Debashish Bhattacharya: Indian music, Hindustani slide guitar, Indian slide guitar
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Debashish Bhattacharya

Calcutta, India's Debashish Bhattacharya started learning Indian music from his parents before he learned the alphabet. In his childhood he mastered many Indian classical instrumental styles as well as vocal music from different musical teachers in Calcutta. He became a disciple and student of Brij Bhushan Khabra, the father of Indian classical guitar, for 10 years, and also trained under Ajoy Chakraborty, the eminent Indian vocalist. He has also studied with Ustad Ali Akbar Khan.

As a performer, Debashish gave his first guitar recital at the age of four on the All India Radio, and in a public concert. In his twenties, he evolved a unique style of playing guitar, synthesizing selected features of various other instruments such as the Veena, Sitar, Sarod and Kannur. In 1984, he was awarded the President of India award at the age of 21.

Debashish developed his innovative Hindustani slide guitar after years of research and experience. It consists of a Hofner acoustic F hole guitar, with a total of 22 strings. He added a platform of wood running the length of the guitar's neck, mounted with 17 tuning gears. This piece of wood extends the width of the neck, making room for twelve sympathetic strings, and five supporting strings for additional versatility. Above the 5 normal (sliding melody) strings, there is a pair of ckikari strings, as on a sitar. One of Debashish's innovations was to move them to the treble side of the guitar, which enables far more complex playing, since their rhythmic drones can be played by the fingers, over other melodies simultaneously. Debashish plays this guitar while sitting cross legged, with the guitar held on the lap and played with a small steel bar, metal picks and a celluloid thumb pick.

Debashish is perhaps the greatest slide guitarist who has ever lived. He has, both through creating the actual design of the instrument, and through his incredible talent and discipline, elevated the Hindustani slide guitar to be the highest evolution of slide guitar anywhere. Though he is often compared to V.M. Bhatt, there is little basis for comparison, because Debashish's music has far greater musical range, physical dexterity, and emotional depth. To develop his playing, he has undergone decades of disciplined study of Indian vocal technique combined with his instrumental work. Debashish can sing perfectly in parallel with every blindingly fast melody he plays. Possessed of a very open musical mind, Debashish is eager and more than qualified to collaborate and truly blend with musicians from any other country.

Since 1996, his collaboration with Bob has resulted in two "World of Slide" tours of the USA and Canada, plus more appearances with Bob, and with The International Troupe, in Canada and South Africa. Most recently, Debashish has toured Europe and recorded with John McLaughlin and his latest incarnation of Shakti. In 2002, Debashish returned to Quebec with Bob, and later reunited with Bob in California for the recording of MAHIMA, released June 2003.


Subhashis Bhattacharya - BIOGRAPHY

Subhashis is a leader of his generation of Indian percussionists. As the younger brother of Debashish, Subhashis grew up steeped in the deep musical background of the Bhattacharya family, learning melody and rhythm from infancy. His father Sri Sunil Bhattacharya taught him tabla and his mother, vocalist Smt. Manjushree Bhattacharya worked with him melodically when he was a toddler.

He started to make his presence felt in the music scene from childhood as a promising tabla player trained by teachers Sri Prabir Bhattacharya and Pt. Shyamal Bose. Now, he is considered to be a master player, and he continues to study with Pandit Anindo Chatterjee, the senior tabla maestro. He has regularly performed in every major Indian music festival, and has recorded four albums with Debashish and seven albums with Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty.

Subhashis first toured outside of India in 1996 with Debashish and Bob. His skill and flexibility as percussionist on several instruments, rhythm arranger, and vocalist have since been heard on subsequent overseas tours in the USA, Canada, South Africa, Greece, Kuwait, Bangladesh, and Nepal. A leading studio musician in India, he has begun creating and leading large percussion ensembles, and his arranging skills are essential to the music on this album, as an equal participant in its creation. With meticulously tuned hand drums, he played intricate rhythms, plus melodic parts inside the rhythm section. Creating percussion landscapes by playing several instruments on multiple tracks gave Subhashis a sense of liberty, yielding one creative explosion after another.


Sutapa Bhattacharya - BIOGRAPHY

Vocalist Sutapa Bhattacharya, the sister of Debashish and Subhashis, has clearly inherited the vocal genes of generations of Bhattacharyas. With a master's degree in music, she has spent her life as a vocalist and teacher of music. Capable of singing fluently in the 10 most well-known languages in India, she sings most genres of Indian music, from classical and semi-classical to traditional folk songs to film songs, both classic and contemporary. On tours with Debashish and Subhashis and also with larger overseas touring groups organized by Bob, she has astounded audiences and musicians alike by matching Debashish's lightning-fast guitar melodies note-for-note with her voice. Her 2002 release, JETE JETE, placed among the top 10 Bangla albums of the year, positioning Sutapa foremost among artists in her genre in India.

Debashish: Indian hindustani slide guitar
Debashish Bhattacharya
with his 22-string hindustani slide guitar

Subhashis, on Tablas, as master of Indian percussion
Debashish is often joined onstage by his brother, Subhashis Bhattacharya, a masterful tablas player and singer.
Photo: Claude Adams

Debashish and Subhashis Bhattacharya in Calcutta, India
Subhashis' incredible skill on tablas enables him to match Debashish note for note
Photo: Tapan Kr.Das


*More info about Bob's work in India, Debashish's birthplace

*More info about MAHIMA, Debashish and Bob's latest CD

*More info about the Instruments used on the new CD MAHIMA by Debashish, Subhashis, and Bob.