Indian classical musician Debashish Bhattacharya is world famous. He is known for his unique music, and for conceiving the Trinity of Guitars, the slide-guitars that he invented. On the sidelines of his performance at the NCPA recently, we caught up with the Grammy Award-nominee to discuss his music, how Pt Ravi Shankar influenced him, and more.
You started playing the guitar at the age of three. How does that work?
It’s difficult for today’s generation to understand this. At the age of three, our children go to school, and start learning nursery rhymes. However, in the ’60s, it was hard to find a Montessori school. So, we did not attend school before the age of five or six. We did not even have TV to watch. Radio was the only source of entertainment around that time. Back then, a young Hawaiian man had given my parents a guitar. It was a basic six-string instrument. I felt immense joy when they gave it to me. It felt like I had made a new friend, and the friendship only grew stronger as I grew older. This kind of a relationship is very hard to find nowadays.
You’ve met many eminent musicians. Tell us about your meeting with Pt Shankar.
I met him in 1996. I have received many blessings from him, and he has inspired me a lot. My first designed guitar, Chaturangi (a 24-string hollow-neck guitar), has two extra strings on the base. This concept was introduced by Pt Shankar on the sitar, and was a unique one in his time. He added those two strings to keep the dhrupad (a Hindustani classical music genre) performance style alive. This inspired me to add the two strings on my Chaturangi too, and play the lowest octave of the performance to keep the dhrupad style alive on my patented guitar.
Listen to a performance by Debashish Bhattacharya here
Do you like the idea of fusion in Indian classical music?
It depends on the ability of a performer. I try to immerse myself in the serenity of the ragas. However, every song has some fusion element to it. You can call it classical music only when you present it in a classical way, without diluting its essence.
What projects are you currently working on?
I’m currently touring to make 10 albums with folk musicians from across the world; one album per country. My daughter, Anandi Bhattacharya, will be making another album in collaboration with musicians from different parts of the world. I will produce that one. I am also producing a festival called India International Guitar Festival 2016. It will witness performances by guitarists from India and around the world.