Indian slide guitar player Debashish Bhattacharya really is in a league of his own. In addition to being a total master of the Indian slide guitar, he has also invented several variations of the guitar. When he found he couldn't express exactly what he wanted to with the instrument he had, Bhattacharya simply invented new instruments to channel his creative genius.
The Grammy-nominated musician recently celebrated his 50th birthday by releasing a fantastic new album. On it he collaborates with legends such as guitarists John McLaughlin and Jerry Douglas, as well as Israeli-Spanish flamenco guitarist Adam del Monte. Jazz-funk drummer Jeff Sipe, tabla masters Bickram Ghosh and Tanmoy Bose supply the beats. His daughter Anandi also adds vocals to the album.
There are some killer tracks on this new album, including the tune “A Mystical Morning." Listen to the album right here and read a Q&A with Bhattacharya below to learn more about his new disc.
Debashish Bhattacharya’s Beyond the Ragasphere.
Album stream to April 30, 2013.
You collaborate with so many different musicians and blend so many different styles — how difficult is that to make an album with so many different players?
It was difficult only because John [McLaughlin] and Jerry [Douglas] are always super busy and I had a deadline. But I composed songs according to the best use of these great artists, whether jazz, blues, flamenco or Indian. I kept my solos close to their masterpieces. Online recording overseas was also a great challenge over usage of Skype, Facebook, YouSendIt, Dropbox, etc.
Which collaboration on this album are you most proud of? Why?
They are all different and each one is very special and unique. You can’t compare them because they attract different components of world music as well as the different personalities of the great musicians or collaborators. In the back of my mind the culture, individual talent and musical territory was working as well. Keeping continuity of the whole album was a big challenge. That unity in diversity was a very delicate issue to handle, though all pieces sound like a different mix of moods of a single personality, in a different timeline of life, putting forth different elements and energy. I am particularly happy about the final outcome.
The chemistry between you and John McLaughlin on “A Mystical Morning” is amazing. How did you form such a strong bond while recording this in different cities?
I'm always super emotionally [connected] with a few musicians in this busy planet. Johnji is one of them. It's as if I know his every bend, every accent, every run, before he records a take. I'm thrilled by his solo. It is perhaps one of the best I've heard forever. It reminds me of the electric touch of Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda. We are both aspiring devotees. I can’t explain! The power play of [percussionist] Subhasis and Jeff Sipe along with my Chaturangui solo and some double tracks. It was all a single take, no overdub. It happened. It's the word "inspiration" and is grounded with "intelliartistic" passion!
That song (“A Mystical Morning”) is such a mind bender, it blew my mind. What do you want people to feel when they listen to that song?
Stop thinking when you hear the music. Lose yourself. Connect to the cosmic power of sharing love and serving humankind at all levels. As Swami Vivekananda said, "Serve humans and God will be happy." Listen and find yourself in the music. Feel the call of consciousness.
John McLaughlin in action, shredding.
When did you become interested in exploring the bonds between Indian music and flamenco, as you do with Adam del Monte on “Indospaniola” and “Reflections Remain”?
Flamenco has a bright energy. My Gandharvi guitar, made in 1998, is flamenco by birth. It took me close to the flamenco-wala Adam del Monte. And Anandi's inclusion in "Reflections Remain" echoed my voice. It is truly symbolic, as flamenco has been echoed with my Gandharvi 12-string guitar and is strongly traditional, as much as Indian ragas are. This composition I made after hearing and meeting Adam in Calcutta.
As a father, how do you feel about your teenage daughter Anandi’s debut performance as a vocalist on this album?
This is her first time singing and she did a great job. She is not permitted to appear as a soloist yet, but she is a born performer, a clear copy of my parents, her grandparents. She is extremely talented. She has a unique voice of her own. I think she is much more powerful than me at 16. She needs [to go] a long, long way and to avoid shortcuts. She needs all your blessings, especially in an era where girl and child victims are too often the headline. I hope she can bring some light to her generation.
Your hard work as a child prodigy obviously paid off, but would you recommend parents push their children into intensive musical training?
I will recommend every family to have music as a daily practice, that will expose us to our disability, will teach us to share moments of life with good karma. Music will help children to grow inner peace, to grow more coordination between thoughts, memories and action. Most of the child crime happens because children are alone and don't get the love of parents and positive vibes. They are exposed to adverse scenes of life too early. The practice of music will bring harmony. Exclusive grooming in music will create leaders of generations, role models for school, society, and will provide inspiration and positive energy among children, family and beyond. Music is a better communicator than written words. I've kept my two children busy in music.
What advice do you have for young musicians who want to dedicate their lives to music?
Do it with a free and fearless mind, use it as a tool for mass communication, healing, entertaining, unifying and spreading the message of happiness, life and joy.
After the recent passing of Ravi Shankar, could you share a few words on what he means to you?
I'm extremely happy with the news that Pandit Ravi Shankar won the 2013 Grammy Award. The legend will remain in the music world until the sun will stop rising in the east. A constant creative artist, he has been an ambassador and role model for all aspiring Indian musicians and musicians of the world since 1960 'til his death. His constant work to keep Indian tradition at its highest form is still an inspiration for me. May his soul rest in peace. I've been privileged to perform in front of him two times, once in Queen Elizabeth Hall, London, and one more time at his school in New Delhi. I have fond memories of our conversations.
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on Apr 23, 2013