Calcutta Chronicles: Indian Slide Guitar Odyssey is a musical journey through the centuries of guitar playing in India. Using three unique guitars that BBC award winner Pandit Debashish Bhattacharya designed himself, each beautiful raga explores influences ranging from Gypsy to Sufi with deep sensitivity and free-flowing movement between past and present, tradition and innovation.
This new album follows on from 3: Calcutta Slide-Guitar, which won a BBC Radio 3 Award for World Music in 2007 and helped bring to the world's attention Debashish Bhattacharya's incredible artistry as a musician and slide guitar player and his talent for innovative composition. He is also known for his collaborations with various musicians, including Bob Brozman, Djeli Moussa Diawara and Takashi Hirayasu.
Played on three slide-guitars designed by Debashish, Calcutta Chronicles: Indian Slide-Guitar Odyssey is an album of Indian raga music, interpreted in a way that is accessible both to the Indian and western listener, touching on the blues, jazz, flamenco and Hawaiian music. His home city, Calcutta (now Kolkata), has for centuries been a centre of artistic excellence and this has strongly influenced Debashish's development. This, together with his own inspirations drawn from performing and collaborating all over the world, plus elements of Sufism and the origins of the Romani of Hindustan, have resulted in a beautiful and dynamic album.
Debashish grew up in a musical family, accompanying his parents, both singers, on tabla, guitar or tambura. In the late 1920s, the legendary Hawaiian musician, Tao Moe, visited Calcutta, bringing with him a steel guitar and starting a trend for the instrument. Somehow a steel guitar found its way into the Bhattacharya household and Debashish started to play it. As his musical career continued he developed his own style of slide guitar playing, adding resonating and drone strings. He studied with Pandit Brij Bhushan Kabra, who introduced the slide guitar into Indian classical music, and later with vocalist Pandit Ajoy Chakraborty who expanded his knowledge of Raga music. In 2003, aged 40, he was himself made a Pandit (master).
Calcutta Chronicles: Indian Slide-Guitar Odyssey reveals Debashish's interest in striking a fine line between the contemporary and the ancient. 'Nivedan' (A Journey Beyond Time) is a thumri-based piece that is devotional – portraying dialogues between Lord Krishna and his devotee - but it has a contemporary feel. 'Sufi Bhakti' (Eternal Joy) blends elements from Sufi music and Bhatki, devotional music of India, using the Anandi with the harp, tabla and one-stringed ektara. The composition is within the forms of the classical raga Bhairavi but there are strong international flavours and rhythms. 'Gypsy Anandi' (Odyssey of Slide Guitar) mixes melodies from diverse cultures – an Indian melody with an Hawaiian flavour, with Afro-Andalusian rhythms but with its soul in raga – played with three different Anandis and 'Maya' (Illuslide) has a strong repetitive melody which again blends the raga with rhythms drawn from elsewhere.
|1. Sufi Bhakti||07:12|
|2. Amrit Anand [Eternal Joy]||03:06|
|3. Nivedan [Lovers' Cry]||07:32|
|4. Ganga Kinare [A Journey Beyond Time]||04:57|
|5. Gypsy Anandi(Odyssey of Slide Guitar)||04.65|
|6. Rasika [Entrancement]||08:22|
|7. Aviskaar [Renaissance]||08:32|
|8. Kolkata to Kanyakumari [Journey of Vivekananda]||08:48|
|9. Maya [Illuslide]||07:04|
Calcutta Chronicles: Indian Slide Guitar Odyssey
Debashish Bhattacharya in Paste (August).
'Debashish Bhattacharya, slide guitar guru and preserver of the ancient Indian classical system, touches down in York with his arsenal of customised axes.'
Debashish Bhattacharya mentioned in article on John McLaughlin's new album in Guitar Player (August)
'…It's highly intricate, and at its climax, incredibly speeding, with the pair displaying a uniquely bonded sense of improvising precision.'
Debashish Bhattacharya mentioned in article on John McLaughlin's new album in Jazz Times (August)
'…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.
Global Rhythm, July 2008
'Indian classical music both as it was meant to be played and has never been played before'
Playbackmag.net June 2008
'Debashish Bhattacharya's latest gem…should enlighten and please listeners…'
'With wondrous recordings such as these…Bhattacharya establishes his preeminence in a relatively narrow field. At the same time, he makes that field almost universally accessible.'
Cyclic Defrost Magazine 29 June 2008
'…the slide guitar has become increasingly important in India, the greatest exponent being Debashish Bhattacharya.'
'He is considered one of the worlds best slide guitarists, and not surprisingly has played with Bob Brozman, Zakir Hussein, even John Mclauglin.'
'His music is incredibly peaceful, rich and vivid with an extraordinary musical range and depth of emotion. You'll be hard pressed to find anything as extraordinary and beautiful as this.'
'Bhattacharya has an incredibly unique style of slide guitar, which is on display here, his technique effectively hinting at so much, incorporating elements of the sitar, sarod and other instruments into his approach. He has a unique ability to tap into these alternate traditions and techniques yet feel like he is remaining totally true to his own unique voice'
bbc.co.uk/music/release/hfcz 19 May 2008
'Debashish Bhattacharya is India's leading inventor and exponent of slide guitars'
'Bhattacharya's extraordinary note-bending artistry'
'You can almost see his fingers sliding over the strings as he teases exquisite, metallic tendrils of sound from them.'
MAZZMUSIKAS 99 July 2008
'Every record of Debashish has a meaning: he is the man who constantly crosses borders and who is able to mix musical styles from all over the world with a recognisable Indian stamp. This is a record for connoisseurs, but beginners can have no better start than this album.'
The Independent On Sunday July 15 2008
'Shimmying, singing, crying, and whispering, it's now a wonderfully eloquent instrument, to which this album does full justice.'
'redolent of the late sixties, in its serenely accomplished exoticism.'
SongLines July 2008
***** (5 stars) Top of the world album
'Driven and succinct it's a beautifully uncluttered and satisfying presentation of a wonderful artist and tradition'
'BBC Radio 3 Awards for World Music winner'
'simple, eloquent and refreshing take on Indian classical music'
'innovative and sensational'
Jazzwise June 2008
**** (Four stars)
'this new album captures him and Subhasis Bhattacharya in peak form'
Queensland Homes (Australia) June 2008
'this release is a joyous testimony to his [Bhattacharya's] skill and versatility as a world musician.'
India Currents, April 2008
(full page article) 'artfully balanced…emotionally rich moods'
The Daily Telegraph, May 2008
'…dazzling, empathic chemistry.'
Evening Standard, May 2008
Financial Times, May 2008
The Gurdian, May 2008
Four stars (****)
'There are few guitarists who can claim to have created a style quite as individual as that of Debashish Bhattacharya…One of India's master musicians.'
San Jose Mercury News, Canada (2-page article), April 2008
'deeply satisfying new album featuring his original, mostly devotional compositions.'
LA Weekly, May 2008 (concert preview)
'Fans of string instruments, take note: This man burns'
Time Out Chicago, April 2008 (concert preview)
'Rest assure this is one great gearhead who's making the most out of his collection.'
Sunday Telegram, April 2008
(One-page article) 'deeply satisfying new album featuring his original, mostly devotional compositions.'
Philadelphia City Paper, April 2008
(preview)'The trio's sound is clearly based in tradition with subtle innovations.'
Metrotimes, April 2008
(Preview) '…one of the greatest guitarists alive.'
Boston Globe, April 2008
'a deeply satisfying new album featuring his original, mostly devotional compilations.'
Boston Sunday Globe, April 2008
(two-page article), critics pick
The Star Ledger, May 2008
'Bahattacharya represents the best kind of globalization.'
Boston Herald, April 2008
'wide-ranging odyssey that mixes the past with the present.'
Boston Phoenix, April 2008
(***) 3 stars
Chicago Tribune, April 2008
'Calcutta Chronicles' is Bhattacharya in all his resplendent virtuosity.
Philadelphia Daily News, April 2008
Indian master musician Debashish Bhattacharya really opens my ears with his unique stylings on 'Calcutta Chronicles'.
The San Luis Obispo New Times, April 2008
"Mesmerizing, beautiful, and artistically jaw dropping--besides maybe Ry Cooder, it's tough to compare Debashish Bhattacharya to another guitarist with an equal range and technical ability.
Preview for Ann Arbor concert in The Detroit Metro Times, April 2008
'Debashish Bhattacharya is one of the greatest guitarists alive… Hearing Calcutta Chronicles may make you want to pick up the guitar and give up all within the same listening"'
'…a great mood setter….they [the tracks] flow together into a great musical tide to lift your spirits.'
www.InsideWorldMusic.com, April 2008
'… each song remains true to his soul and his passion.'
Interview with Debashish in The Savannah Morning News (4/3) <br />http://savannahnow.com/node/473805
Interview with Debashish for the Minneapolis edition of India Post (4/20)
A gig listing on San Francisco Chronicle, April 2008, Detroit Free Express, Panorama, Savannah Morning News
Pandit Debashish Bhattacharya crosses genres, cultures and traditions in concert at Occidental College
When Indian slide guitarist par excellence Debashish Bhattacharya came through Pasadena in October 2006, he was in the midst of an international tour promoting his 2005 album "3: Calcutta Slide-Guitar." Since then he's played more concerts and festivals across the globe, with his vocalist/sister Sutapa and tabla-playing brother Subhasis, and with fellow steel-string maestros such as Bob Brozman, Jerry Douglas and Allman Brothers guitarist Derek Trucks. Last year he won a coveted BBC Planet Award for World Music for "Calcutta Slide-Guitar"; more recently he recorded "Calcutta Chronicles: Indian Slide Guitar Odyssey," just released on Riverboat Records.
The Calcutta-born Bhattacharya has a well-established affinity for synthesizing Hindustani ragas and American blues, and for fusing music with his spirituality and respectful curiosity. He's widely heralded as an innovator because he added resonating and droning strings and hollow necks to the Indian guitars he designed (including his trademark 24-string Hindustani slide guitar). Among the guitars he created were three that were instrumental to the making of "Calcutta Slide-Guitar": Anandi (a four-string slide ukulele), Chaturangui (a hollow-necked, 22-string guitar) and Gandharvi (a 14-string guitar fusing the sounds of 12-string guitar, fretted veena, bowed sarangi and santoor). Each has a distinctive timbre, and Bhattacharya utilized their diverse sonic and performance properties to express different symbols and facets of spiritual belief within the classical framework of ragas.
The music on "Indian Slide Guitar Odyssey" is even more graceful, moving and — for Western ears — relatable. Bhattacharya again uses his personally designed guitars but focuses instead on his own journey through the world — drawing on the ragas, Sufi and Bhakti devotionals of his heritage as well as the blues, Hawaiian and Gypsy music, African and flamenco rhythms in which he has immersed himself during collaborations with artists from other regions of the world.
Bhattacharya was designated a pandit, or master, in 2003 at age 40. At his 2006 concert at Pasadena City College, he introduced pieces with often prayerful intensity, relating the history and symbolic meaning of his instruments and dedicating various numbers to universal peace and well-being. He also made some sly jokes, but the vibe was far removed from the grab-a-beer-and-relax feeling that's typically experienced in clubs. As Bhattacharya, Sutapa and Subhasis played cross-legged on a riser in Harbeson Hall, the music rolled out over the audience in slowly building waves, sometimes crescendoing before dipping back into quieter moments of reflection. Bhattacharya clearly relished the possibilities for transcendence. Bringing together different musical forms, instruments and audiences may seem small, but it is one way of achieving some harmony in the world.
- By Bliss 04/24/2008
Every so often albums like this come along, serving as timely reminders that it's the musicians, not the instruments, that make different styles of music. Debashish Bhattacharya has long been an iconoclast and innovator, using not only slide guitar in his unique take on Indian music, but also here a slide ukulele (you can hear it on "Sufi Bhakti," which crosses Indian and Sufi music in a thrilling and seamless manner). That he's a master of his art is a given by now, but his genius isn't just in technique, but also in feel. He's as much at home on "Rasika," which conjures up Bengali music as he is with a raga on "Maya." Perhaps the greatest triumph here, however, is "Gypsy Anandi," where you can hear Hawaii -- the home of slide guitar -- along with Andalusia and even Gypsy overtones, apt since they originated in Rajasthan. The Indian classical tradition suffuses this disc, both Hindustani and Carnatic (the two come together on "Kolkata to Kanyakumari"). The playing throughout bathes you in warmth, lulling and delicious, quite spare but never seeming empty. It's a testament to Bhattacharya's art that he brings such brilliance to bear.
- Chris Nickson, All Music Guide
Pandit Debashish Bhattacharya's re-invention of the slide guitar has become the leading instrument in his repertoire. His slide guitar playing style is very similar to the ancient sitar of traditional Indian music. The sitar is absent from this recording, but Debashish is accompanied by ektara, tamboura, tabla, and rhythm guitar. This recording is the result of decades of musical influence growing up in Calcutta. Some of the songs are reflective of his earlier days, while others are contemplative and classical. Still, others are vibrant and contemporary, but each song remains true to his soul and his passion. The slide guitar seems to fit perfectly amongst Indian musical traditions. Debashish is a sincere purveyor of the musical art. Nine long instrumental tracks showcase his talented range of musical expressivity. Liner notes include song information.
- World Music Network