With a Grammy nomination and BBC World Music Award under his belt, Indian slide-guitarist Pandit (master) Debashish Bhattacharya’s remarkable virtuosity is winning international critical acclaim. O Shakuntala! is a sublime interpretation of the immortal Indian masterpiece of eternal love and features three slide guitars designed and developed by Debashish himself. A musical adventure fusing two great Indian musical traditions – Karnatic music from the south and Hindustani music from the north – it celebrates love in all its many wonderful rasas (emotions).
O Shakuntala! is Pandit (master) Debashish Bhattacharya’s musical tribute to the immortal Indian masterpiece Abhigyana Shakuntalam – an epic love story written by the great Sanskrit poet and dramatist Kalidasa. Inspired by the legendary Sanskrit tale, O Shakuntala! sees Debashish fuse two great Indian musical traditions – Karnatic music from the south and Hindustani music from the north – to create his own celebration of love in all its many wonderful rasas (emotions).
O Shakuntala! is Debashish’s third album on Riverboat Records. His first, 3: Calcutta Slide-Guitar, won the BBC World Music Award in 2007, and his second, Calcutta Chronicles, was nominated for a Grammy in 2008.
One of the world’s greatest slide guitarists, Pandit Debashish Bhattacharya plays his self-designed ‘Trinity of Guitars’ on this album. This unique trio incorporates the twenty-two-string guitar Chaturangui, the fourteen-string guitar Gandharvi and a tiny slide ukulele called Anandi, which together represent three generations of instruments and continue a thousand-year musical tradition.
Performing alongside Debashish are his brother Subhasis, a master tabla player, and India’s only female pakhawaj and mridangam artists. Here Chitrangana Agle Reshwal dazzles us with her pakhawaj (wooden barrel drum) performance and Charu Hariharan shines with her mridangam (small drum used in Karnatic music) playing.
Together they weave a musical journey reflecting the tale of beauty and immortal love in this legendary Indian masterpiece. In the story, King Dushyanta and the young woman Shakuntala fall in love but are cruelly separated. Fortunately, after a magnificent and emotional journey they are eventually reunited for all eternity.
Concept and development: Pandit Debashish Bhattacharya
Subhasis Bhattacharjee (tabla)
Chitrangana Agle Reshwal (pakhawaj)
Charu Hariharan (mridangam, ganjira)
Creative Director: Sudipta Biswas
Produced by Bhattacharya's School of Universal Music, Kolkata, India
All tracks composed and arranged by Pandit Debashish Bhattacharya and published by Riverboat UK Music (MCPS)
|1. Megha Re||09:37|
|10. O Shakuntala!||03:47|
July 6, 2009.
Debashish Bhattacharya is one of the world’s most extraordinary and innovative slide guitarists. Since the 1990s he’s fused influences from all over India as well as the west, creating a style which is both hypnotic and fiery. Bhattacharya continues to push the envelope: it would not be hyperbole to mention him alongside Ravi Shankar. This new cd follows the arc of an ancient Sanskrit love epic, Bhattacharya playing three self-designed slide guitars and accompanied by three percussionists, Chitrangana Agle Reshwal and Charu Hariharan as well as his brother Subhasis. A blend of trancelike Hindustani sounds, southern ragas and an incisive, western-influenced melodicism, Bhattacharya’s guitars ring and reverberate, often in the style of a sitar. As fast a player as he can be, most of the songs here are warmly contemplative, often plaintive.
Basically, this a love story interrupted: king marries a beautiful woman, they separate but happily reunite at the end. Most of the instrumentals here are long, clocking in at seven minutes or more. Bhattacharya swoops and dives to the lowest registers, then hangs on insistent, anguished phrases, hammering them home for all they’re worth. The individual tracks vividly illustrate the storyline: their bouncy, optimistic central theme; the courtship cast as a stately march; the stormy fire of the marriage ceremony, the pensive evocation of their time apart and their reunion, surprisingly lush and peaceful. When he’s not providing jangly, clanging ambience, Bhattacharya ornaments the melodies with a variety of attacks from wild sitar-inflected lines to some pretty, pointillistic playing that wouldn’t be out of place in bluegrass. The polyrhythms enhance the otherworldliness of much of the album. Cutting-edge yet with an ancient feel, it’s another triumph for Bhattacharya: having won the BBC World Music Award in 2007 and a Grammy nomination last year, he’s having trouble doing anything wrong right now. The album is out in the US right now, due out in the UK on July 13.
CD Review: Robin Denselow, The Guardian, Friday 17 July 2009
He won a Grammy nomination and a BBC World Music award with his last two albums, and here's yet another reminder that Debashish Bhattacharya is one of the most inventive classically influenced musicians working in India - and a likely contender for even greater success in the west. He became fascinated by the Hawaiian lap steel guitar when he was a child, and has gone on to transform Indian guitar playing by designing his own slide guitars, specially built to match the intricacies of the sitar and Indian classical styles. This new set is inspired by an epic love story by the Sanskrit poet Kalidasa, and consists of 10 instrumental tracks (there's just one brief burst of rapid-fire chanting) on which he shows off his remarkable playing, backed by three percussionists, including his brother on tabla. The result is like an improvised Indian answer to the blues, with slow, drifting tracks such as Shringar matched against sections of virtuoso playing on the final pieces. A subtle, hypnotic set.
CD Review: Dizzying - Debashish Bhattacharya, By Mark Hudson, The Telegraph.
Published: 12:28PM BST 04 Aug 2009
Calcutta’s Debashish Bhattacharya takes the slide guitar into territory Ry Cooder doesn’t even know about.
Building through exquisitely wrought slower passages his squirming, gilded notes hit heights of dizzying speed and virtuosity – but without compromising the inner soul of the music.
O Shakuntala! Concert Reviews: