Thursday, April 12, 2012

Oh Calcutta!: Debashish Bhattacharya


Calcutta is one of my favorite spots on earth.  If the city was a human it would take the form of a slightly short tempered, ill dressed university professor who doesn’t give a damn about his disheveled appearance but who can win all oral arguments.

It’s a place of ragged beauty, squandered grandeur and serial inventiveness. Though its physical attributes are crumbling and struggle to provide decent services to its millions of citizens I’ve never thought of Calcutta as a dying or hopeless city  It always has a story to tell or an excuse but it never pretends to be anything other than what it is.  The once upon a time greatest English city after London.

When I was 10 my family visited and the city water supply was tainted with salt.  For days there was not a drop of water that was not brackish. But the soft drink sellers did a brisk trade until the city fathers figured out how to mend the system.

For a photographer Calcutta is one of those magical places.  Until it was banned some years ago, during an election campaign, walking the streets of Calcutta felt as if you were living within the pages of giant comic book. Every bit of wall was painted with political cartoons, slogans. Denunciations and promises.

Here are a few shots I’ve taken over the years in that fabulous city.  And don’t forget that Calcutta was once home to India’s hottest jazz and rock ‘n roll scene. Politics, literature, history and music all flow in hot in Calcutta’s blood.  And tonight’s selection is from the famed slide guitar guru Debashish Bhattarcharya, resident of Calcutta and disciple of Brij Bhushan Kabra, disciple of Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, disciple and son of Ustad Allaudin Khan.

Born in 1963 to musically inclined parents, Debashish Bhattacharya was a prodigy of Indian music, taking up the guitar in its newest incarnations as an Indian classical instrument. Playing for All India Radio by age four, Bhattacharya developed his personal style over the next 20 years or so, studying under the father of Indian classical guitar, Brij Bhushan Kabra, as well as vocalist Ajoy Chakrabarty and Ali Akbar Khan. He was given the President of India award in 1984 at the age of 21. From here, he went on to work developing the Hawaiian slide guitar into a more Indian instrument, adding chikaris and sympathetic strings, and eventually coming out with a 24-string instrument based on the old Hawaiian six-string. This is universally regarded as the highest form of the slide guitar's development anywhere, making Bhattacharya one of the masters of the instrument, especially when considering his amazing abilities in playing Indian forms on it. Since gaining his renown, he's worked on a number of guitar tours and multicultural projects, most notably with John McLaughlin's Shakti and a number of projects with slide guitar master Bob Brozman. In 2003 Bhattacharya released Mahima with Brozman, fusing Hawaiian and Indian music. (all music guide)

            Track Listing:
01 Aanandam
02 Prema Chakor
03 Nata raaj
04 Usha
05 Prabha
06 Maha Shakti

Listen here.


Apurva Bahadur said...

Great photographs Ajnabi.

ajnabi said...

aap ki dua!

Dolmance said...

I discovered you blog last night and am just very, very happy to have found it. This one takes some of the edge off having lost Holy Warbles so recently. I like a rather scholarly approach in the service of FUN.

By the way, anyone who loves Calcutta really does need to see Mexico City. And Caracas too.

Anyway, very nice to meet you. As long as you're here, I will come to visit every day to see what's new.

ajnabi said...

Hello Domance,
Thanks. I'm glad you've found WD and you are always welcome. You give high praise indeed!