Pt. Debashish Bhattacharya: Sliding Indian Classical Music on Guitar

Posted by Kaahon Desk On October 17, 2017

Pandit Debashish Bhattacharya perhaps holds the unique position in the world of Indian Classical Music, in terms of instruments as well as technique. Born into a family of musicians, he made his debut at the age of four and the performance was broadcast by All India Radio, Calcutta, and it was none other than the legendary Ustad Karamatullah Khan of Farukhabad Gharana who accompanied him on the Tabla. By the age of 15, he was already pushing the boundaries of classical music, innovating and designing unique instruments fusing ideas of eastern string instruments with that of the western slide guitar. Besides innovating new instruments, he also came up with new finger style as well as playing style using the thumb and index finger and thus producing the finest variety of Bols, swift Taanas, and the most powerful of Jhala, which was technically impossible on a slide guitar earlier. At the tender age of 20, he received President of India Award for winning National Music competition of All India Radio. His unmatched position as a musician, composer, innovator, Guru, and the Director of International Slide Guitar Parivar (family) has attracted devotees from across the globe.

Looking back on his body of work and his accomplishments, Pt. Debashish Bhattacharya feels thankful to God as he considers himself to have just been a vessel of the Almighty’s wishes. With His blessing, he wouldn’t have been come up even with a single idea anywhere near so creative, innovative and successful. However, at the same time, a disciplined life played a big role, which gave him focus, concentration, and motivation to his sincere pursuit. He sadly notices that nowadays kids are too distracted and too spoilt for choices and he feels that they don’t appreciate the result and value of hard work anymore. He recalls his lessons, which he received from his Gurus, which were both valuable and challenging. And that helped him to shape his artistic instinct something that cannot be learned in a classroom.

Talking about learning, he stresses upon the importance of going in-depth of a subject. Having a superficial understanding and passing it off, as knowledge is the most dangerous and detrimental thing in his opinion. He shares his experience of designing his first innovation, a Tarabdar classical guitar at the mere age of 15. He studied the position of both Chikari and Tarab in traditional string instruments along with the manner in which they were played. Then he customized their placements in order to be in sync with the playing style of a slide guitar. Not only that, he applied his school level knowledge of human anatomy to come with a new finger technique that’d enable him to play the faster and more complicated pieces of Indian classical music. And for the success of each of the stages, he pays his debt to God’s blessings. He displays the dynamic tuning of the instruments, playing a few pieces on his Chaturangi.

The history of Chaturangi’s manufacture has also been a curious and interesting instance of East and West coming together as it was done with the help of both Gibton Company who manufactured guitars as well as Kishori Naskar of Bhowanipore who was renowned for his work on Indian string instruments such as Sarod and Sitar. While Pt. Debashish Bhattacharya got the body of his instrument made from Gibton, it was Kishori Naskar who planted the Tarab on the side and Chikari in front. He further talks about the various stages Chaturangi had gone through with avatars like Debangi and Gandharvi. He explains in detail the nuanced differences between these instruments and their benefit while highlighting the idea behind them, both practical as well as spiritual.

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