Debashish Bhattacharya – Live in Calcutta

More music from the best slide guitarist in the world! The last track on this album is seriously one of the best fusions of east and west that I’ve ever heard, with fearful symmetry to match any Fahey composition. That’s all I can say!

The Jesuit maxim ‘Give me the child until he is seven and I will show you the man’ could just have easily have been coined in India, where the tradition of immersing children in music from birth is a natural result of them growing up within musical dynasties. In fact, Debashish Bhattacharya learnt to sing in the Gwailor classical vocal style his parents were steeped in even before he could talk. Oddly, the instrument he was first drawn to as a three-year-old was a Hawaiian lap steel guitar left lying around the house. As he recalls, “it was love at first touch.”

As a boy, Debashish learned western guitar as well as sitar, but his most rigorous training was a ten-year stint during his twenties studying with Pandit Brij Bhushan Kabra, the great pioneer of Indian raga slide guitar. It was during this time that he realised his vocation would be ‘to serve as a bridge between raga’s past and future’.

Now 43, and officially a Pandit (master musician) since turning 40, he is widely acknowledged as one of the world’s greatest slide guitarists, and has invented his own ‘Trinity of Guitars’. His Chaturangi has 22 strings, which enable it to suggest the timbres of violin, sitar, sarod and veena. The Ghandarvi is a 14-stinged guitar that can sound like a veena, sarangi, saz or flamenco guitar, and the tiny 4-stringed Anandi is basically a slide ukulele. He also has his own three-fingered style of playing which gives him an edge over others when it comes to speed and dexterity, and in 2003, he established a music school in his hometown of Kolkata.

Debashish Bhattacharya

World renowned Master of the Hindustani Slide Guitar

Debashish Bhattacharya is one of the world’s most amazing music personalities whose dynamism of artistry and creativity place him as a Genius. As a performer he is one of the worlds most powerful Slide Guitarists. He is creating a genre already in India and around the world.

As a composer he believes there is no east, and west in music, only Universal Human music which gives peace and joy to the believers.

As a creator he has become perhaps the only phenomenon in the History of World Music by creating TRINITY OF SLIDE GUITARS by name CHATURANGUI, GANDHARVI, and ANANDI.

As Debashish is perhaps the only Musician who has created such TRINITY in India too. As a recording artiste Debashish is a perfect Virtuoso matches in all the categories of Music starting from Indian Classical, Semi Classical, Folk to any Kind of World music.

Genetically Debashish carries music of his Devotee parent, who was singers by generations. His brother Subhasis is an extraordinary Tabla and other rhythm instruments. Sutapa his sister is a very popular singer who at her first abroad tour has been quiet popular in Japan And Canada.

As a disciple Debashish feels extremely fortunate to be associated with his Gurus, Pundit Ajoy Chakrabarty,the exponent vocalist and Pundit Brij Bhushan Kabra, the living legend and pioneer of Indian Classical Guitar.

As a performer Debashish began his debut at the age of four at All India Radio, Calcutta, late Ustad Karamatullah Khan of Farukhabad Gharana accompanied him on tabla was blessings from Ustadji

As he was twenty Debashish received President of India Award for wining National Music Competition of All India Radio. At his thirties Debashish has been awarded Top Grade, the ultimate honor by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting of India, Prasar Bharati.

As a Classical Guitarist He is the best, as all the Gurus say today in India.

Debashish Bhattacharya visualised his customised guitar right back when he was sixteen years old. It took him the best part of two decades to solidify this fantasy into a range of axes with augmented strings, a collection that still look like guitars, but possessing trimmings that call to mind a sitar. He’s added sympathetic resonating strings, raised high from the guitar body, and decorated his tuning knobs with bulbed carving. He plays with the axe laid flat, its strings caressed by a metal sliding bar. Could this be another version of the blues, to sit beside those manifestations from the Sahara and the Mississippi Delta?

Since signing to Riverboat Records, Debashish Bhattacharya’s UK profile has been higher, particularly in the light of his duo disc Mahima, with serial collaborator Bob Brozman. The latter guitarist is obsessed with any string that slides, so his teaming with Debashish was almost inevitable. Now, Bhattacharya has just released his own album, Calcutta Chronicles, subtitled an Indian Slide Guitar Odyssey. It’s refreshing to hear an artist verge on advising his audience not to buy the disc that’s on sale at his gig. Well, not quite, but Debashish does issue a warning that it features capsule, or even compromised, versions of his crucial raga material, mentally edited for the purpose of audio home comfort.

In the onstage setting, Bhattacharya is more concerned with the expected lengthy unfolding of a traditional raga, though he’s not going to take as much time to unwind as many of his peers. The average length of Debashish’s journey is about thirty minutes per piece, instead of the oft-attained hour-long exploration. He drapes himself with the mantle of preservationist, viewing the old ways as being beleaguered in the face of modern technology (Bhattacharya has a curious obsession with citing GPS as the bane of the itinerant musician!). It’s not that Debashish is particularly advanced in years, but he’s set on preserving the ancient Indian classical system, and not just as a performer. His principle concern is that the audience needs to consciously battle, in order to find a quiet space for extended contemplation. He doesn’t want you to play your disc whilst driving/eating/cleaning/procreating. He’s right, of course. To solely listen requires a deliberate resolution…

Debashish is partnered by his tabla-playing brother, Subhasis, who observes silently as the opening alap is delicately formed by the sliding strings. He enters more prematurely than most, speaking with the deeply-rubbed tones of his bass skin. Debashish escalates quite quickly, plucking and picking, as he scatters single-note phrases against a backdrop of his own simultaneous jangle-cascade. It’s highly intricate, and at its climax, incredibly speeding, with the pair displaying a uniquely bonded sense of improvising precision. Bhattacharya uses each of his three guitars in turn, the last being of ukulele size, and demonstrated on an even shorter piece. Close the eyes, and his sound is not so far removed from that of a sitar or veena, but Bhattacharya is nevertheless in possession of his own particular style, and has rapidly become one of the most impressive players on the Indian classical circuit.

RockOm’s Tom Crenshaw had the privilege to interview Debashish in early 2008 and to witness a phenomenal concert in Savannah, Georgia, at the Savannah Music Festival, where Debashish debuted his “Song of Life” composition as performed by master guitarists Derek Trucks, Jerry Douglas, Bob Brozman, and Debashish himself. Tom remarks, “For close to ten minutes these giants of slide guitar held the audience in the palm of their hands trading licks back and forth, and singing dynamically through strings and fingers something entirely unheard-of up until that moment. I’ve never before witnessed or heard anything like these four masters speaking through their music in such a passionate and moving manner. There was a time when all four guitarists and the tabla percussionist were playing simultaneously and every single note, every beat made perfect sense! When the composition was over the audience erupted in a resounding, almost deafening applause. It was quite a moment- one I’ll never forget!”

RockOm: I sometimes say that music is spiritual in nature- in that what flows through us musically seems to come from a higher realm. Do you agree?

Debashish Bhattacharya: No, not at all. Music is man’s hard work with extreme passion. When it pleases us, it transports us to a level of the mind where we feel disconnected with all material things momentarily. If you call this spirituality, so be it. Spirituality lies in the philosophy shaping up any music and or true practice of humanity; it is not a package or brand to sell a product.

RockOm: Do you feel that your spirituality is communicated through your music and if so, how?

Debashish Bhattacharya: As I said, spirituality lies in the philosophy shaping up any music. Spirituality is also related to non-fake humanity. Of course, my music is deep-rooted in philosophy, which is why Indian classical or raga music has survived thousands of years. That so many people are learning, practicing, and listening to it all over the world is a percolation of its spirituality. My music is liked by millions around the world, so the aesthetics rooted in philosophy transcribes spiritual feelings in their minds; it is the music itself. In true presentation it shows what it is. This is a natural process of communication, but only possible in the hands of a dedicated and true artist.

RockOm: What do you think it is about music that breaks down barriers and divisions between people?

Debashish Bhattacharya: I call it emotional attachment. Subconscious self-identification with one and all. Only music evokes the realization that we are all human beings, “Brothers and Sisters,” as the great Swami Vivekananda addressed audiences at the Chicago World’s Religions meeting decades [ago.]

RockOm: Besides your own music, is there any one artist or album that you continually return to (more than others) for inspiration, depth, or spiritual revelation and why?

Debashish Bhattacharya: I always fall back upon Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, Pandit Ravi Shankar, and Ray Charles. Why? I think they shape my thinking, intellect, heart, hands, eyes, and all organs like vitamins.

RockOm: Is there a difference between hearing music and feeling music? How do you explain this?

Debashish Bhattacharya: I think that is a radical issue, which needs to be addressed rather seriously. Do you relate to your feelings phone ringtones, horns, jingles, lounge, titillating promos, and squeaks and squirms? All that comes without philosophy of life is “passing sound.”

RockOm: Just as you’ve invented new musical instruments to express what you hear and feel inside, what do you think future master musicians will come up with?

Debashish Bhattacharya: I have invented sounds deep rooted in Indian tradition and use them to trans-create music that is eternal. I have been able to do something though I did not have any role model in front of me. I can’t say for others.

RockOm: How are we limited here in the West with regard to writing and performing music of a spiritual nature?

Debashish Bhattacharya: Try to find an answer to why you think you are limited, if you believe so. I think only then you can get your answer of the question.

RockOm: How important is it for you to “get out of your own way,” so to speak, when performing? Do you lose yourself while performing or must you remain fixated and aware of what you are doing at all times?

Debashish Bhattacharya: I do not believe in talking while performing. That’s not done. I am deeply absorbed while performing, as I believe that I must deliver my best to my audience.

RockOm: Is playing music similar to praying or meditating?

Debashish Bhattacharya: Yes. If one concentrates while praying will he not do so while playing music?

RockOm: Does music have the power to heal and can you give any example of healing you have witnessed?

Debashish Bhattacharya: Healing varies from person to person. Yes, many of my fans listen to a certain piece of mine, at a certain time, to feel good. That’s surely healing. But a general remedy is difficult to formulate in such abstract fine arts.

RockOm: Is everyone inherently musical to some degree?

Debashish Bhattacharya: Well, not really. I know of many who are least musical but make tons of money by selling music!

RockOm: What is the most important thing we should know about you and your music, Pandit?

Debashish Bhattacharya: The most important thing about me to know is my name Debashish Bhattacharya and my music – classical raga, music of India.

Debashish Bhattacharya – Live in Calcutta
Year: 2010
Label: Rough Guide
This album is only issued as a bonus disc to the Rough Guide to India. You cannot purchase it by itself, and the rough guide isn’t even half as good.

01. Raga Maru, Bihag Aalaap 13:41

02. Mahu Bihag, Jod-Jhala 9:29

03. Maru Bihag, Gat In Madhyala Rupak Tala 12:22

04. Maru Bihag, Gat And Jhala In Drut Tintala 13:20

05. Raga Khamaj, Aalaap 7:41

06. Anandam In Anandi (Raga: Mishra Shivaranjani) 7:07

slide to heaven.

mp3 >256kbps vbr | w/ cover

if any of you have Debashish Bhattacharya – Calcutta to California, I’d love to hear it.
This entry was posted in Branches, Guitar, indian classical, seeds, world. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Debashish Bhattacharya – Live in Calcutta

  1. Jeremy says:

    Wonderful, thanks IP. What a master.
    I don't have what you're after but do have the MP3 version of the WFMU session you can hear in low quality (Real Audio) form here: Say if you're interested.

  2. Cool, Jeremy. That's not the one I'm after but I'd be interested to hear it regardless. That man can do no wrong.

  3. Jeremy says:

    Great. Several tracks off that CD were on the show, as well as the session and interviews. Just figuring out how to get sounds to you… I'll be back when I've worked it out 🙂

  4. Gadaya says:

    Hindustani slide guitar, Gamelan, Swedish fiddle music, Joseph Spence, etc… A great start for this year Pirate and all that i wanted to listen during those long winter evenings. Thanks

  5. thank you sir! downloading now 🙂

  6. gypsykat says:

    While I greatly enjoy Indian music, I've never been a fan of Hindustani guitar–until now.

    You've made a convert. This is excellent.

  7. excellent! i'm so glad to hear it gypsykat. i hope to post some more ICM soon

  8. Dipanjan Bhattacharya says:


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