‘The Sound Of The Soul’, new album of Pandit Debashish Bhattacharya released

Pandit Debashish Bhattacharya playing Indian classical ragas on his self-created ‘Chaturangui’. Photo courtesy Mark Gorny at worldisk.net

Pandit Debashish Bhattacharya’s most recent album ‘The Sound of the Soul’ is now available through Abstract Logix. Bhattacharya is a classical artist and innovator who has adopted the Slide Guitar to play Indian classical ragas.

“Musically, if I can say it humbly, ‘The Sound of the Soul’(‘The Sound’ hereafter) is one of my best albums till date,” said Bhattacharya to News India Times in an exclusive interview. He described ‘The Sound’ as pure Indian raga music. According to him, ‘The Sound’ presents the divine raga and its eloquent elaboration in a different tempo. “And that is the most important feature in ‘The Sound’. There are no clicks and pops,” he said.

This new album is recorded by Daniel Thomas, one of the best sound engineers, and mixed by Gabriel Herman, another great sound engineer, and producer. ‘The Sound’ is an Atmos mixed Indian classical album, perhaps the first one. Atmos is an immersive audio technique where, unlike stereo sound, discrete audio elements are placed in a three-dimensional sound field.

The new album is a tribute to Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, whom Bhattacharya considers his Grand Guru. The center piece of ‘The Sound’, a more than 40-minute long ‘To His Lotus Feet’, is powerfully focused and absorbing, encompassing a vast range of textures.

Speaking about Ali Akbar Khan, Bhattacharya said, “His majestic melodic curves and artistic pull of emotions have been a major influence in my life.” “Even during pandemic nights, his music was my nightlong companion,” he said.

The main instrument in ‘The Sound’ is Bhattacharya’s self-designed Chaturangui which he has played dexterously in duet with percussionists Padmashree Pandit Swapan Chaudhuri on tabla and Pandit Akhilesh Gundechha on pakhawaj.

“Chaturangui is a stretch of four different energies which join on one flat top sound board with different gauges and metals which create a domain of soundscapes,” Bhattacharya said. Chaturangui is a six-string hollow neck lap steel with three additional string sets which Bhattacharya has introduced. The additions are two drone strings on the bass side and two rhythm strings on the treble side. The third addition is of 14 resonating strings on the bass side.

“Chaturangui is the story of my lifelong journey of learning maturing into this concept and evolving with my conscious effort,” Bhattacharya said.  Chaturangui which plays Indian ragas in the hands of Bhattacharya is thus a universal and global music instrument. “It originates from the Indian soil and holds Indian sound and soul,” Bhattacharya said. For him, Chaturangui is a melting pot where all the best ideologies of sound could possibly blend to enrich the instrument. “It is a Slide Guitar plus plus,” Bhattacharya said.

His affair with the Slide Guitar is 56 year- old, having begun in 1966, Bhattacharya said, describing it as a romantic, joyful, exciting and never-ending affair. According to him, it all began when his parents gave 3-year old Bhattacharya a toy Hawaiian six-string guitar. He said he gradually turned the six string guitar into a twenty four string guitar by the age of 15. “I used many different techniques to make it more traditional in sound and look,” he said. “Today it is at the centre of my heart – the most elegant sounding and looking slide guitar on the planet.”

Cover of Pandit Debashish Bhattacharya’s new album ‘The Sound of the Soul’. Photo courtesy Mark Gorny at worldisk.net

Beside the Chaturangui, Bhattacharya has created three other slide instruments, ‘Anandi’, ‘Gandharvi’ and ‘Pushpa Veena’ all of which feature in his albums and his performances.

Bhattacharya who is also a singer, composer and educator has been creating fusion music since 1992 and has created 28 albums till date. He has won the Slidelines Music Award, the BBC Planet Award and been nominated for the Grammy Awards. Bhattacharya has been recognized by the Indian Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) and Sangeet Natak Academy.

Bhattacharya School of Universal Music (BSUM) is established by him in Kolkata to spread the message of universal music and create musical consciousness for better living through Ragas. Bhattacharya is considered the first musician in the world to have introduced in his school a Slide Guitar syllabus for in-depth training.

Known to have collaborated with many international musicians and bands, Bhattacharya’s memorable performances include the one with the famous English guitarist, band leader and composer John McLaughlin who is said to have described Bhattacharya as an unequaled ‘Master of the Slide Guitar’. McLaughlin himself has made a mark for his fusion of jazz, rock, world music, Indian classical music, Western classical music, flamenco and the Blues.

Bhattacharya’s other international collaborations include ones with American Blues multi-instrumentalist Bob Brozman, African Kora player Ballake Sissoko , Blue Grass legend  Jerry Douglas , Rock guitarist Derek Trucks , British singer Martin Simpson , avant-garde guitarist Henry Kaiser, Oud master from Morocco Dris El Maulumi, Hawaiian legend Led Kaapana and Jeff Peterson, Gypsy Jazz Lulo Reinhert , Legendary Greek Clarinet player Mr Kapsalis, Reunion Island’s famous René Lacaille and many more.

Bhattacharya has just finished a concert tour of France. Many of his international concerts are in legendary auditoriums including the Royal Albert Hall, and some top European Jazz festivals. Bhattacharya is currently composing and recording different repertoires for his upcoming tours in 2023-2025.



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