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Monday, August 18, 2008

Let Us Now Praise Debashish Bhattacharya

posted by on August 18 at 11:55 AM

As often happens, a friend recently asked me if I’d heard any good music lately. (Sometimes I’m an asshole and say, “No, none at all. Why don’t you be a dear and make some?”) But this time I said, “Debashish Bhattacharya.” He said, “Gesundheit.” I said, “Ha,” then punched him in the solar plexus, before explaining in tedious detail why Debashish Bhattacharya is the bomb—even if his name sounds like a rare wasting disease you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy.

I discovered Debashish Bhattacharya in March through his album Calcutta Chronicles: Indian Slide Guitar Odyssey (Riverboat Records). Bhattacharya also used to play with John McLaughlin’s excellent Indo-jazz fusion ensemble Remember Shakti.

I didn’t know much at all about Indian slide guitar (to my ephemeral shame), but after listening to Calcutta Chronicles, I realize that you really haven’t lived until you’ve heard a pandit (master) play Indian slide guitar. It is some the most beautiful music ever conceived. In fact, it may be too beautiful.

At times when listening to Calcutta Chronicles, I feel unworthy of being in the presence of such beauty. I feel as if I’m going to simply dissolve in my own tears. This feeling is akin to looking at a stunningly gorgeous person and realizing that you will never get within whiffing distance of him/her. A chronic ache in your marrow forms and you understand that frustration can infiltrate you like a toxic gas.

But back to Calcutta Chronicles. The nine ragas mostly move at a stately pace: Subhasis Bhattacharya’s leisurely tabla slaps buttress Debashish’s crystalline notes, which gently sob, sigh and then gracefully curve into the loving embrace of Swati Biswas and Sukanya Battacharya’s tamboura drones, spurring contemplation of humanity’s deepest emotions. (They may also provoke Pavlovian pangs for vegetable biryani.)

Debashish isn’t burning up his fret board on Calcutta Chronicles (except in the ravishing “Aviskaar” and “Maya”), but rather caressing it with tenderness and profound knowledge passed down from centuries of raga pandits. His playing is one of the purest manifestations of peace through sound I’ve ever heard.

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Indeed a truly sublime listening experience.

Killer stuff!

Posted by Wall Of Sound | August 18, 2008 12:58 PM

Hindi music is ridiculously beautiful. I had the privilege to hear Uday Bhawalkar sing at the UW in April, and it was the closest to an out-of-body experience I may ever get:

Posted by bronkitis | August 18, 2008 1:19 PM

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