guitar, synthesizing selected features of various other instruments such as the Veena, Sitar, Sarod and Kannur. In 1984, he was awarded the President of India award at the age of 21.
Debashish developed his innovative Hindustani slide guitar after years of research and experience. It consists of a Hofner acoustic F hole guitar, with a total of 22 strings. He added a platform of wood running the length of the guitar’s neck, mounted with 17 tuning gears. This piece of wood extends the width of the neck, making room for twelve sympathetic strings, and five supporting strings for additional versatility. Above the 5 normal (sliding melody) strings, there is a pair of ckikari strings, as on a sitar. One of Debashish’s innovations was to move them to the treble side of the guitar, which enables far more complex playing, since their rhythmic drones can be played by the fingers, over other melodies simultaneously. Debashish plays this guitar while sitting cross legged, with the guitar held on the lap and played with a small steel bar, metal picks and a celluloid thumb pick.
Debashish is perhaps the greatest slide guitarist who has ever lived. He has, both through creating the actual design of the instrument, and through his incredible talent and discipline, elevated the Hindustani slide guitar to be the highest evolution of slide guitar anywhere. Though he is often compared to V.M. Bhatt, there is little basis for comparison, because Debashish’s music has far greater musical range, physical dexterity, and emotional depth. To develop his playing, he has undergone decades of disciplined study of Indian vocal technique combined with his instrumental work. Debashish can sing perfectly in parallel with every blindingly fast melody he plays. Possessed of a very open musical mind, Debashish is eager and more than qualified to collaborate and truly blend with musicians from any other country.
Since 1996, his collaboration with Bob has resulted in two “World of Slide” tours of the USA and Canada, plus more appearances with Bob, and with The International Troupe, in Canada and South Africa. Most recently, Debashish has toured Europe and recorded with John McLaughlin and his latest incarnation of Shakti. In 2002, Debashish returned to Quebec with Bob, and later reunited with Bob in California for the recording of MAHIMA, released June 2003.
Subhashis is a leader of his generation of Indian percussionists. As the younger brother of Debashish, Subhashis grew up steeped in the deep musical background of the Bhattacharya family, learning melody and rhythm from infancy. His father Sri Sunil Bhattacharya taught him tabla and his mother, vocalist Smt. Manjushree Bhattacharya worked with him melodically when he was a toddler.
He started to make his presence felt in the music scene from childhood as a promising tabla player trained by teachers Sri Prabir Bhattacharya and Pt. Shyamal Bose. Now, he is considered to be a master player, and he continues to study with Pandit Anindo Chatterjee, the senior tabla maestro. He has regularly performed in every major Indian music festival, and has recorded four albums with Debashish and seven albums with Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty.
Subhashis first toured outside of India in 1996 with Debashish and Bob. His skill and flexibility as percussionist on several instruments, rhythm arranger, and vocalist have since been heard on subsequent overseas tours in the USA, Canada, South Africa, Greece, Kuwait, Bangladesh, and Nepal. A leading studio musician in India, he has begun creating and leading large percussion ensembles, and his arranging skills are essential to the music on this album, as an equal participant in its creation. With meticulously tuned hand drums, he played intricate rhythms, plus melodic parts inside the rhythm section. Creating percussion landscapes by playing several instruments on multiple tracks gave Subhashis a sense of liberty, yielding one creative explosion after another.
Redefining musical diversity worldwide, Bob Brozman is a remarkably prolific artist whose wit, energy, and musical technique combine powerfully to create an unforgettable live performance. A master of slide, fingerstyle, and percussive guitar, Bob’s exhilarating show spans the global and musical spectrum, and keeps audiences enthralled, begging for more of his endearing, infectious energy.
Bob’s familiarity with diverse world music cultures produces a novel blending of rhythmic and timbral influences, unparalleled in today’s musical environment. His rhythmic dexterity resonates with elements of blues, jazz, Gypsy swing, calypso, sega, and even the most modern hip-hop and ska beats.
Likewise, his chords and harmonies articulate an acute blend of timbres from Hawaiian, Indian, African, Japanese/Okinawan, Caribbean, and American roots blues. His fingerwork has been described in world press as uniquely staggering, yet full of humor. Bob has a collection of hand-tricks that make audiences look for electronic effects that in fact don’t exist: his show is the clean product of acoustic genius.
Bob’s disarming talent for humor and rapport invariably adds spice to his already well-seasoned repertoire of music. A lifelong study of ethnomusicology and the global migration of musical styles ensures Bob’s committed attention and respect to each of the cultures in his repertoire. He casually shares historical facts with his audiences, and charms them with his ability to integrate local languages into his show: over the years, Bob has taught himself useful phrases in over 30 languages, which he regularly uses both on stage and off.
Undoubtedly, however, Bob’s preferred language is music – which he speaks fluently, around the world. His most recent projects have rendered him a true player in the world music scene. Since 2000, Bob has completed 15 full-length recordings, both solo and with reknown artists from around the world. Most recently, POST-INDUSTRIAL BLUES (Ruf Records) and LUMIÈRE(World Music Network) have proven Bob’s virtuosity in both the blues and world music genres. His 2005 release SONGS OF THE VOLCANO (CD/DVD) documents Bob’s two journeys to Papua New Guinea in 2003 and 2004, when he recorded with 60 musicians from five string bands. Other notable projects include the 2003 release of MAHIMA (with Debashish Bhattacharya, India); the 2002 release DIGDIG (with René Lacaille, La Réunion Island); as well as JIN JIN (with Takashi Hirayasu, Okinawa); OCEAN BLUES (with Djeli Moussa Diawara, Guinea); IN THE SADDLE (with Ledward Kaapana, Hawaii); NANKURU NAISA (again with Hirayasu); TONE POEMS III (with David Grisman and Mike Auldridge, USA); SUNRISE (again with Bhattacharya); ROLLING THROUGH THIS WORLD (with Jeff Lang, Australia); GET TOGETHER (with Woody Mann, USA); and FOUR HANDS SWEET & HOT (with Cyril Pahinui, Hawaii). Bob’s 2005 solo release BLUES REFLEX was nominated for The Blues Foundation’s 2007 Blues Music Awards, in the category of “Acoustic Album of the Year.”
An abundance of projects such as these has established Bob as, according to one reviewer, “the man whose musical empathy seems to know no bounds.” And as journalist Paul Fisher notes, “If music existed in another universe, Bob would be the Planet Earth’s representative for an interplanetary collaboration.”
Bob was born in New York in 1954 and has been involved in music since early childhood. A guitarist since age 6, Bob discovered National guitars at age 13. In their unique sound, the young Bob found his musical calling. He studied music and ethnomusicology at Washington University with an emphasis on the earliest roots of Delta blues. He has since also become a respected authority on historical Hawaiian music, publishing articles and amassing a large collection of 78rpm records. He has produced five re-issue albums from this collection on the Rounder and Folklyric labels, documenting the best of Hawaiian music from 1915 to 1935.
In 1988, Bob rediscovered the legendary 1929 Hawaiian recording artists, the Tau Moe Family. Together they recorded a landmark album, REMEMBERING THE SONGS OF OUR YOUTH, an historic re-creation of the family’s genuine Hawaiian music from 60 years prior. The album was released in 1989 to rave international reviews, including the Library of Congress Select List Award. With N.E.A. funding, Bob began production of a feature-length documentary film about the Moe family and their amazing 54-year-long world tour.
Over the years, Bob’s passion for National Guitars led him to build a large collection of these fascinating art-deco era instruments. After receiving a letter from the then-88-year-old inventor John Dopyera, Bob visited and became good friends with John and his family. This led to further research, and in 1993 Bob’s massive work THE HISTORY AND ARTISTRY OF NATIONAL RESONATOR INSTRUMENTS was published internationally. He has also written for several music magazines concerning historical and instructional subjects.
Since his first solo album in 1981, Bob’s repertoire of recordings has grown by over 30 titles to include 14 solo projects and at least a dozen collaborations with international friends. His ability to use the guitar as a portable translator of culture – coupled with his empathetic nature (through music, culture, and language), and seemingly boundless energy – enables him to establish genuine musical friendships based on respect and love of music. Bob’s deep knowledge of musical history and arranging has enabled him to create large band arrangements and direct music for film, radio, television, and stage. In the last year, Bob produced albums for Ledward Kaapana and the Asylum Street Spankers; he also continues to generate educational and concert videos for Homespun Tapes and Vestopol Videos, respectively.
In 1999, Bob and Woody Mann co-founded International Guitar Seminars, which hosts over 120 students annually at sites in California, New York, and Canada. The team has pioneered a week-long, deluxe workshop in which students study day and night with a faculty that includes Bob, Woody, John Cephas, John Renbourn, Orville Johnson, Michael Dunn, Mary Flower, Mike Dowling, Jim Nichols, Pat Donahue, and more.
In addition to his rigorous touring and recording schedule, Bob is also an adjunct Professor at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, where he lectures on ethnomusicology and has been researching string music in Papua New Guinea and the tremendous number of islands around New Guinea and in the western South Pacific Ocean. Through the auspices of the University, Bob has been recording and collaborating with a wide variety of musicians from these interesting locales. He is also working toward the creation of a foundation to help third-world musicians to obtain the musical basics that western musicians take for granted, such as playable instruments, strings, tuning gears, and basic recording equipment.
Bob maintains a nearly superhuman tour schedule throughout the year, every year. Live performance tours are a vital part Bob’s activity, in addition to his collaborations. He tours constantly throughout North America, Europe, Australia, Asia, and Africa.
As Bob says, “There’s so much music out there…I guess I’ll get some sleep in the next life!”
The slide guitar developed in many cultures around the world, but there are many deep connections between Hawaiian guitar and Indian music. The earliest known report of anyone playing slide guitar in Hawaii dates from 1876, when Gabriel Davion, an Indian boy kidnapped by Portuguese sailors and brought to Hawaii, is reported to have been playing slide guitar on his lap. Of course there are Indian instruments utilizing slide going back to earlier times. However, the normal western Hawaiian guitar was first introduced to India by Bob’s Hawaiian guitar guru, Tau Moe, in 1929. Mr. Moe also lived in Calcutta from 1941-1947 at which time he made many influential recordings for H.M.V. India. Tau Moe toured with his family for 57 years around the world before his retirement and subsequent re-discovery by Bob in 1988. Tau’s star pupil in India was Garney Nyss, who became India’s leading Hawaiian- style recording artist. Mr. Nyss influenced Sri Brij Bhusan Kabra, the first Indian musician to play Indian classical music on the Hawaiian guitar. His star student, in turn, is Debashish Bhattacharya, who has taken the instrument to new levels, both in the form and design of the Hindustani slide guitar, but also in his incredible playing. Amazingly, all four generations were still alive in 1998. Bob had the privilege of meeting Mr. Nyss and hearing him play, during his 1998 Calcutta trip. He passed away later that year. Tau Moe passed away at 95, in 2004, but not before Debashish finally had a chance to meet him in Hawaii, completing the circle. Thus, the connection between Bob and Debashish has even deeper historical and philosophical resonance, which confirms and expands their deep friendship and musical partnership.
Label: Sagarika (India)
1. Aalaap Of The Grateful Meeting
2. Menacing Waltz
3. New Swinging Blues
4. Motherless Children
5. Kirwani Calypso
6. Sunrise At Calcutta
8. Song Of Life
9. Maj Khamaj / E Mama-Ea
10. Red River Valley
mr | mp3 >256kbps vbr | w/ cover | 126mb
*released in India only. Very difficult to obtain…
but you can get their collaboration Mahima at bobbrozman.com