He is among those rare musicians, who have had the fortune of collaborating with legends like the late George Harrison (member of The Beatles) and the late Pt Ravi Shankar (sitar player). In fact, he says Harrison used to call him "the prince of tabla". And inarguably, Bickram Ghosh has taken the instrument to another level.
While he has worked on multiple independent projects during his career spanning over three decades, he also composed soundtracks for Bollywood films like Sooper Se Ooper (2013) and Jal (2014), along with his music partner, Sonu Nigam. Their latest venture is a new version of the Indian national anthem titled, Jana Gana Mana The Soul of India, which will release on August 15.Serious talk
Talking about his bond with Nigam, Ghosh says, "I have known him for five and a half years, and we share a great chemistry. Though we live in different cities, we stay connected on the phone. When we decided to make music together, I came to Mumbai, and we worked on an album. In four days, we composed seven tracks. Then projects like Jal and Sooper Se Ooper came our way. After getting an Oscar nomination [for the former last year], we realised that we were doing some serious work. We want to create different sounds with every track."
Watch Jana Gana Mana The Soul of India here:
They call their genre "muddy electronica". Describing it, Ghosh says, "Both the words are metaphors. Muddy means mitti (soil) and electronica is something that's modern and funky. There's an ethnic yet a modern quality in our music."
The tabla artiste says he was an ardent admirer of The Beatles since childhood. He describes the experience of collaborating with Harrison as "surreal". He adds, "The first time I worked with him was in 1996. We did Chants Of India, which was with him and Pt Ravi Shankar. That was also the first time that I met George. We were with him for 10 days at his house. I felt a connection. He used to call me 'the prince of tabla'. He was very fond of me. In 1999, I was in London (UK), and I got a call from him. He said, 'I am working on an album after 27 years. It's called Brainwashed, and I want you to play for the title track.' I spent the entire day with him. We recorded and ate together. We also spoke about John Lennon's [another member of The Beatles] death."
Bickram Ghosh mentions how Pandit Ravi Shankar praised him after Ghosh's performance in Brussels, Belgium, 1993.
Association with Pt Ravi Shankar
The percussionist has shared a long association with Pt Ravi Shankar. "I played with him for 11 years. Our bond was magical," he says, adding that he met him for the first time in 1993. "I was in Brussels, Belgium, and I had to play with some artistes. We were staying in someone's house, and there was a mehfil (get together) one day. Someone announced that Pt Shankar was coming. When he came, all of us played our respective instruments. He went individually to everyone, reviewing the performance. He spoke to them as well, but didn't say anything to me. I felt really bad," says Bickram. He adds that the sitar legend had left around 10pm. "At around 12.30am, I got a call from him. He said, 'After a long time I heard good tabla. I am playing at a concert tomorrow. Do you want to join me?' Next day, I played with him, and then there was no looking back. That was my big break. Soon, he booked me for a tour of 40 concerts," he says.